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Some of the borough’s social housing tenants could be forced to move to smaller homes or take in lodgers, it was admitted at a meeting last night.

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Who’s affected?

You will be considered to be under-occupying your council house if:

- You have any empty bedrooms for more than 13 weeks

- You have two children of the same gender under 16 who don’t share a room

- You have two children of either gender under 10 who don’t share a room

- You and your partner use separate bedrooms because of illness or any other reason.

In addition, only one parent of divorced or separated parents will be able to claim housing benefit for their child or children’s room.

If you foster, you can’t claim benefit for your foster child’s room.

If you are have a son or daughter away from home in full-time education, you can claim benefit for their room for up to 12 months.

And the families of those serving in the armed forces could be among those hit, it was alleged.

The topic was discussed during Havering’s first full council meeting of the year, after Cllr Michael Deon Burton said he was “deeply concerned” about the government’s plan to cut housing benefit for council house and housing association tenants who leave bedrooms empty for 13 weeks.

“The results of this, I am told, will mean households with serving members of the armed forces will lose hundreds of pounds,” the Independent Residents’ Group councillor added.

Havering Council’s housing boss Cllr Lesley Kelly told Cllr Burton: “There are no special exemptions for people who are or have been in the armed forces.

How much will I lose?

If, under these rules, you have one spare bedroom, you will receive a 14 per cent cut in housing benefit.

If you have two or more spare bedrooms you will receive a 25 per cent cut in housing benefit.

“All households where the head of the household is under the age of 61 will only receive benefit for the number of bedrooms that they need, as opposed to the number of bedrooms in the property.

“Households in this situation can move to a home that meets their housing needs, rather than under-occupying their home, they can take in a lodger, they can meet the difference in costs themselves from their other resources, or they can obtain employment.”

The reforms will affect 771 households who are considered to be under-occupying council houses, and 351 who are under-occupying housing association properties.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Burton said Cllr Kelly’s answer had “confirmed his worst fears”.

“What confidence can those who we ask to defend our shores have if we can’t even show we put the necessary importance on the governance that supports their well being in this country?” he added.

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