Thousands of residents across the district are being pushed into debt in the wake of the bedroom tax, new figures show.
Statistics from Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) reveal more than half the 4,800 affected properties are in a worse financial position than they were before the benefit cut was introduced in April.
Almost 2,500 WDH homes are now in rent arrears and a further 74 housing association properties are now behind with their payments.
Pontefract mum Nicola Taylor has lost £15 a week to help pay for her Chevin Housing home, since the bedroom tax came into force.
Miss Taylor, 38, who lives in a three bedroom house on Orchard Head Crescent with her 15-year-old son, Kieran, said: “There’s people in a far worse situation that me. It’s not made me have to move, but it has changed my lifestyle.
“You don’t realise how much that £15 means. That would pay for Kieran’s bus fare, or the gas bill.
“Electricity and council tax has gone up and wages haven’t. But it’s Kieran who suffers the most, I just can’t give him what I want.”
The bedroom tax was bought in earlier this year to slash the amount of benefit people receive if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom.
As the Express went to print, there were only 17 one bedroom WDH properties available in the district.
Kevin Dodd, chief executive of WDH, said: “The bedroom tax is having a clear effect on the lives of local people.
“Nearly 60 per cent of our affected tenants are in a worse financial position, with the majority of these people being in rent arrears. It has also had a major effect on our lettings, with much greater demand for smaller properties than before.
“Moving everyone effected by bedroom tax into smaller accommodation would take years, so although we are helping tenants to downsize their homes, we are also offering practical support to help manage their money and avoid financial difficulty.”
Yvette Cooper, MP for Pontefract and Castleford, is now calling on the government to scrap the tax.
She said: “Families are being pushed into debt or into the arms of loan sharks as a result of this unfair tax.
“People can’t move, but they can’t afford the tax either, and if they go into private rented accommodation rents are even higher. The government is out of touch. They should scrap the policy immediately.”
WDH tenants affected by the bedroom tax should call 0845 8 507 507 for advice.