NEIGHBOURS and protesters surrounded a house to prevent bailiffs evicting Coventry man Archie Millar over ‘bedroom tax’ debts.
The 55-year-old faced eviction on Monday from his home of 40 years in St Margaret Road, Stoke, Coventry, by bailiffs acting for housing association Whitefriars.
He had lived alone in a three-bedroom house since his mother died nine years ago.
The coalition government introduced the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ two years ago, which cut his and other claimants’ Housing Benefit if they were deemed to have more bedrooms than they need.
Mr Millar lost £25 of his £72 a week Housing Benefit payments – as he was deemed to have two ‘spare rooms’ – and was unable to pay all his rent.
Conservatives in government claimed they were introducing more fairness in the benefits system by abolishing what they called a ‘spare room subsidy’ – in addition to other benefits cuts.
The policy was meant to encourage tenants living in properties suddenly deemed too big for them to move to smaller properties – which would in turn free up larger social homes for larger families who need them.
Housing charities say that plan failed, not least because of a chronic shortage of larger social homes, and political opponents have labelled the policy ‘cruel’ and ‘vindictive’.
Mr Millar said: “I would be living on the streets if I was evicted.”
He said he had been trying to raise the money to pay his rent arrears, but had been prevented by Whitefriars from taking in a lodger or moving to a smaller home.
As an unemployed man on Job Seekers Allowance, he said he did not have enough money to cover rent and bills.
Neighbours, socialists and Coventry Against The Bedroom Tax (CABT) campaigners – including Coventry North West and St Michael’s candidate Dave Nellist – were present to surround the house when the bailiffs were due to arrive.
With the media alerted to the planned eviction, Monday saw a stand-off between campaigners and Whitefriars, with eleventh-hour phone calls seeking an emergency resolution.
Whitefriars has now given Mr Millar an extra month to pay his £1,400 debt, and permission to take in a lodger.
John Boadle of CABT said it was a temporary victory, but the threat of eviction remained.
He said: “Archie’s been expected to find £25 a week to make up his rent. Obviously that’s not possible to do and pay bills and live. He tried everything possible to pay.”
He said this was the first time eviction procedures had escalated to an eviction, after the serving of a possession order.
The Conservatives are pledging if they win power after May 7 to give tenants the ‘right to buy’ their Housing Association homes, while creating ‘affordable housing’ at a percentage of spiralling private rents.
Opponents say it will worsen the crisis of a shortage in social housing.