MORE than 1,100 Chorley families could be forced out of their homes because of a new “bedroom tax.”
In a move borough MP Lindsay Hoyle said was “penalising the most vulnerable in society”, central Government will bring in an “under occupancy” rule for working age claimants of housing benefit from April 2013.
The change means a housing association tenant with a spare bedroom will see their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent each week.
If there are two or more spare bedrooms, the benefit will be cut by 25 per cent.
Two of the major housing associations covering the borough of Chorley have revealed they do not have enough smaller accommodation for everyone affected to move to, and are encouraging residents to swap with one another.
One couple with learning difficulties, who live in a three-bedroomed Chorley Community Housing (CCH) property in Coppull, face leaving the home they have lived in and loved after 31 years.
The man and woman, who are in their 50s and who asked not to be named, have two spare rooms since their children grew up and moved out. They now face a 25 per cent cut to benefits.
The man said: “I’ve been here for 31 years and this is my home, I don’t want to go anywhere else.
“I’ve put what money I’ve had, and a lot of time into the house to make it nice, and now we can’t afford to stay.
“I’ve got a garden here, and a workshop, and they’re important to me.”
The woman said: “The worry is making me ill and I’ve been put on blood pressure tablets because I’m so worked up.
“Where are we going to go?”
A family member of the man, who acts as a carer, said she was angry at the changes,
She said: “It’s not a case of how are we going to cope, we’ve done the sums, and we know they can’t afford to stay if there’s a 25 per cent cut to benefits.
“My worry is that they’ll be moved to a smaller house that’s out of the village and well away from all the friends and family members who support them.”
CCH has 730 households affected – that’s 25 per cent of their housing stock.
Richard Houghton, director of operations at CCH, said: “These changes will have a major impact on many tenants and I’d encourage everyone who hasn’t done so to contact us to discuss their circumstances.”
Places for People has 2,680 properties in Chorley borough, of which 384 are affected.
A spokesman for Places for People said: “Some customers have advised us they want to stay where they are and will find the extra money to pay the difference, we are supporting others with finding smaller suitable accommodation and some customers are looking for mutual exchanges.
“Should each customer affected want to move to a smaller property we haven’t enough accommodation to move them to.”
New Progress Housing Association is responsible for 101 properties in the Chorley area, and anticipates that 10 per cent – or 10 tenants will be affected.
A spokesman said: “Most tenants that we have already been in contact with have informed us that they plan to stay in their home and pay the addition cost.”
Mr Hoyle said: “My concern is that people who have never missed payments are being forced out of their family homes.
“What might seem a good idea about moving people into appropriately-sized houses is actually punishing some of the most vulnerable in society.
“I will be speaking to the minister in charge about this.”
Coun Alistair Bradley, Chorley Council leader, said: “We are working closely with our partners, including local housing providers and advice agencies, looking at ways we can ensure those affected.
“We will be writing to people to see if they want any help and once we know the scale of what’s needed we will look further at what we can do.”