6 Feb 2013

‘Bedroom tax’ will ease overcrowding problem says MP

MP Mark Field says the reforms to housing benefit which will cut the income of social housing tenants deemed to have spare rooms is necessary to ease overcrowding for other families.

Mark Field MP (Getty)

A Conservative MP who said he had “hadn’t heard” of the so-called “bedroom tax” says he has heard of it after all.

Mark Field, whose constituency is the Cities of London and Westminster, said there had been a misunderstanding. Mr Field was one of over 100 MPs to respond to a Channel 4 News survey on the controversial changes to housing benefit.

Mr Field said the term “bedroom tax” was misleading, and said he believed it referred to a possible tax on hotel bedrooms.

The changes to the welfare system, being introduced in April, will see anyone deemed to have extra rooms in their social housing having their benefits cuts.

Its aimed at encouraging people to move to smaller properties and in the process freeing up social housing which the government hopes will cut the welfare budget. The prime minister defend the reforms to housing benefit at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

Overcrowding problem

In support of the changes Mark Field MP argued: “Each and every day, I receive enquiries from constituents living in overcrowded properties and temporary accommodation who have been waiting for years for a family-sized property. Meanwhile many properties in our borough are severely under-occupied.

“To give you a better idea of the problem, in 2010 when the housing benefit changes were being drawn up, 10 per cent of the four-bedroom properties within the social housing portfolio of Westminster City Council were occupied by one person and 15 per cent of their 3-bed properties. As such, I welcomed the introduction of incentives for tenants to downsize.”

The problem across large parts of the country however, is a complete lack of smaller properties for people to move into.

According to the National Housing Federation the situation is so acute that one social landlord in the North East has 1,800 under-occupiers and only two available one bedroom homes for them to relocate to. In that area it’s thought it could take eight years to get everyone moved into social housing.

Read more: 'Bedroom tax' will cost taxpayers more

Other MPs, who have since responded to the survey, have highlighted further problems in their constituencies.

The MP for Neath Peter Hain says: “A number of constituents have contacted me about the bedroom tax including a couple where one is severely disabled and their spouse requires the extra room to sleep at night because of the machinery and equipment. Their property has been adapted and they cannot afford the increase.”