Islington’s small home ‘sell-off’ has left families facing bedroom tax
- Credit: Archant
The town hall’s policy of selling off small properties has been criticised in the light of the bedroom tax which came into force this week.
From Monday, anyone on housing benefits deemed to have too much living space will have to move to a smaller property or have their income slashed.
In Islington, an estimated 850 people in two-bed flats will have to downsize their homes in order to escape the financial penalty – although only around 20 per cent say they will do so.
But with the council getting rid of almost 50 one-bed properties over the last two financial years and continuing to push further sales, some people may be forced to face charges they might not otherwise avoid.
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Vicki Leonard, a director of the Islington Leaseholders Association, saw a one bedroom flat on her estate had been empty for months.
The council employed a security guard to look after it while they looked for a buyer.
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She said: “These one-beds are not being bought under ‘right to buy’, they are left empty after a tenant moves on and then sold into shared ownership – it’s a personal mission by Cllr James Murray [Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development] to generate money for the council’s policy of new build, but its come back to bite them now.
“In Your Home [a publication for tenants and residents] they are advertising the very one-bedroom flats which will be gold dust when the tax comes in.
“In the same issue they extol the benefits of down sizing in a piece called ‘How Down Sizing Can Help You’ – yet they are ridding themselves of one-bed flats in order to generate more money for new builds – it doesn’t make sense.
“Well, it does to them, but not for the unfortunate people currently facing the bedroom tax.”
Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of Islington’s opposition Lib Dem group, said: “The council need to re-think its policy of selling off one-bedroom properties.
“It’s crazy to keep doing this at time when we are facing a downsizing crisis due to the bedroom tax.”
Cllr Murray said: “Our shared ownership scheme has been helping Islington residents who need a one-bed home, but who would be very unlikely to get council housing or be able to buy on the open market. Meanwhile the money from the sales is helping to build new family-sized council homes.”
The council has also promised that it won’t evict anyone hit by the bedroom tax who has nowhere else to go.
Cllr Murray added: “The council will support residents to remain in their property if there is no alternative but to stay in their home.”