Changes to housing benefit are not a tax on bedrooms
Last week I supported the Government in its policy to reduce housing benefit for properties that are under-occupied. This has dishonestly been referred to as a "bedroom tax". It is no such thing.
The Government will not put any tax on bedrooms and these changes to benefit will make no difference to home owners or those in the privately rented sector. Pensioner households will not be affected either.
What then does the policy do? It ties benefit to need for those in social housing. Households in receipt of housing benefit will from next month be paid depending on the number of residents and the bedrooms available.
Children aged nine or under will be expected to share a room regardless of sex and 15 or under with a child of the same sex. Couples will be expected to share a room but other adults will be assessed as in need of their own room. This will lead to a reduction in benefit for some families.
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It is estimated that 120,000 households have two or more spare bedrooms. However, it does no more than bring the public housing into line with benefits available to rent privately and it recognises that people's circumstances change.
Under occupancy is not just a problem in terms of excess benefit payments but it also means that larger houses are not available for those who currently need them.
Benefits are not there to provide a way of life but a safety net for those who need it. As taxpayers are expected to move when their circumstances change it is not unreasonable to expect the same of benefit recipients.
There are exemptions for the elderly and extra cash to support the disabled and foster parents. Thus the most vulnerable will be protected but so will taxpayers.