Shapps: Bedroom tax savings to be used to build new homes
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Development, Housing
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Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has said that the money the government has saved through the bedroom tax will be used to build new homes for people on housing waiting lists.
The former housing minister was defending the controversial under-occupancy policy in his constituency of Welwyn Hatfield, where rent arrears have soared by 60% since its introduction last April.
It is thought to be the first time that a senior member of the coalition has outlined how the money the bedroom tax has netted for the government will be spent.
Speaking to the Welwyn Hatfield Times, the MP said that the "spare room subsidy" was brought in because of the "financial mess this country was left in following Labour’s great recession”.
He added that it was "important to understand" that the bedroom tax "is meant to ensure that rather than the taxpayer paying for bedrooms to be empty, people who are homeless get a roof over their heads".
Shapps went on: “What the removal of this subsidy does is to stop paying for rooms which are not in use. However, it does not mean that someone necessarily needs to therefore move.
“So there is no surprise that most people will stay in their homes. This is a good thing. What it does mean is that people will be asked to pay for that spare room each week."
Shapps then explained that the money the government accrues through the bedroom tax "can then be used to help fund more housing for those people on the waiting lists".
According to the Department for Work and Pensions latest figures, the under-occupancy policy is saving more than a £1 million a day - meaning somewhere over £364m a year will be available for new housing.
The DWP refused to comment on Shapps' claim that bedroom tax money would be used to build new housing.
Defending the policy, works and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “It was absolutely necessary that we fixed the broken system which just a year ago allowed the taxpayer to cover the £1m daily cost of spare rooms in social housing.
“We have taken action to help the hundreds of thousands of people living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation and to control the spiralling housing benefit bill, as part of the government’s long-term economic plan.
“Our reforms ensure we can sustain a strong welfare safety net, and we are providing an extra £165m next year to support the most vulnerable claimants.”