MP hopes to cut the “Bedroom tax”
The MP who has the first Private Members’ Bill will seek support from fellow MPs to cut the bedroom tax when it is debated in the House of Commons next Friday, 5th September.
Liberal Democrat MP, Andrew George, has chosen to focus his Affordable Homes Bill on an effort to introduce significant exemptions to the Government’s Spare Room Subsidy/Bedroom Tax and is urging his Liberal Democrat colleagues and opposition MPs to back him.
When Mr George introduced his Affordable Homes Bill to Parliament last month he originally proposed four elements to be negotiated with Government and opposition parties; to seek support for measures to advance the case for legislation which would improve the chances of families in inadequate or unaffordable homes.(1)
Mr George, who voted against the Government’s Bedroom Tax/Spare Room Subsidy regulations explained that he could not get support for any of his measures from the Conservatives and that the Labour Party would not support his proposed planning controls on second homes and had concerns about the other measures, with the exception of the proposed exemptions to the Bedroom Tax.
Mr George said: “Although I am disappointed that I’ve had to drop other measures to give this Bill a chance of success at Second Reading next Friday, I hope I can persuade Labour and fellow Liberal Democrat MPs, including Government Ministers, to support it.
“Of course – to be consistent – I would have preferred to abolish the Bedroom Tax altogether, but, for a Private Members’ Bill to have any chance of success, compromises have to be reached.
“The poor should have as much entitlement to a stable family home as the better off. There are better ways of solving our housing crisis than creating misery for the most vulnerable.
“Naturally, if I succeed at Second Reading, I hope I can beef up the Bill with amendments at Committee Stage, to extend exemptions to the Bedroom Tax and promote the intermediate housing market to make home ownership affordable to more people.”
Mr George however remains concerned that many Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs who might otherwise support his Private Members’ Bill may be detained in Scotland on the Scottish Referendum and which may undermine his chance of success.
(1) The original measures of his Affordable Homes Bill were:
- to cap the number of second homes, using planning restrictions.
- powers to stop developers/speculators from withholding or land banking development land to drive up land values;
- measures to promote the intermediate housing marking (shared ownership etc.) including the use of a revolving investment fund; and
- exemptions from the Bedroom Tax/Spare Room Subsidy.
The penultimate draft Bill which includes elements of 4. and 3. above follows:
A Bill to make provision about the availability of affordable homes; and for connected purposes
BE IT ENACTED by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-
1. Application of section 2
The provisions of section 2 apply where:
a) the claimant is a person in receipt of Housing Benefit; or
b) the claimant is in receipt of Universal Credit which includes an amount in respect of the housing costs element of Universal Credit; and
c) the property to which the claim relates is a dwelling of which the landlord is a local housing authority or a registered provider of social housing.
- 2. Calculation of Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit
(1) The appropriate maximum Housing Benefit or the amount to be included as the housing cost elements of a Universal Credit award shall not be less than the actual amount of the liability in a case where:
a) an adaptation has been made to the dwelling to provide assistance to meet a disability need of the claimant, the claimant’s partner or a close relative of the claimant or the claimant’s partner who resides at the dwelling and the claimant has provided the relevant authority with such certificates, documents, information or evidence as to demonstrate, to the reasonable satisfaction of the relevant authority-
(i) the disability need of a person referred to above;
(ii) that an adaptation has been made to meet that need; and
(iii) that the cost of the adaptation is not less than an amount prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State;
b) the claimant, the claimant’s partner or a close relative of the claimant or the claimant’s partner-
(i) resides at the dwelling;
(ii) is in receipt of any component of Disability Living Allowance or of Personal Independence Payment (whichever is applicable); and
(iii) has satisfied the relevant authority that, due to their disability, they are not reasonably able to share a bedroom with another person.
c) neither the claimant’s landlord nor a local authority, where it is not the landlord, has made a reasonable offer of alternative accommodation.
(2) Regulations made under this section may define “reasonable offer of alternative accommodation” for the purposes of sub-section (1)(c) above.
3. Review of the availability of affordable homes and the intermediate housing market
(1) During the period of 12 months commencing with the coming into force of this Act, the Secretary of State shall carry out a review of the availability of affordable homes and intermediate housing and produce and lay before Parliament a report which must set out the conclusions of the review.
(2) The report may assess, in particular—
(a) the extent of the need for affordable homes and intermediate housing and any impediments to the meeting of the need;
(b) progress made in meeting any need identified and an assessment of the potential for the development of the market for intermediate housing;
(c) the financial products to support the market and the role of registered providers and community land trusts;
(d) whether the Secretary of State should issue—
(i) guidance under section 46 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, or
(ii) directions under section 47 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008,
so as to contribute to meeting the need or the development of the market.
- 4. Orders and regulations
(1) Any power to make an order or regulations under this Act is exercisable by statutory instrument.
(2) A statutory instrument containing an order or regulations under this Act is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
- 5. Interpretation
(1) In sections 1 and 2-
(a) In any instance where the provisions apply to Scotland or Wales for “registered provider of social housing” substitute “registered social landlord’;
(b) “close relative” means a parent, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, step-parent, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister, or if any of the preceding persons is one member of a couple, the other member of that couple;
(c) “relevant authority” means an authority administering Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit.
(2) In section 3-
(a) “affordable homes” means intermediate housing provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market and eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices and which housing remains at an affordable price for future eligible households;
(b) “community land trust” means a body corporate which satisfies the conditions laid down in section 79(4) and (5) of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (“the 2008 Act”) and where “local community” has the meaning provided in section 79(3) of the 2008 Act;
(c) “financial product” includes loans, mortgages, guarantees, overdrafts and such other forms of financial assistance which exist to enable the purchase of an interest in property;
(d) “intermediate housing” means homes for sale and rent provided at a cost above social rent, but below market levels as determined by local house prices. These may include shared ownership, co-operative housing where members have an equity interest, equity loans and other low cost homes for sale and intermediate rent but shall not include affordable rented housing;
(e) “registered provider” means a person listed in the register of providers of social housing established under Chapter 3 of Part 2 of the 2008 Act.
- 6. Financial provisions [if required]
(1) There is to be paid out of money provided by Parliament:-
a. any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of this Act by [the Secretary of State], [a Minister of the Crown], [a person holding office under Her Majesty] [or by a government department], and
b. any increase attributable to this Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided.
(2) There is to be paid into the Consolidated Fund [any sums received by [a government department] by virtue of this Act.] [any increase attributable to this Act in the sums payable into that Fund under any other enactment].
- 7. Short title, commencement and extent
(1) This Act may be cited as the Affordable Homes Act 2014.
(2) This Act comes into force at the end of the period of 3 months beginning with the day on which it is passed.
(3) Sections 1 and 2 of this Act extends to England and Wales and Scotland.
(4) Section 3 of this Act extends to England only.