Tenants may be spared ‘bedroom tax’

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson.
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson.

Housing tenants may still escape a controversial “bedroom” tax, it has emerged, despite fears that the Assembly faces collapse.

So-called bedroom tax is an under occupancy charge or spare room subsidy - a change to Housing Benefit entitlement that could mean recipients would receive less in housing benefit if they live in a housing association or council property that is deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms.

Communities minister Paul Givan had stated that a scheme proposed by the finance minister to mitigate the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ may not be possible.

But he said that he is continuing to explore “alternative options”.

Under the Fresh Start deal, the Executive agreed to fund a policy preventing its implementation in Northern Ireland.

But the legislation to allow this to take effect has not been passed by Stormont.

If mitigating measures cannot be introduced, more than 30,000 households face having their housing benefit reduced next month.

The tax was expected to cost those affected an average of £20 a week and would apply to those living in Housing Executive, social housing and private rented accommodation.

Speaking earlier today, East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said he feared that that among those most affected could be young single fathers or even carers nursing a sick partner.

“There are very vulnerable groups of people who could be affected,” he commented,

However, it has been reported by the BBC that mitigation payments may still be made meaning a reprieve for affected tenants.