Lib Dems propose housing benefit changes

Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander says his party’s manifesto will set out plans to go further and deliver 300,000 new homes a year

“We brought in these changes with the best of intentions to do three things: first, to tackle the crazy situation where we have 240,000 families living in homes that are too small for them while we are paying housing benefit to smaller families in larger properties – effectively keeping 820,000 spare rooms empty.

Our aim was to give people a reason to downsize if they live in a home larger than needed.

Second, to end the unfairness of people in social housing getting housing benefit on better terms than private tenants who for years have received it based on the number of rooms they need.

Third, to change the system as part of our wider reforms to make sure working pays and we have a welfare bill the country can afford.

Our benefit reforms are working, resulting in many more people re-entering work.

However with only one in 20 of affected claimants having successfully downsized, it’s time to change our approach in this particular area.

Our revised proposal is that new tenants in the social rented sector would receive housing benefit based on the number of rooms they need.

But those already in the social rented sector would only see a reduction in benefit if they are offered a suitable smaller home and, crucially, turn it down.

Disabled adults should be treated the same as disabled children, by permanently exempting them.

And we would introduce new measures on social landlords to manage their stock more effectively so more people get put into the right home.

The Liberal Democrats will make the case for these new fairer rules, seeking to get them in place during this Parliament.

If we can’t convince our Conservative coalition partners, we will commit to these reforms in our 2015 manifesto.

I want everyone to have the chance to live securely in a decent home.

That’s why I’ve driven through measures that will deliver record numbers of affordable homes to help tackle the root cause of our housing problem, lack of supply.

And it’s why our manifesto will set out plans to go further and deliver 300,000 new homes a year”.