Freud under fire for bedroom tax ‘ruse’
Housing professionals have demanded the welfare minister ‘own up’ to the motivation for the government’s controversial bedroom tax.
At a National Housing Federation conference on welfare reform this morning delegates and speakers urged Lord Freud to admit the cut for housing benefit recipients who are under-occupying their homes is designed to save money.
The minister insisted the penalty is intended to make better use of housing stock by moving under occupying households into smaller properties, releasing larger social homes for overcrowded families.
‘There are five million families on social housing waiting lists in England, and a quarter of a million tenants living in overcrowded conditions,’ he said. ‘We need as efficient use of housing stock as we can get.’
Under the penalties for under-occupation working age social tenants who are in receipt of housing benefit will see payments cut if they are deemed to have spare bedrooms. The government has suggested tenants can avoid the penalty by moving to smaller properties, but delegates at the conference suggested moving costs and the lack of availability of smaller properties would make this impossible in many cases.
David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, noted that during parliamentary debates on the Welfare Reform Act, which contains the bedroom tax legislation, it emerged the Department for Work and Pensions expects 80 per cent of tenants who are hit by the cuts to remain in their current properties.
‘Can we not have an elaborate ruse that this is about using housing stock better,’ he said. ‘That is not the objective here, the objective is to save money.’
Lord Freud responded: ‘If you manage to house a large family in an appropriate sized home and move another family elsewhere, you do free up housing stock across the piece.’
Delegates seemed unconvinced, which one audience member calling out that the minister should ‘own up’ to the reasons for the policy.
Dissatisfaction with the bedroom tax was also evident in a protest outside the Commonwealth Club, where the conference was being held. Campaigners from Defend Council Housing called for an end to housing benefit cuts, and the building of more social homes.