Repossessions are up. Is the bedroom tax to blame?

Sadly, every year, there are families in England that lose their home.  Today, government figures from last year have been reported on by the Independent, and they point to a particularly worrying trend.

The graph below uses the government figures to show the change in numbers of social tenants facing the horror of eviction every year.


They show that after years of decline, the number of possession claims by social landlords is increasing, with a noticeable spike last year.   

In fact the number of possession claims went up by a whopping 18% in 2013/14, compared to 2012/13.

That’s 17,710 more households in social housing facing eviction.

Is it a leap to imagine that the bedroom tax, which was introduced in 2013, might have contributed to this?

Last month I blogged about the sheer numbers caught by the bedroom tax, but seemingly unable to move – is it any surprise that some of the tenants caught in this cruellest of binds have ended up facing eviction?

We can’t tell from the MOJ data exactly what happened to the tenants served an eviction order – they may have been evicted or ended up in a court that took a sympathetic view, and gave them another chance to pay off their arrears.

But two things are clear – the bedroom tax comes with costs.

For the families served an eviction order and potentially finding themselves homeless and uprooted, there is a cost.  

For the government overseeing a rise in court proceedings, there is a cost.  

Not to mention the cost of rehousing an evicted social housing tenant in the more expensive and unstable private sector.

Two things have provided some relief in this sorry tale.

Shelter have been involved in winning concessions for those affected meaning that some of the most vulnerable households are now protected.

Discretionary Housing Payment’s (DHPs) have also provided some relief – the uptake of DHP’s by some of those affected by the bedroom tax may explain why possession orders against households in social housing dropped substantially last quarter – from 31,702 to 23,430.

Hopefully this reversal will continue.

But, if that hope relies only on the continuation of temporary payments, and clawing back further concessions to protect the most vulnerable, then things are not looking good.

What exactly will happen if DHP funding ends?

Even as the funding stands at £165m, DHP’s are woefully inadequate to help all those affected. If the pot shrinks further, things could get even worse.

Without enough homes for people to move into these statistics help spell out what we feared: that the bedroom tax consigns those affected to uncertainty, debt and eviction.