UN Special Rapporteur attacks bedroom tax

The coalition's housing policies – including the controversial 'bedroom tax' – have been publicly criticised by a  United Nations Special Rapporteur. Raquel Rolnik was giving her preliminary conclusions at the end of a two-week visit that included meetings with a wide range of interested parties, including coalition ministers and people directly affected by government policies.

Rolnik said the right to affordable housing in the United Kingdom had been weakened by a series of measures, notably the way in which home-ownership had been privileged over other forms of tenure. Most recently, several reforms to the welfare system, along with cuts in housing grants, appeared to have compromised the realisation of the right to adequate housing and other related human rights. In particular, the 'bedroom tax' (partial withdrawal of housing benefit from social tenants with a 'spare' bedroom) had negatively affected many vulnerable citizens. She called for the bedroom tax to be suspended immediately, for tighter controls on private landlords and for action to promote new social and affordable homes.

Grant Shapps MP, the Conservative Party chairman, said Rolnik's comments were 'an absolute disgrace': he said he was writing to the UN Secretary General to 'ask for an apology and an investigation into how this came about'. The Daily Mail newspaper ran a story calling Rolnik 'a dabbler in witchcraft who offered an animal sacrifice to [Karl] Marx'. Rolnik said she had never faced such a hostile reaction from a country following an official visit.

Rolnik is due to submit her final report in March next year.

Source: Raquel Rolnik, Press Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing: End Mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 29 August to 11 September 2013, United Nations
LinksStatement | UN press release | SFHA press release | Daily Mail report | Guardian report (1) | Guardian report (2) | Guardian report (3) | Guardian report (4) | Inside Housing report (1) | Inside Housing report (2) | New Statesman report

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Publication date: 
Sep 11 2013