More bedsits to lead to more crime?

CHANGES to the housing benefit system could lead to an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour in Scarborough, it has been warned.

The reforms, due to come into force in April next year, will mean that single people under the age of 35 will not be able to claim housing benefit for one-bedroom, self-contained flats.

To cash in on the changes, many landlords are expected to convert properties containing one-bedroom flats to houses of multiple occupancy with shared facilities.

The occupants of those properties will be able to claim housing benefit.

At a community and police meeting for the North Bay, Northstead and Central Wards, many residents and councillors said the bedsit-style properties has caused problems in the past and expressed concerns over their potential increase.

The group’s chairman, Grace Holmes, said: “We’ve spent ages trying to get rid of the wretched things. If Scarborough Council want to have them they can dump them next to someone else’s property. We still have some and we are having problems with them. This is not a step in the right direction.”

Cllr Janet Jefferson, who represents the Castle Ward area, said the proposals and their potential implications for Scarborough were “frightening”.

She added: “I have worked with an awful lot of people to remove them and the crime they cause over the last 20 years.

“I think this is a downward trend. It once took us three years to get rid of one property.”

Council representatives who attended the meeting said that additional licensing for houses of multiple occupancy may be introduced but that a consultation period will be held before changes are finalised.

A decrease in the number of students due to the increase in tuition fees is another factor that could lead to a surplus of rented accommodation and landlords making changes to their properties, it was claimed.