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Norfolk housing trust urged to combat over occupancy penalty

12 December 2013

A housing association from Norfolk has been asked to help local residents overcome the over occupancy penalty.

Breckland Council has approached Flagship Housing and urged it to take advantage of planning permission laws that could allow it to ease the hugely oversubscribed waiting list for one and two-bedroom properties.

The over occupancy penalty was brought in to to force residents with an empty bedroom to take a cut in housing benefit. However, with cash-strapped families struggling to cope with the penalty, demand for smaller homes is far outstripping supply in many areas of the country.

A study that was carried out by the National Housing Association in November revealed around 1,000 Breckland residents had benefits taken away from them as a result of the measure - making it one of the worst hit areas in the UK. On average, the amount that has been removed equates to £773 per family, every year.

The plea for Flagship Housing to act has been headed by Conservative councillor for Wayland Phillip Cowen, who claimed the fact the association owns 80 per cent of social housing in the area means it will be highly influential in the relocation of those who can no longer afford to stay in their homes.

But he admitted to Norfolk Eastern Daily Press the commercial gains of building larger homes meant that Flagship is neglecting the needs of those who are the most impoverished.

Mr Cowen said: "The problem is that Breckland will not build one and two-bedroom properties because the cost of building a one or two-bedroom home is the same as a three bedroom, but they get more revenue from three bedrooms."

Representatives from Labour have moved to condemn the welfare reform as 'unfair and discriminatory' and councillor Brenda Canham described the growing frustrations that have been emerging among local people.

The growing waiting lists for one and two-bedroom properties that are accumulating as a result of the so called 'bedroom tax' could mean that landlords insurance customers find themselves having to adjust rent prices at larger premises.