'Wicked' bedroom tax will penalise more than 9,000
Thousands of Westcountry residents will lose out on the Government's controversial "bedroom tax", according to new research.
The National Housing Federation calculated 9,230 households in Devon and Cornwall will be subject to an under-occupation penalty placed on tenants for having extra bedrooms.
Chief executive David Orr told the federation's annual conference in Exeter yesterday that the tax would be a "wicked problem".
He admitted in the address to around 100 housing chiefs in the region that dealing with its implications on the sector would be a "big leadership challenge".
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As the affordable housing crisis deepens in the South West, experts joined forces in search of potential solutions.
Mr Orr said: "The bedroom tax is unfair, inequitable, and it will penalise people for the 'sin' of living in their own home. Most damagingly, it is an incompetent policy that will absolutely fail to save the country any money. It will end up costing money."
He urged those involved in housing planning, policy and decision-making, to play their part in seizing opportunities while preparing for the future.
Mr Orr added: "This tax is not about other people, it's about us and our friends and relatives. We need to focus on this wicked problem locally and nationally to understand the implications of what is happening.
"It will remain a fundamental leadership challenge as impacts are felt."
South West chairman Nick Horne added: "The bedroom tax is, possibly, the poll tax of our time.
"It was a poorly thought through policy."
The changes from April will see housing association and council tenants have housing benefits cut if they are deemed to have spare bedrooms – 14% cut for one spare room and 25% for two.
Prime Minister David Cameron has stressed the need to get to grips with a £23 billion housing benefit bill, claiming many in privately rented properties "cannot afford extra bedrooms".
The Government says the proposals will save money and help deal with a housing shortage by encouraging people to move out of homes that are too big for them.
Private sector rents are predicted to rise by 62% in the region over the next ten years.
Less than 60% of the houses needed in the South West are currently being built – with 16,100 new homes built in 2011/12, but more than 27,000 new households formed.
The federation claims that the shortage of housing will result in out-of-reach house prices, rising private rents and the fastest growing social housing waiting lists of any region.