A RURAL charity has repeated its call for the government to scrap the so-called bedroom tax in settlements of fewer than 3000 people.
Action with Communities in Rural England spoke out after the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning published an interim report on the removal of the spare room subsidy.
Five months into the subsidy's removal, the study found that 41% of tenants had paid the full shortfall, 39% had paid some and 20% had paid none.
ACRE said its fear that the 'bedroom tax' is hitting some of the most vulnerable people in rural communities was borne out by the report.
The under-occupation charge or 'bedroom tax', which cuts the benefits of tenants of working age in homes deemed to have spare rooms, came into force in April last year.
ACRE, the umbrella organisation for England's rural community councils, said at the time that the penalty would force people to leave the villages where they grew up.
The charity maintains that a shortage of one and two-bedroom rural homes means rural tenants must move into towns and cities or fall into debt if they cannot make up the rent shortfall.
Some 47% of landlords said they had seen an increase in rent arrears since the introduction of the charge, according to the study.
"This new report on the 'bedroom tax' backs up our fears," said ACRE chief executive Janice Banks.
"It says that, following the introduction of the charge, agencies reported that a lot of people wanted to downsize to smaller properties but could not.
"Supply of one-bedroom homes is in short supply in any case, but this problem is worse in rural areas where so few affordable homes of any size are built."
The report, commissioned by the Department for Work & Pensions, said many claimants were strongly attached to their local areas for a variety of reasons.
These reasons included work, schools and local services, plus a support network of family and friends living very close by.
In some close-knit rural areas, the majority of claimants interviewed said they could not imagine moving out of the area.
Ms Banks added: "These findings were inevitable. The 'bedroom tax' takes no account of the challenges rural tenants face.
"Those who stayed put and tried to make up the shortfall were already at a disadvantage.
"Research shows it costs £2,800 a year more to live in the countryside than it does in a city and this tax has impacted on those already struggling with the high cost of living in rural areas."
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