'We were told this was a home for life when we moved in'
A DISABLED man whose house has been fitted with £20,000 of specialist adaptations fears he will be forced out by the Government's new bedroom tax.
Michael Blair, who is contemplating a life-threatening surgery on his spine for a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 1, says the threat of the tax is adding to his worries.
He says his surgeon at the Queen's Medical Centre has warned that one in five operations go wrong and he could die or end up paralysed from the neck or waist down.
The condition causes benign tumours to grow all over the body which can cause serious damage by compressing nerves.
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The 43-year-old lives in a three-bedroomed bungalow which has undergone extensive alterations such as a wet room, special toilet, ramps and rails.
But now he fears for the future and is worried sick that his family may be forced out by the new tax.
"We were told this was our bungalow for life when we moved in 13 years ago because my condition is never going to get better.
"There is no cure and it gets worse as you get older," says Mr Blair, who has previously had 200 tumours removed from his body.
"The tumours are pressing against my spine and my legs and my right arm is weak. They are slowly paralysing me. Sooner or later I am going to be a paraplegic whatever happens. Even if I have the operation the tumours can grow back," he said.
Mr Blair lives at the large bungalow in Calver Close, Wollaton Park, with his wife Gail, his son, 15, and daughter, 17, who have both inherited the condition.
Because the children are still living at home, the Blairs won't have to pay the tax for empty bedrooms straight away but they fear, when their children leave home in a few years time, they won't be able to afford the extra £80 per month.
"We're going to have to pay council tax which we can just about afford but not £80. I am worried sick and feel really low," says Mr Blair, who has recently been put on anti-depressants and is having counselling.
Mr Blair's bungalow belongs to social housing provider Nottingham City Homes.
A spokeswoman told the Post: "We're doing all we can to help our tenants through all the changes to benefits.
"All those we know are going to be affected by the new rules on housing benefit are all being contacted personally by us. We're providing them with lots of information about what their choices are."
Nottingham City Council is campaigning against the tax because of the cost implications of moving disabled tenants out of specially adapted properties into smaller homes that need alternations.
The local authority has launched an online petition calling on the Government to re-think the bedroom tax which will be imposed on tenants with spare bedrooms in April in a bid to encourage residents to downsize and cut housing waiting lists.
Discretionary housing benefit will be available in some cases to help tenants afford the new tax – but possibly only for one year.
Councillor Dave Liversidge, portfolio holder for housing, adult services and the community, said: "It is ridiculous Mr Blair has been put in this situation.
"When we have provided homes for people with particular adaptations and then being told to move causes upheaval for them and creates additional problems for Nottingham City Homes who will have to adapt a smaller property.
"I would hope Nottingham City Homes will try to alleviate the situation as best they can by trying to keep him in his own home but it depends on whether we can continue with discretionary housing benefit.
"I think the bedroom tax is going to create so much trouble over the next the next year there will be some sort of alleviation or repeal."
On the web: Join the debate online at www.thisisnottingham.co.uk