Special report: How ‘bedroom tax’ has left 11,000 people in Bolton waiting for just 91 one-bed homes
The “bedroom tax” was introduced in April in an effort to cut waiting lists for larger families.
People in receipt of Housing Benefit have their benefits reduced if they are in homes deemed to be too big for their needs, losing 14 per cent for one spare bedroom and 25 per cent for two or more.
But critics have hit out of the scheme, claiming there is not enough social housing, especially one-bedroom properties, available for people to downsize.
And Bolton’s Conservatives have called on social landlords not to evict tenants if there is nowhere suitable for them to move.
Council bosses say they are working with social landlords to “address this shortage”.
Bolton at Home — the borough’s biggest social landlord which has 18,000 properties — claims it would take it between three and eight years to move everyone to suitably sized accommodation, but says about 20 tenants a month are moving or downsizing.
But a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted to UK councils by aWesthoughton mum has revealed that, in May, Bolton had 91 one-bedroom properties available to let — with 11,070 people on the waiting list.
School meals supervisor Jacqueline Galloway, aged 42, of The Pungle, submitted the FOI and is a member of several bedroom tax campaign groups.
Branding the charge “immoral”, she said: “Although I’m not affected at the moment, my son might go to uni or leave home.
“I’m just a normal Joe Bloggs who thinks it’s unfair.
“When I’ve been to protests the different kinds of people there is unbelievable, there are people in wheelchairs and with walking aids. I thought the figures were shocking.”
Figures were provided by other councils, included Bournemouth, which had 1,763 people competing for 19 properties, Wolver-hampton, which had 118 properties and 6,821 on its list, and Aberdeen, which had 3,855 waiting for 89 properties.
Cllr Andy Morgan, deputy leader of Bolton Conservative group, said: “There will inevitably be problems with implementing this benefit change and the system needs to be adaptable enough to look at each case on its merits.
“It is clear there is a shortage of suitable accommodation to downsize to and I would urge Bolton at Home and this council not to carry out any evictions if occupants have applied to downsize but cannot because of the lack of smaller properties and who have subsequently fallen into rent arrears because of this benefit change.
“There has been a lot said about people downsizing but the facts are there are two million households in England on housing waiting lists and 250,000 families living in over-crowded accommodation, these people deserve to be appropriately housed as well.”
Bolton Council says the figure was correct on the day the FOI was submitted, but said 912 one bedroom properties and 53 bedsits were advertised for letting during 2012-13.
It added the way it calculates its waiting list is different from other authorities, and that the 11,000 figure may include people who have put their name down for any property, even if the one they are currently in is suitable.
A council spokeswoman, said: “We do recognise that there is a shortage of affordable housing and the council will be working with its housing associations partners to address this shortage.”