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Penzance Family Of Six 'Struggling To Survive' In Two Bedroom Home

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8:01am 30th June 2013

A Penzance family of six say they are struggling to survive after being passed over for a bigger home.

Amie Oliver, her husband and their four children are all crammed into a two bedroom house in the town.

She claimed they were first in line for a property on the council's housing register Homechoice, before being bumped down the list.

Amie has been looking for a larger home for years, but said the situation had got worse after the arrival of her fourteen month old son and five month old twins.

Cornwall Council said many families are no longer eligible for bigger properties, because of the government's so-called 'bedroom tax'.

Amie said it was frustrating: "It's wrong and we shouldn't have to be stuck here when there are people you know, who've got empty houses. People say 'oh well, you shouldn't be having all these kids', well why shouldn't we have kids? Aren't we entitled to have kids, just because we live in a small house?

"The kitchen's very small, you can barely fit two people in there at the same time. The bathroom's tiny, we struggle with bath times and you trip over things as you come down the stairs in the morning. We need space, we need space and there isn't any. It's absolutely ridiculous."

Cornwall Council is not able to discuss individual cases, but a spokesperson said:

"Homechoice works by assessing the housing need of the applicant and then gives opportunities for the applicant to 'bid' on suitable social housing throughout Cornwall.  

"The Government has changed the rules regarding how housing benefit is calculated and, under the new rules, if you have more bedrooms than the Government says you need, you will have a deduction applied to the amount of housing benefit you can receive. Cornwall Council is in the process of amending its Homechoice assessment policy to reflect those changes.  

"The registered social landlords Cornwall Housing works with will not usually let homes with too many bedrooms to applicants if it means that the tenants may have difficulty in paying their rent in the future because, under the new Government rules, they are deemed to have too many bedrooms and so will receive less housing benefit.

"This means that under the old system a family may have been assessed as needing four bedrooms but, under the new system which reflects the Government's reforms, they will be assessed as requiring only three because siblings will be expected to share a room.

"These changes may also affect an applicants banding on the Homechoice register as their housing need may not be assessed as being so acute if they are no longer overcrowded in their current accommodation.
Generally, Homechoice applicants in the most urgent need for housing have the best chance of bidding successfully for social housing to rent.

"Unfortunately the demand for social housing is far greater than the supply in Cornwall and any housing vacancy will be allocated to the bidder in the most housing need. There is a shortage of properties even for cases which have been assessed as Band A or B on the Homechoice register."

8:01am 30th June 2013

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