THE chief executive in charge of council housing across Thanet, Dover, Canterbury, and Shepway is advising tenants to take in lodgers to "plug the gap" in their benefits when radical changes come into effect next April.
Brendan Ryan, from East Kent Housing, says tenants will be hit by the "massive changes," resulting from the new "bedroom tax" being levied on housing benefit recipients where it is decided the property they live in is too big for their needs.
East Kent Housing predicts 1,710 council tenants across the four areas will be affected, with hundreds more in housing association or privately rented homes also feeling the pinch.
The organisation says people will face having to find an average £660 per year to pay the rent no longer covered by benefit payments.
The new rules will create a 14 per cent benefit cut for those with one extra bedroom and 25 per cent with two or more extra rooms.
Using average rental prices this would mean someone in a property with one extra bedroom where the rent is £78.80 per week would receive housing benefit at £67.77 per week.
If they have a property with two extra bedrooms with a rent of £90.35 per week they would receive housing benefit at £67.75 per week.
Those on pensions or pension credits are exempt.
If a person is disabled or has a disabled partner or family member who needs a non-resident overnight carer, they should be allowed an extra bedroom.
Mr Ryan said: "Next year will see some massive changes to the benefits system with bedroom tax coming in in April and Universal Credits starting in October, with a direct impact on our tenants. We have been working hard to alert tenants to the changes and how they might deal with them.
"For many tenants an option may be to find a smaller home.
"We have set up a benefit advice hotline and in just one week, we received over 200 phone calls from tenants worried about how the changes will affect them.
"Some tenants may want to think about taking in lodgers to plug their gap in their housing benefit."
To find out more about the proposed benefit changes visit: www.eastkenthousing.org.uk/news/benefit_changes.aspx