Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Says That Tenants Will Not Take Large Homes

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Says That Tenants Will Not Take Large Homes

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor

CUTS to housing benefit designed to drive tenants out of large homes have led to streets with scores of empty properties across the North East, MPs have claimed.

Labour MPs urged the Government to scrap the policy widely known as the bedroom tax, saying that it had made some council and housing association properties unnafordable.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said tenants were refusing to move in to larger homes because they feared they would have to pay extra costs if their circumstances changed.

She said: "We are already seeing streets with scores of empty properties.

The number of such properties is likely to rise and rise, while the former residents are becoming homeless or moving to the expensive private sector - moves that will increase the housing benefit bill further, and further stretch public finances."

The bedroom tax, formally known as the under-occupation penalty, means that housing benefit is cut for tenants in social housing who are considered to have a spare bedroom.

According to the Government, the aim is to ensure that people who no longer need larger homes, such as parents of grown-up children who have moved out, free up their property for families who need them more.

Those with one spare room face a cut of 14% in their housing benefit while those with two spare bedrooms face a 25% cut.

However, they can stay in their property if they can pay the extra cost - and ministers have suggested they take in a lodger or work longer hours.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said most people affected couldn't move out because there were no smaller homes on offer.

Speaking in the House of Commons, she said: "In my constituency of South Shields, 1,440 households are affected, with only 387 properties becoming available for them to move into between April and September this year. …

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