Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 11th March 2013.

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Photo of Katy Clark Katy Clark Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran 2:30 pm, 11th March 2013

If he will reconsider the decision not to include residential properties owned by local authorities for temporary accommodation in the definition of temporary accommodation contained in the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

From 8 April, people living in temporary accommodation will, in most cases, be unaffected by the removal of the spare room subsidy in the social rented sector. However, where a local authority’s own temporary accommodation is used, the spare room subsidy will be removed if the tenant is placed in accommodation that is larger than they need.

Photo of Katy Clark Katy Clark Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran

In North Ayrshire the council owns 63% of the accommodation used as temporary accommodation, and the bedroom tax will apply to approximately two thirds of those properties. Will the Minister look again at the definition of temporary accommodation, given that this policy will simply mean that local authorities end up spending a lot more on less suitable accommodation from the private sector?

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

We think that local authorities using their own stock to discharge their homelessness function should, wherever possible, house people in appropriately sized accommodation. If there are short-term problems in matching families to accommodation size, discretionary payments are available and can be used to support any shortfall a local authority may experience.

Photo of Eilidh Whiteford Eilidh Whiteford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Fisheries)

Half of all the temporary accommodation in Scotland is council-owned and the accommodation size reflects the existing housing stock and a varying range of needs in that sector. The discretionary housing budget in Scotland will not even cover the cost of keeping disabled people in specially adapted homes, so in no way will it cover the needs of people in temporary accommodation. Will the Government look again at this and reconsider what I can only assume is an unintended consequence or an oversight?

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady raises the important issue of the mismatch between the housing stock and families who need housing. That has gone unaddressed for decades and we now need to address it. We recognise that there may be particular issues in Scotland, partly with rurality and partly with the housing stock, and we are happy to continue having that conversation with hon. Members.