Reforming housing benefit is absolutely necessary if we want to get to grips with the problems of overcrowding in social housing and with our housing benefit bill.

We always understood that making such a radical departure from the outdated way things had been done in the past was never going to be easy.

But we grasped the nettle and have ended the thoroughly unfair subsidy that saw the taxpayer forking out for almost one million spare bedrooms in the social rented sector.

The public can see how ridiculous it is that the benefit system was funding extra bedrooms, while hundreds of thousands of families are squeezed into cramped, overcrowded accommodation that is too small for their needs.

Latest ONS figures show that around 375,000 households across England and Wales are living in overcrowded homes in the social rented sector, a fact hardly ever referred to by Labour who left us with this problem.

And it is also clearly unfair to treat people differently in the social and private rented sectors.

Our changes mean that all housing benefit claimants of working age – be they in the social sector or the private sector – receive housing benefit for the number of bedrooms they need. Some households will choose to downsize, which will free-up properties for families now living in overcrowded homes.

Even after the reform, we still pay the majority of most claimants’ rent and we have ensured councils have £190m this year in safety net funding to support residents through the transition.

At times it may have seemed that opinion was deeply divided over this issue, but new polling shows there is strong public support for reducing under-occupation and overcrowding.

In fact, 78 per cent of those who took part thought it was important to tackle the issue of overcrowding in social housing.

54 per cent agreed that it is fair that people of working age, who live in social housing, should receive less Housing Benefit if they have more bedrooms than they need.

While we believe these reforms will lead to a fairer system, we also expect them to generate a saving to the taxpayer of around £500 million a year and £1 billion over the last two years of this Government.

This will make a significant dent in a Housing Benefit bill that has spiralled by 50 per cent in real terms in the past decade under Labour and would have reached £26 billion by the end of this Parliament without our reforms.

As with any reform, we are monitoring the changes closely – but the urgent reforms have broken new ground and we are certain that we have got it right.

130 comments for: Iain Duncan Smith MP: The public agree that cutting the spare room subsidy is fair

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