Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Under occupancy deductions and housing benefit

There are 12,000 people on the social housing waiting list in Northumberland, including several thousand in my constituency.
We also have many homes occupied by social housing tenants where the present tenant is living in a home with more bedrooms than the present occupant needs.
Housing benefit costs the UK taxpayer £23 Billion. It used to be £11 Billion barely 12 years ago. All of this has to come out of working people's taxes.
Its cost has risen self evidently by over 100% in the last 10 years.
Our welfare bill in this country is also simply unsustainable.
The Coalition are trying to address this problem. Before anyone gets too political this policy we are pursuing is exactly the same as was in the Labour party manifesto, [and as set out by James Purnell, the former Labour Work and Pensions Minister before 2010], which promised to reform housing benefit to ensure that people on benefits do not end up getting subsidies for rented accomodation that those who work could never afford to live in. Thus all political parties accepted at the last election that this was an issue that had to be tackled. Like lots of our countries problems the reality is that this government is the one that has to take the hard decisions.

What to do?
Clearly we should tackle the need for social housing by building more 1 bed and 2 bed social housing bungalows and flats. This we are doing both locally and nationally. I can point to a large number of great projects locally - Trinity Court in Corbridge is but one that ISOS is opening soon.
The government has made it easier to build homes in a variety of ways, and relaxed certain rules to help housing providers. Contrary to popular belief there are both lots of housing projects in the Hexham constituency, and lots that I support.

But this will not be enough. We need to move people to homes that the state will continue to provide, but free up housing stock for people who need 2, 3 or 4 bed homes. I have local people who have been on waiting lists for well over 5 years.

This change will come in to force at the beginning of April. There are large numbers of exemptions, and the implemementation is still being tweaked to ensure that local providers look after those who are affected in the best possible way.

There is a very large pot of money available to ensure that those who either cannot move or cannot afford to pay the difference can do so. I have met with several local housing providers in the last few weeks, notably Isos, but if there are local cases which need addressing then please write / email the HOC office and we will do all we can to help.