THE controversial “bedroom tax” has left tenants struggling to cope and has failed to free up homes in many areas, according to research by the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Proposed savings to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will fall short in the policy’s first year, says the foundation.

A spokesman said the findings came in two separate studies published today, the first on the housing benefit size criteria – referred to by many as the bedroom tax – and the second looking at the impact wider welfare changes have had on social landlords and tenants.

He said they provided an early snapshot of how the policies have affected tenants, landlords and the government, one year on from a raft of changes made to the benefits system.

He said the first report found the DWP was likely to save £330 million in the policy’s first year, £115 million below its initial target.

The research also found that 100,000 people were ‘trapped’ in larger homes and were subject to the cut despite wanting to move, while six per cent had moved to avoid paying.

“The report proposes a range of reforms to lessen the financial hardship, including making allowances for an additional bedroom for households where someone claims a higher rate Disability Living Allowance and flexibility for households with carers and those with responsibilities for children.”

He said the second report showed people were choosing between heating and eating, with three quarters having cut back on food bills.

Kathleen Kelly, Policy and Research Manager at JRF, said welfare reforms had transferred housing costs to poor families, who could ill afford the extra costs. “The time is right to take stock of the policies and alleviate their worst effects,” she said.

A DWP spokesperson said: “This report’s claims on savings are simply wrong. It fails to take into account money saved from people moving or no longer claiming housing benefit. It also doesn’t acknowledge there can be many reasons why people fall into rent arrears and people may have been behind on their rent before the policy change.”

“Removing the spare room subsidy will save £500m in housing benefit a year and help to make a better use of social housing when 300,000 families are living in overcrowded homes.

“We are providing £345m this year and next for those claimants who need extra help to adjust to our welfare reforms and we are pleased to note the report’s finding that tenants – with help from their landlords – are putting a renewed focus on finding work, apprenticeships, training and skills in response to the changes.”