Mounting debt caused as Sheffield residents struggle under the ‘bedroom tax’ could add £19million to the city council’s rent arrears bill, a report has revealed.
Almost 4,000 people were affected by the reform –which changed the rules on social tenants having spare rooms – at the end of June this year.
The council fears the changes could mean rent arrears rise to £29m in 2019-20 – an increase from £10m in 2012-13 and ‘far greater’ than estimated.
The increase has been offset by higher than estimated funds for discretionary housing payment.
But Coun Harry Harpham, deputy council leader and cabinet member for housing, said it would still impact on other services.
He said: “In the long term what it means is that we have got less to spend on services for tenants.
“We are just going through a period of replacing boilers, so things such as that will take longer, things like repairing roofs or keeping areas clean.
“It comes out of the revenue housing account, which includes the rent we collect, and that is ring fenced so its nothing to do with other services.
“This is all the fault of the bedroom tax and we have always said it needs scrapping, not reforming.
“All we can do is chase up the rent arrears.”
The report to this Thursday’s Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee also said 363 tenants had been awarded a rehousing priority to move to a smaller property because of welfare reforms. Since April, 35 tenants have downsized.
Coun Harpham said residents who had come to him personally included a woman whose daughter had died, leaving a bedroom free that she now had to pay for.
He added: “It’s going to lead to more people in rent arrears, its going to lead to more people being worried about how they will make ends meet.
“It is unjust.
“I do make a plea to people struggling to get in touch so we can help – we don’t want anyone to lose their home.”