Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has produced a report on the impact the reduction in the Spare Room Subsidy is having on her constituency of Camberwell and Peckham.

In the report she says:

In Southwark over 4,000 households are hit by the Bedroom Tax but there are only 160 smaller properties available for them to move in to. This means only 4% of households hit by the Bedroom Tax has the option to move to a smaller social housing property.

The report adds that on that basis someone would have to wait ten years for the chance to downsize. However Miss Harman’s figure is for council properties that are vacant. She does not include properties that are available for those willing to swap, the system of mutual exchange.

In Southwark there are 819 families in overcrowded conditions in one bedroom social housing properties. There are another 1,241 in overcrowded conditions in two bedroom social housing properties. Does Miss Harman really believe that her constituents in those circusmatances would not be willing to swap with those in larger properties?

Miss Harman is very grand. An Old Paulina she is the niece of the Countess of Longford. I wonder is she conducts her own surgeries or whether she gets underlings to do it for her. At any rate her apparent belief that families in her constituency are insistent on remaining in overcrowded conditions dossing on sofas and camp beds is extraordinary. What planet, as the saying goes, is she on?

If she can find a few moments she should have a look at House Exchange – just one of them websites for those on social housing that wish to swap. There are plenty of one bedroom Camberwell properties to choose from.

This Southwark Council one for example where the occupant says:

I’m just simply looking for a 2 bedroom. making plans for a baby so need the space. I’m open to all areas.

Or this one:

Ground floor Flat is 2 minutes away from Denmark Hill and East Dulwich train stations and Kings College hospital. Also about 5 minutes from Sainsbury supermarket, and many other convenient stores. Serves 4 bus routes, walking distance to the bus stop….

Looking for: Bungalow, Flat, House, Maisonette: 2 Beds

Or this one:

Hello. I have a one bedroom ground floor, very neat house and lovely area in Camberwell SE5. I’m Looking FOR A 2 bedroom minimum around southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham, greenwich, Bromley and other near by boroughs.

Or this one:

Very spacious one bed flat facing large communual garden area.

Set in a very desirable area this flat stands between two train stations Denmark Hill and East Dulwich.

This flat has a good sized shed and off road parking ideal for a couple.

Looking for: Bungalow, Flat, House, Maisonette: 2 Beds

Or this one a Peabody Housing Association:

Good sized 1 bedroom, fitted kitchen under year old, lovely red brick peabody building, communal outdoor sitting area. Transport links outstanding- buses to everywhere. I’ve worked in Victoria and Kings Cross and both were well under an hour on the bus. Our building is set right back from the road so no traffic noise at all, bedroom is not overlooked – back onto an old Victoria swimming baths….

Mainly Im just looking for 2 beds – will consider all areas as long as reasonable transport links. Safety is important too.

There are plenty more.

The norm is very much those wanting to swap a one bedroom property for one with two bedrooms. Those wishing to downsize due to a reduction in spare room subsidy have thousands of properties across London to choose from. They don’t have to wait ten years to find something – more like ten minutes. Many have done so and thus provided welcome relief for those in cramped living accomodation.

However many have chosen to stay in their homes and keep a spare room and pay the extra contribution to their rent by getting a job – or if they are already working increasing their hours.

Miss Harman’s report is based on a complete fallacy.

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