Affordable Housing and Housing Benefit
There was a debate in Parliament yesterday which was interesting because Labour admitted that the Labour government was planning to bring in a flat rate housing benefit payment in the Social Housing Sector. In Labour's current Phraseology "Labour planned a Bedroom Tax for Social Housing".
The full debate is here:
More importantly, however, I asked a question of the Shadow Minister:
John Hemming: I am aware of the proposal to transfer housing benefit money to local authorities with a view to building more properties. Let me ask this: what pays the rent of the people who are already in tenanted accommodation while the new properties are being built with that money?
Helen Goodman: That, of course, is the great conundrum. [... where she does not answer this question ...]
The Shadow minister did not answer this. If Labour bring in such a policy it will only work by top-slicing the housing benefit in some way from tenants. Hence tenants on means tested benefits would have to pay towards their rent, not only those who have spare rooms. In Labour's parlance a "whole home tax" rather than a "(spare) bedroom tax".
If Housing Benefit is cash limited that creates a similar problem. Alternatively some tenants would not be able to get Housing Benefit. However, somehow there is a cash problem.
Some other highlights:
John Hemming: I refer the hon. Lady to the answer that the then housing Minister, the late Malcolm Wicks, gave to a question from the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) in Hansard in 2004:
“We hope to implement a flat rate housing benefit system in the social sector, similar to that anticipated in the private rented sector to enable people in that sector to benefit from the choice and flexibility that the reforms can provide.”—[Official Report, 19 January 2004; Vol. 416, c. 1075W.]
If he said that then, why is it now such a bad idea?
Sheila Gilmore: It is interesting that the flat-rate housing allowance for the private rented sector should be raised. What the hon. Gentleman mentions was discussed as a possibility during the Labour Government.
John Hemming: I tried to intervene on the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) to ask her whether Labour would reduce under-occupation by adopting a policy that involved evicting people living in under-occupied accommodation. Does the Minister accept that if we do not remove the spare room subsidy, the only alternative open to Labour if it wanted to reduce under-occupation would be to go round evicting people from under-occupied properties, which does happen in certain tenancies?
Mr Harper: The Opposition clearly do not have a sensible policy.