A spare room with a view


            Let me speak out in favour of spare rooms.  Most of my constituents enjoy one or two.  I am glad I live in a country where many people can afford more housing than they strictly need. People like to have a spare bedroom so they can welcome friends or relatives to stay the night or stay for a few days. Many now like to have a spare reception room or workroom so there is somewhere for members of the family to relax and watch tv, and somewhere else  to do the homework or to answer the business emails and calls that come through out of office hours.

           I want more people to have spare rooms. I want my constituents to become better off, and to be able to buy better housing. I do not want to tax them out of a larger home with a Mansion tax.  I do not want to prevent them buying a larger one with penal Stamp duties.  I do not want to stop them enjoying their surplus space through penal Council tax levels on bigger properties. People with larger incomes usually choose to have considerably more space than the average, as it does make living more relaxing and enjoyable. It’s good to aspire to better housing.

          I well remember the joy I felt as a youngster when my parents took the plunge and moved from Council accommodation to their first home they owned. It sported a spare bedroom so relatives could come to stay.It had two downstairs rooms as well as a small itchen. My parents had worked hard to save a deposit and to afford the mortgage. Their parents had rented all their lives, so it was an amazing move.

           Today there is a difficult debate about spare rooms in Council accommodation, or accommodation where the rent is paid for by Housing Benefit. I understand only too well the strong feelings many people have towards their homes. I also see the desirability of more people having spare rooms so there is somewhere quiet for homework, or somewhere to put up a relative or friend. I also understand the frustration of people who cannot secure Council accommodation at all or of the right size, when they see others living in properties larger than they would qualify to receive if applying today.

            Most people agree that when someone asks for subsidised accommodaiton it is right to allocate just the size they need and not something bigger. If they like the rest of us want something bigger, then there are all sorts of help on offer to assist them into jobs, where higher incomes will in due course lead to being able to afford a larger home.  Good luck to them.

            Most also agree that people with special needs, or the elderly, should be allowed to stay in larger accommodation and not required to downsize. The cases in dispute are those of people of working age who happen now to be living in larger homes provided by taxpayers than they would qualify for. Should the government encourage downsizing by offering suitable properties, but take no other action? Or should it say there will be less benefit to help pay the rent, as the home is larger than needed? I would be interested in your views.

       I want a view with a room from you.


  1. Nina Andreeva
    February 19, 2013

    The government could really help people here if it just suspended stamp duty while this crisis continues. I cannot see why somebody should be whacked for a large sum of cash if they want to move because that is where their job is taking them to or where the jobs are. While in the meantime those that do not want to work and have no intention of working have everything provided for them on a plate e.g. as we all saw yesterday Mrs Frost and her 11 kids being provided with a new 400k eco-home

    1. Disaffected
      February 19, 2013

      The Coalition introduced the National Planning Policy and the NEw Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy which pays for the infrastructure on any development. The cost of the NHB and CIL are added to the price of a house. Infrastructure should come from existing tax pots collected ie roads.

      Then of course affordable homes and social housing needs to be added to the mix. You know, urban extensions. Each build, by law, has a proportion of it. So those strivers who worked hard to save and improve their life chances, as you described, are wrecked by imposed council housing. After striving to get away from the crap of world they are now imported to the area where you live and do not have to a bean for the privilege. What is the point of working hard to improve your families chances when Tory and Lib Dem are wrecking everything you worked for. Well done Tories. Cameron does not hold any real conservative values. 299 tax rises more U-turns with IHT to pay for the crap of the world to live next door. Oh yes, Cameron is really for the strivers! I suspect this does apply to Oxford mansions or where you can claim £21,000 in mortgage interest payments like he did.

      JR, it is your party and government that is unnecessarily adding cost to the price of houses. Your sentiments appear good, but your evidence is very poor.

  2. lifelogic
    February 19, 2013

    The more rooms the better but people should not expect other taxpayers to pay for their rooms.

    If they are short of money they should just rent them out, start a business in them or downsize. There is the rent a room scheme that gives you up to £4250 PA tax free (though no doubt affects any benefits claimed?).

    Reported in the Times today:- About 1,600 children would be saved every year if the NHS delivered care in line with the best EU countries, Dan Poulter, the Health Minister, will say.
    Let us hope he/the government does something about it for a change. Start by changing the system to one that can work. After all Cameron gave us his ham actor speak about his priority in the three letters – N H S. what has he actually done?

    1. uanime5
      February 19, 2013

      Given that most EU countries spend more on healthcare as a percentage of their GDP than the UK does don’t expect any changes to be free.

      1. lifelogic
        February 19, 2013

        The NHS could be far run better on 60% of the money. Get rid of most of the litigation, have a fault reporting risk system, have easy hire and fire, stop vanity and quack medicine, charge fees, sort out the medical profession racket.

        Manage much of it like a well run Toyota factory it would be far better than the current. People doing eye ops and mole removals do not need ten years studying bowels and the like.

        1. uanime5
          February 20, 2013

          Well lifelogic it’s clear that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

          Unless you’re planning to make it illegal to sue for medical negligence you can’t get rid of most litigation.

          Easy hire and fire won’t work if your employees need to have 7 years medical training and have spent several years as an intern. You need a system that values employees, not throws them away when they’re no longer useful.

          Charging fees would turn the NHS from a free healthcare system into one that only the wealthy could afford. While this may appeal to your right wing delusions it will not be popular with normal people.

          I take it by the medical profession racket you’re referring to the private sector, which sends patients to the NHS if anything goes wrong.

          Finally a doctor needs a range of skills so they can treat patients with a range of illnesses, not specialising in a minor area so they can provide quicker treatment to the wealthy with an easy to identify problem.

          1. lifelogic
            February 23, 2013

            “Unless you’re planning to make it illegal to sue for medical negligence you can’t get rid of most litigation.”

            Well you can limit it by the patient agreeing to set limits before treatment, or by making the litigation system more sensible and limited legal costs and compensations hugely.

            “Finally a doctor needs a range of skills so they can treat patients with a range of illnesses”

            Well so does a aircraft engineer but you can train people in months to do specific jobs safely and well without them needing to have 10 years irrelevant training and experience in other areas. It is just largely a racket, the government need to sort it and the legal profession out and have some real competition and alternative professional routes.

          2. lifelogic
            February 23, 2013

            Easy hire and fire works brilliantly better for both employer they can of course anyway contract otherwise for a longer commitment should they wish too anyway.

            Why on earth do you say it cannot work?

  3. Jon
    February 19, 2013

    It seems a very fair way to do it.

    I see young couples now having to rent privately maybe for the rest of their lives and the cost of renting a house is huge. For those that do buy its not always the case that they don’t have to downsize or even get repossessed and end up renting after years of paying a mortgage. It is very reasonable that accommodation paid by the taxpayer is as needs dictate.

    There should always be the message that you should be better of paying your own way of that’s possible.

    1. lifelogic
      February 19, 2013

      You say:- the cost of renting a house is huge – well yes but so is the cost of buying one when you consider the cost of “renting” the money (interest) in order to buy it.

      In the short term renting is usually cheaper and more flexible – as you have far more cost in buying and selling the property. Stamp duty, legal fees, agents fees, valuations, abortive purchases and sales …….

      If you are sure you are staying put for 10+ years buying might be best but not always. Renting and saving surplus income elsewhere can be a better approach.

      Houses cost a lot to build (more given the absurd government regulations, utility costs, green religion and planning laws) someone has to pay for them usually the buyer or the tenant.

      1. Iain Gill
        February 19, 2013

        Yes but there are various government manipulations in the mix. For instance if you rent but have the cash equivalent of a house in the bank if you loose your job the government will not pay you any benefits. You are left to draw down your savings until you have buttons left before you can claim any out of work benefits. Meanwhile someone with all their capital tied up in a house can claim full benefits from day one of unemployment. So it’s much less risky to keep you money in a house than in a bank, as the government will never take it into account if you loose your job. And of course the government has been manipulating interest rates to keep mortgage rates low while devaluing savers nest egg. So there is lots of social manipulation which the politicians use to manipulate things. In my view if would be best if this manipulation were stopped and folk were left to make their own decisions on a level playing field.

      2. Jon
        February 19, 2013

        Fair and true points, maintenance costs, boilers etc as well. I was thinking about the young ones who would be buying like me in the past but are stuck renting but want to buy. Fair enough it suits some lifestyles.

        1. lifelogic
          February 19, 2013

          Boilers are especially expensive, now that you have to buy over complex, unreliable, condensing ones by government decree.

      3. scottspeig
        February 20, 2013

        Yet rent in my area is the same cost as the mortgage would be. So you break even at about 5 years and anything past that is in effect “saving”

        1. Iain Gill
          February 22, 2013

          not if house prices crash

  4. Andy H
    February 19, 2013

    Hi John

    I think it is entirely reasonable for people to be allocated accommodation that suites their needs, but that this process is reviewed regularly. When the accommodation provided is then either too small or too big, then they should be given something more suitable.

    We cannot live in a society where people only move accommodation to “upsize”. These proposals are very reasonable and attempts by people to paint this as a bedroom tax is very childish and typical of the politicians that are looking to court the client state vote.

    1. livelogic
      February 19, 2013

      The price mechanism is best just charge the market rent for all properties and stop distorting the market.

      Why should one persons family living in social housing have an extra £10,000 of disposable income relative to some up the road in a similar property paying the market rent?

      If people paid the market rent for social houses they might actually more out occasionally. They get rent help is needed anyway.

      1. Bazman
        February 19, 2013

        Save the surplus income when renting? Spare 10k’s? No minimum wage will help them get that though. What planet are you on?

        1. stred
          February 20, 2013

          My tenants at the 3 bed house pay £10800 pa including all charges and energy. Both have professional jobs. After childcare costs they are saving as far as I know and are waiting for house prices to go T.U when Labour wecks the private rental sector.

        2. P O Pensioner
          February 20, 2013

          Bazman, do you include the well known union leader on £140k plus living in subsidised housing? I bet he could spare £10k.
          I do know that there are a lot of people living in subsidised housing who have an income larger than the minimum wage. So what planet are you living on?

  5. Nick
    February 19, 2013

    Just look at the fuss MPs made when changes to having two homes were proposed. Forget a spare bedroom, MPs demand a spare house.

    All at other people’s expense.

    1. Nina Andreeva
      February 19, 2013

      Yes the cheek of these people! My other half was a hospital doctor at King’s hospital in Camberwell and what I am saying here applies to people who do real jobs like coppers, firemen, nurses etc too. After an “all night sitting” which usually involved trying to save someone’s life, not propping up a subsidized bar between votes, it was an hour or mores drive back to Rochester. Meanwhile an MP whose seat would be a inside a similar radius from London would only face a short walk home to some bijou taxpayer bought flat overlooking the Thames.

    2. livelogic
      February 19, 2013

      Well we are all in it together are we not – except of course MP’s, the state sector, the BBC, quangos and myself as I have left.

      Do as we say not as we do seems to be the Governments message.

      I wonder if James Purnell, the former Labour culture secretary, appointed as the “director, strategy and digital” of the BBC, on a salary of £295,000 (plus huge pension I assume) will now be able to pay for his own tax advice – without asking for the taxpayers assistance?

      He certainly will help reinforce the Lord Patten, Cameron, Libdem, leftie, green religion, pro EU, Oxford PPE, big state “BBC think” lunacy, one imagines.

    3. Peter Davies
      February 19, 2013

      Very true – when I go away to work I stop in hotels – MPs get a house 🙂

      1. Nina Andreeva
        February 19, 2013

        These MPs really do not understand what a danger they are to the UK remaining a parliamentary democracy. With their continual mick (I would like to use a stronger word here) taking with regard to what applies to us and not to them they are only breeding a lot of cynicism which is more than apparent from the posts here. If any of them had studied history they would realise that cynicism is easily exploited (etc ed).

        1. APL
          February 19, 2013

          Nina Andreeva: “These MPs really do not understand what a danger they are .. ”

          It occasionally amuses me to wonder, if today the late poet Laureate had chosen Westminster instead of Slough for his famous poem, he might be detained at indefinitely under the provisions of one or other of the anti terrorist regulations, so loved by our political class. For the safety of the general population, of course.

  6. Ben Kelly
    February 19, 2013

    In future no social housing should be built or allocated with more than 3 bedrooms. Of course the residence eligibility criteria also need to be reviewed with reference to origin.

    1. Mark
      February 19, 2013

      I think that a separate category called social housing should be eliminated with the exception of sheltered housing for those who need it. Councils have not proved to be good landlords. We need a properly fungible market.

  7. English Pensioner
    February 19, 2013

    I know of a 60 year old man who is living in a three bedroom council flat, justified when he was a child as he and his sister were brought up there by his parents. His sister married and left, but he never did, nor has he ever worked having dropped out of college. Now his parents have died, the council feel he should have a smaller place, which he is fighting on the basis that he was born there and wants to die there,
    I think the council is acting reasonably, they allowed the elderly parents to remain there until they died, in spite of there being one spare room, but there is no reason for a single person to remain in a family flat.
    I think extra rooms should be charged for on a discretionary basis, but for some reason it never seems possible for officialdom to use common sense, they like a book of rules where everything is defined exactly, which always leads to “hard cases”

    1. Robert Christopher
      February 19, 2013

      “… nor has he ever worked having dropped out of college …”

      He could find a job, with accommodation included, and solve two problems in one go!

  8. oldtimer
    February 19, 2013

    My preference is for the second of your options:
    “Or should it say there will be less benefit to help pay the rent, as the home is larger than needed?”

    The idea of enforced eviction and move to another property is extremely disruptive. The choice should be made by the occupant weighing up the pros and cons of the case. It is also probably the simplest. If they refuse to pay the higher rent then there is a clear case for eviction.

    1. Deborah
      February 19, 2013

      I agree, but would go a step further than reducing benefit. Not all social housing tenants are on benefits.
      People on a good income should not expect the taxpayer to subsidise their lifestyle. If people wish to remain in a property which is larger than they need, the rent should be increased to reflect the private sector rate for the extra space.

    2. uanime5
      February 19, 2013

      How exactly are the unemployed or those working for a low salary going to pay a higher rent?

      Sometimes people need to live in a certain location because they work in this location and they can only live in the available housing. It’s pointless demanding that people live somewhere cheaper if no such housing is available.

    3. bigneil
      February 20, 2013

      at the other end of this argument is what is going to happen shortly – -families with no jobs, skills or money – -known to (have large families-ed) – are going to be able to pile here – -the government is in panic mode about it but won’t admit it. where do these people go? – with any number of children – 10+ apparently common – are we to put them in their (not entitled to say the government ) mansions?

      some money grabbing lawyer will say the family “has to be kept together” – -anyone with a spare ten rooms? – or will we build luxury multi room abodes just like a certain council is doing – – after all – if you do it for one and not another – -someone is going to use a lawyer for a racism claim and a big payout – -what a great system this country has become – (have lots of children-ed) – -move here – and party like you have won the lottery. how many of the children are going to be “loaned” from one claimant to another – just to increase the benefits income? but the governments answer to this will be the stock one – -increase taxes !!!!! – -its what they have done for years – -and they have still got us into this mess – -and what odds do you think i’ll get on it getting worse -and staying there – -once the freeloaders are here there is no way they will go back – -why should they give up a relatively luxury lifestyle – provided by the highly taxed british “slaves” they can watch battling through bad weather on their way to work – -the very people who would lose their house if they came out of work – -as opposed to the freeloader who doesnt have to pay anything – -because all their costs come out of money provided by us – -why work when you can laugh at the people who HAVE to

      governments have been so busy getting rid of the ability to rule our own borders – passing everything to the EU – and stuffing their pockets using tax evasion and dodgy expenses claims – -they have only just begun to realise – but it is too late

      if you thought slavery had been abolished – -think again

  9. JoolsB
    February 19, 2013

    Oh John, how different things would be now if we had you as Chancellor and David Davis as PM instead of the two Liberal clowns we have now!

  10. stred
    February 19, 2013

    Councils have been turfing private sector tenants out of dwellings that they considered oversized for years. My small cottage style house had one large bedroom one medium and one small. I met a really good reliable tenant from a northern council house who had moved south and could not find council housing. He came with his wife, daughter and grandaughter. For years he kept the house and garden well, was reliable and we had a friendly relationship so I kept the rent low. He was covered by HB. Then the daughter and grandaughter moved out and the HB office refused to continue in a 3 bed house, forcing him to move to a small social flat without a garden. The annoying fact was that the rent on the new flat was the same as the house. I then let to sharers, who paid more, never cut the grass, blew up a tv for a media studies project, wrecked the furniture and wallpaper and left having paid no water rates for 4 years.

    I now have a 4 bedroom house which would have to be licenced if more than 2 sharers stay. As I wish to upgrade and let to a family, I continue to let with 2 bedrooms empty. Had the lads been gays in 2 partnerships, they could have stayed.
    Unfortunately they were unwilling to go down this route.

  11. a-tracy
    February 19, 2013

    I know people that were allocated enlarged council homes in order to accommodate six to eight children but as the children all left home they are now just a couple of people rattling around in very large accommodate on housing benefit with gardens they can’t manage. I also know other people with three to four children in two bedroom private rentals struggling to cope. You have to put the alternative, nice, retirement accommodation in place first and tempt the settled family to move to more suitable funded homes, people that can’t afford to stay in their private homes choose to downsize because no one else picks up their extra costs. As I said though you need the suitable retirement style preferably with one small box room for visitors and grandchildren, there are areas that do this successfully I have several family members that are much happier in their housing association retirement bungalows and apartments.

    I read about Heather Frost, 36, who is having a six-bedroom home specially built for her 11 children – by the local council. Tewkesbury Borough Council, has sold a plot of land to Severn Vale Housing for around £210,000 who will build the super-council house. The new house is going to be ready in July and will have six beds. Should she be entitled to this property for the duration of her life.

    When you read that people take advantage of housing benefit and recommend this lifestyle to others like Anjem Choudary, the controversial Muslim cleric who lives off benefits and is urging his followers to (live off benefits-ed). It was reported in the press that the father-of-four takes home more than £25,000 a year in benefits and lives in a £320,000 house in Leytonstone, East London, it makes me wonder has he ever worked in the UK and for how long? What job could he get that would provide for a £320,000 home? Is the house council or private let?

    We have got massive problems in the UK and we do need extra large homes that are under-occupied presently, but to go at this like a bull in a china shop without decent alternative accommodation for lone occupants is a folly, especially whilst these people, who may have worked for over 30 years in the UK, read about people that haven’t contributed getting new houses built for them and people taking the mickey about our generosity.

  12. DiscoveredJoys
    February 19, 2013

    I think it is acceptable to try and make the best use of publically provided accommodation, but not if the administrative overhead is so costly that it would be cheaper just to build new houses. No ‘Director of Accommodation Redistribution’ thank you.

    Perhaps if council homes were let with a 5 yearly review baked in from the start that would persuade people that the house wasn’t ‘for life’. Then, if they wanted to stay, their benefit could be adjusted to match a smaller council house. Perhaps too, people who did move to smaller houses could be assisted with the move as an inducement?

    1. DiscoveredJoys
      February 19, 2013

      Spoke to my elderly aunt today. She would love to downsize from her council 3 bed semi, but there are no one bed bungalows available. There’s a waiting list of several years. She thinks she might not be able to manage stairs by then.

      Where would she go?

  13. Bob
    February 19, 2013

    The government should provide us all with a six bedroom house like this:


    The government can fund it thieving money and jewellery from the rich.

  14. Iain Gill
    February 19, 2013

    My preferred solution is to remove the subsidy from council and housing association houses and force the councils and housing associations to charge market rents. This will have a number of useful affects for the country, for one houses in areas which no longer have a ready jobs market will tend to lose tenants and the rents will be forced down making those areas cheaper to live and therefore able to attract new business able to utilise a workforce which needs less money to live, for two many housing estates will just be forced to shut. Get the state out of the business of deciding where folk should live.

    Instead give a lot more benefits to genuinely needy folk. Let them take that money anywhere they want and let they themselves make the compromises needed as between size of accommodation, distance to relatives, schools, jobs and so on. Power to the people.

    Also introduce a real market in rental market where it’s viable for big decent companies to enter the market without being undercut by nationalised competition. And encourage longer contracts for decent tenants.

    We also need to figure out what we are going to do with the bad tenants, currently they get kicked out in cycles, we need a better long-term strategy.

    If we are going to stay with the current Stalinist state controlled housing solution then sure people can be encouraged to move to smaller places over time however… many 2 bed flats are given to single people and the reality is nobody needing 2 beds really want to live in them as they are so small! Etc. By planning such small houses numbers of bedrooms doesn’t really convey how small a property can be! If there is only room for a bed and nowhere to store you clothes then you really do need that second bedroom just for that. Change planning rules to force decent sized rooms!

    If we are going to move people then 1) not terminally ill people 2) not folk over 75 3) not while the kids are doing their exams 4) not mid term for the children 5) not if any member of the household is currently in hospital or seriously ill 6) and a few more categories I probably have not thought of yet.

    IDS is a joke and his business and IT change programme is massively behind schedule, I am staggered that he is allowed to get away with it.

    1. uanime5
      February 20, 2013

      Forcing councils and housing associations to charge market rents won’t result in businesses coming to this area even if it’s cheap to live in because the local cost of housing isn’t something that effects where businesses are located. All this will result in is a large amount of derelict property and an even worse housing shortage.

      1. Iain Gill
        February 20, 2013

        Re “All this will result in is a large amount of derelict property and an even worse housing shortage” but you see the housing estates where there are no jobs and no businesses want to setup should be shut! we should not be subsidising housing in such areas!
        Re “an even worse housing shortage” no a temporary blip maybe but with the subsidy given to needy people to spend on housing as they see fit they will tend to spend it on houses in areas which are more likely to be sustainable longer term and on houses which meet their needs more closely. So more money would be available for precisely the kinds of houses real people need.

  15. Lindsay McDougall
    February 19, 2013

    Subsidised accomodation – why is the subsidy tied permenantly to the property and not temporarily to the people concerned? Why is it that the State insists on a maximum of two people per room, while some immigrants out of choice sleep 7 to a room in private sector accommodation and send money ‘back home’?

    “Most people agree that ……. the elderly ……………… should not be required to downsize.” Why on earth not? Taxpayers do not determine how much each elderly person or couple saves, so why should they pick up the tab? Stop treating the elderly as a special case, to be pitied and bullied by the NHS and the Social Services. Leave them with their dignity, which in part consists of the ability to make their own decisions. If you run out of money, you have to work or sell assets; that’s normal. When an elderly couple downsize, they increase the pool of larger houses available to younger people and they have money to spend. Last but not least, they reduce the amount of inheritance tax that they pay. What is wrong with any of these outcomes?

    1. Bazman
      February 19, 2013

      Some immigrants out of choice sleep 7 to a room in private sector accommodation and send money ‘back home’? Are you saying that they somehow have choice in being poor and don’t have to do this? The state insists on a ceratin number of peole in a room or building as it has a duty to look after public health and not allow slums to develop. The individual are not doing it through ‘choice’ like sharing a room in an expensive hotel. The shared room scenario is terrible way to live and really takes some effort to sustain for any period. You have to be desperate or young or both.

  16. Chris S
    February 19, 2013

    The shortage of homes could largely be eliminated if the government would get serious and end net inward migration. Make no mistake, this is the ultimate cause of the housing shortage.

    we also need to reduce the percentage of GDP spent by the state back to below 40% to be competitive in world markets. This is a problem for all of Europe, not just the UK. We could then reduce VAT back to 10% and reduce the ridiculous cost of fuel.

    To do this we have to eliminate all forms of subsidy except for the most needy because the number of net tax payers supporting everyone else is currently far too small.
    Housing Benefit and other forms of subsidised accommodation are a huge drain on the taxpayer.

    There are generally two types of state-supported accommodation, housing association/council owned properties provided free or at a subsidised rent and those owned by private landlords paid for via varying amounts of housing benefit.

    The problem of under-occupied homes only exists in the housing association/council owned sector because the amount of housing benefit a family receives for private rented accommodation is restricted to only cover the rent of a properties sufficient for their needs. I am not sure that the benefit figure is always reviewed when children leave home, for example, but, of course, they should be.

    Where council/housing association accommodation is provided at no cost to the tenant, there is no reason why a charge should not be imposed to cover the difference between housing benefit for the actual property and one of sufficient size when the property becomes larger than needed. The tenant then has the option of paying the difference at full market rate or moving to a smaller property.

    In the case of council housing where the rent is being paid by the tenant, even though the rent may be much lower than market rent, the situation is more complicated. It may not be a desirable situation, but current tenants have tenure. This legal right should be respected although where a request is made for a move, the new accommodation offered should be restricted to need, not to an equivalent sized property.

    The solution here would be to gradually move council and housing association rents up to the full market rate with means/needs tested housing benefit being made to cover the difference where necessary.

    This means that working families in council accommodation would no longer be subsidised and there would be no incentive for them to remain exclusively in council/housing association accommodation. They would be free to move whenever and wherever they wished and some would probably find home ownership a more attractive option.

    All these measures would raise additional revenue which could be ring-fenced and ploughed back into building more houses for rent.

    If net immigration is brought under proper control and these measures are brought in, surely, the problem will largely be eliminated ?

    1. stred
      February 20, 2013

      Chris S. Your suggestions would make the social/private renting and ownership problem much clearer and fairer. Anyone unable to pay market rent would be subsidised by housing benefit. Those able to pay would not be subsidised. Come to think of it wasn’t this the idea of HB when Mrs T brought in the policy originally?

  17. Mike Stallard
    February 19, 2013

    The people who are lazy (yes), greedy, (yes) and covetous (yes) think they can get a free ride by stealing (yes) from “the rich”.
    The rich are rich because they hoard their money and look after it very carefully.
    The politicians (most of them, not you, Mr Redwood) feel they can buy votes by promising to defend the poor against the rich, even though they themselves are very, very comfortably off. (One Labour politician for example has no less than five houses; one Socialist Doyenne has a house in Tuscany; one ex Prime Minister made £20 million last year apparently).
    We need people who can lead us into work. And for that they need to be rewarded.

    Should I have to write this?

    1. alan jutson
      February 24, 2013


      “Should I have to write this”

      No, its commonsense really, but the problem is we have to remind ourselves over and over again about living within our means, and not at the expense of someone else.

      Far too many (an increasing number) people think they are owed a living, owed a comfortable house, and owed a minimum standard of living, without lifting a finger or doing a bean to help themselves.
      Many politicians for decades have simply overpromised, overspent, overborrowed, in order to try and sustain the impossible dream, and to gain votes.

      Time for work to be recognised in the taxation system and Benefits entitlement to be worked on a contribution record.

  18. sm
    February 19, 2013

    I’m in agreement with the above comments – if I’m spending my own money, I’ll have as many bedrooms as I want; if I have to ask for money from other people/taxpayers, I should only have as many as I need.

    And could someone in authority start assessing and publicising what the costs will be to re-assess all properties in order to levy a ‘mansion’ tax? And what happens when property values change significantly over, say, a decade, whether up or down? Will local authorities or HMRC do regular revisions? What about the cost of appeals to both owner and tax authority?

    And what about quirks in one’s style of living? We live in a flat designated as having two bedrooms and one living/dining/kitchen room. But for various reasons it suits us to use the main bedroom as a sitting room – so effectively it’s a one bedroom flat. At my current age, I’d relish an argument about the number of bedrooms I have, but in 5yrs time, I think I might well crumble in the face of determined authority.

  19. David
    February 19, 2013

    Many young workers live in house shares,others who are favoured pay little rent for a nice council house. This is very unfair. Council house rents should rise to market rate and the money used to increase the income tax threshold. This would help all the poor not just the favoured few.

    1. Bazman
      February 19, 2013

      They would all be helped by higher rent? The poor and the house share kids on low incomes who pay little tax? Whato!

  20. Max Dunbar
    February 19, 2013

    The debate about this is so pettyfogging. Leave these people alone. It happens to be their home.
    So what if they have a second spare room. How is the council to set about judging whether people should or should not continue to live in these houses and how much will it cost to enforce? By employing more jobsworths in the state sector? The whole thing reminds me of the forced evictions and disastrous re-housing of people in high-rises in the 60s and 70s. This is patronising and misguided social engineering and the treatment of people as numbers only on the pretext of saving money. A “mansion tax” for poorer people. Who will the authorities pick on next?

  21. Mark
    February 19, 2013

    There should be no variation of benefit on account of the size or location of the property lived in. Benefit should only be determined by personal circumstances. There should instead be proper market rents for all properties, including Council homes and Housing Association homes. Some might actively choose a smaller property, or one that is otherwise less desirable, just as they would without subsidy and quota in the private sector, in order to maximise their other spending or saving. Others would choose a larger property.

    Some who chose a larger property might wish to take in a lodger or two to help with the cost of keeping it up. The lodger might be another family member, or perhaps a student. Both my grandmothers were widowed, and provided examples – in the one case taking in other widowed sisters, and the other, a succession of students. Where property is rented, such arrangements would need to be with landlord approval, but should not be otherwise precluded.

    If we had a fully fungible property market we would not be subjected to the absurdities of an apparent “shortage” in subsidised housing that really only exists because the subsidy (which includes tenure rights) only applies to council houses. We have some 27.4 million dwellings in the UK according to these data:


    and a population that is allegedly around 63 million. That implies average occupancy of just 2.3 people per dwelling. Letting the market function properly would be far more effective than rule based quotas in allocating housing.

  22. Neil Craig
    February 19, 2013

    Once again the Conservatives are allowing their opponents to dictate the terms of debate. The “bedroom tax” is in no way whatsoever a tax. It is a government payment – the precise opposite. Any time Tories face this in a question they should demand that the questioner acknowledge this is a false claim. Even in a major BBC interview any MP should insist on the interviewer acknowledging the truth, even if the interviewer attempts to change the subject.

    The only real probelm with housing is that the government “planning” system actively prevents it being built &/or increases costs fourfold. If housing was a quarter of the current cost there would be no problem with even those housed by the state having more space.

    1. Bazman
      February 19, 2013

      When there is no alternative and you have to pay it is known a tax and this is how the question would be answered especially when the government is to foolishly give the tenants the money for rent and living in one payment and not the landlord. Many cannot handle money and if you want to put you middle class ideals on people who know nor care about them this is what you will get. It’s a tax.

      1. Neil craig
        February 20, 2013

        No its a grapefruit.
        The “bedroom grapefruit”

        At least that is as accurate and less likely to deceive.

  23. Andyvan
    February 19, 2013

    Given the record of government interference wrecking the housing market with boom and bust, very high prices, high rents and poor planning I’d say that it should not be up to government to decide where or how or with who people live. It is a choice that is far better people to make for themselves than a bunch of hectoring bureaucrats and acquisitive politicians out to grab more cash. Government does not fix anything, it merely shifts the problem slightly whilst causing far more in the long run. If central planning worked people wouldn’t have been desperate to leave the USSR.

  24. Cheshire girl
    February 19, 2013

    I too would favour your second option as moving out of a house one has occupied for years can be very distressing.
    Of course the main reason we are so short of social housing is the increase in the population over the last ten years, and it seems there may be a further large increase in January 2014!

  25. Simonro
    February 19, 2013

    Consider Wokingham: private rents for a ONE bed flat within 4 miles of the town centre bottom out at £500pcm. Allowed housing benefit could completely cover double that. Council rents for a TWO bed flat in Wokingham are £388pcm. Forcing someone to move from a two bed council flat to a one be private flat could cost the taxpayer an extra £112 pounds per month, and could easily cost much more.

    So, should people have larger homes than they need funded by the taxpayer – no.

    Should people have their housing benefit cut if they refuse to move to a smaller, suitable property – maybe.

    Should people have their housing benefit automatically cut because they live in a property with an extra bedroom – no.

    I must say, the Tory party really is trying hard to win back it’s “nasty party” label. Almost as hard as it’s trying to lose it’s “good with the economy” reputation.

  26. Rebecca Hanson
    February 19, 2013

    There seems to be general support for the idea that people should be forced to move or pay a bedroom tax in the cases where there is not a good reason for them having the extra space (such as there being somebody who is disabled in the house who needs a room of their own) and where there is a smaller property available.

    Unfortunately in many cases there is not a smaller property available so people are being landed with a tax they cannot afford. That’s unacceptable.

    It seems also that there are many cases of genuine need (for the space) which are not being properly heard or are being rejected. This is causing a great deal of unnecessary stress and hardship to families and individuals who are already struggling with many other issues.

    Whatever’s done needs to be properly thought through and consulted.

    1. Winston Smith
      February 19, 2013

      Its not a tax, its a reduction in benefit payment out of taxpayers funds. But, I reckon, you already knew that, you are just happy to propogate misinformation.

      1. Bazman
        February 19, 2013

        It’s a tax if there is no alternative such as different accommodation. If it is not a tax in that case what is it?

        1. Winston Smith
          February 20, 2013

          A reduction in benefit. There’s no convincing the wilfully ignorant.

          1. Bazman
            February 21, 2013

            Or a reduction of income by being forced to pay additional costs that are unavoidable which is pretty much what taxes are.

      2. Rebecca Hanson
        February 21, 2013

        This link to faqs about this tax shows how completely mad it is.

        Pensioners don’t pay it full stop. So who are they trying to move?
        How many people will it actually effect in a coherent way? Or will it just be the disabled and the fathers in separated families who get clobbered. Lovery…. not.


    2. Mark
      February 19, 2013

      I don’t believe that people should be forced to move. It is up to them how they choose to spend their income. Indeed, I also favour the idea that people could choose (subject to landlord approval) to rent out a room or two. This can have several advantages: providing accommodation suitable for those unable to afford more than a room, and also having someone else living in the same house as someone who may be starting to become elderly, who might benefit from someone who can help out a little around the house and with things like shopping.

      I don’t believe that people should be subsidised when their circumstances no longer merit it. Those who earn good incomes should pay a proper market rent if they choose to live in a council house. If someone wishes to stay in a more expensive property then they should fund that.

      1. Rebecca Hanson
        February 21, 2013

        That’s an important point Mark. We should look very carefully at whether we can find ways to allow people with a spare room to rent it.

  27. Peter Davies
    February 19, 2013

    I think its quite simple, if the state is paying for it then the absolute minimum should be given. If its a private house then there should not even be a debate.

    If this is connected with the Lib Dems demand for mansions tax with Labour now jumping on the point scoring band wagon then it just shows how pathetic many of our parliamentarians have become.

  28. David Langley
    February 19, 2013

    I was brought up in first rented, then council housing as we had two girls and a boy in one bedroom.
    My parents never bought their own home, never had the money, it took them all their time to live.
    When you do buy your home you free the previous rented or council home to those who cannot yet afford the first step on the ladder. Home ownership is good, you pay for improvements and maintenance yourself. Not calling the landlord or the housing association to do the jobs was my perks and helped the economy. Governments have little place in calling the shots on home ownership, Maggie T was responsible for allowing and encouraging mass purchasing of council properties, with often big discounts for the long term tenants. Then came the unforeseen consequences of mass selling for quick profits, or borrowing on credit cards facilitated by rapacious banksters, building societies would never increase ones mortgage unless it added to the value of your home. Fuelled the debt boom, increased the bust.

  29. Toby Ross
    February 19, 2013

    Less benefit, certainly if suitable alternative accommodation is offered. I’m convinced of the compassionate and economic case for the Welfare State as a safety net but am appalled at its mutation into a lifestyle aid. However, there should be discretion for bereavements and so forth.
    By way of an extension I’d like to say that Housing Benefit can only be described as a very substantial distortion to an anyway severely constrained market (green belt, planning, land banks, affordable housing requirements, etc.) which has helped lead us down something of a cul-de-sac. I’m sure it’s been good Tory policy since repealing the Corn Laws that we help the poor (and everyone else) by ensuring that the cost of living is as low as possible. Indeed I’ve heard John make that argument for 20 years or more in regard to energy prices. This plainly isn’t happening with housing though and we seek to remedy through subsidy rather than lowering cost. I feel sure that a couple on modest means should be able to afford a second bedroom whilst remaining independent of the state and if a couple on middling incomes can’t aspire to a good old three bed semi then they are surely asking whether the cherished ambition of a property owning democracy hasn’t been betrayed.
    I’m afraid that the whole thing causes me to entertain heresies. Why should the government pay 7% in Housing Benefit to private landlords when it could build itself for half the cost (25yr borrowing being approx. 3.5%)?

  30. Leslie Singleton
    February 19, 2013

    Well, so far I have lost my bet with myself–unanime (as I say, so far) hasn’t written in to say that if spare rooms are OK for the rich in their big houses they should be OK for the poor in their Council houses.

  31. waramess
    February 19, 2013

    Very sorry but Social Housing or Council Houses as they were once called are a socialist nonsense that should not be encouraged and certainly not encouraged by the right wing of the Party.

    Social Housing is quite indiscriminate in who it is subsidising with our money. Many with Council Houses are sufficiently well off to rent either at commercial rents or better still from the private market.

    Those who truly are unable to afford to rent in this way might be assisted through the Benefits system, which would as a bonus allow the government to assess more accurately what the total welfare bill is.

    Amazing that there is still a view prevailing that Government can do better than the private market whilst forgiving the Government for failing to adequately supervise the quality of all service providers

    1. Nina Andreeva
      February 19, 2013

      Erm I think you will find that “council houses” were actually brought in to being by Disraeli who I believe was not a socialist


      1. waramess
        February 20, 2013

        Nina, note the small “s” in socialism. Cameron is not a Socialist but many of the measures he is responsible for are certainly socialist.

        So far as I am concerned any policy of government that seeks to subvert the free market in favour of government action is socialist and almost always nonsense

        1. zorro
          February 23, 2013

          If you use that logic, then every Conservative government has been a socialist one which is nonsense. Which party over the last 200 years in government has introduced most social and industrial improvement legislation? Who introduced the above Act and Factory Acts? That was paternalism I guess rather than socialism. But then I guess that industry would have cleaned up its act without the need for key government legislation, and, of course, improved the slums. I believe that a small state and a free market is good for improving living standards. I do not believe that these would have necessarily been introduced voluntarily by industry in the 19th century…..


  32. Acorn
    February 19, 2013

    Occasionally, an MP strikes lucky with the right Bill at the right time and puts the government behind the eight ball. Richard Harrington was such an MP. His Private Bill became law at the end of January. Not sure when it will get permission to commence. http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06378 .

    I still don’t understand why social rented housing tenants are allowed to sublet; I must be missing something here. Still the new universal benefit reduction for over-housing, will bring them in line with the private rented housing sector.

    1. uanime5
      February 20, 2013

      Sometimes MPs are able to get private bills passed simply because there’s support for such a bill but no party wants to be seen as proposing this bill. An example would be the laws on abortion, which originated from a private members bill.

      1. stred
        February 21, 2013

        Why would no party wish to be seen proposing a bill to stop people with subsidised housing sub letting at a profit. In London this is widespread and very profitable. Why would the Conservatives not wish to be seen proposing this? I am genuinely puzzled.

  33. Julian
    February 19, 2013

    It is reasonable for people who have extra rooms to have their benefit reduced only if they are give a choice to move to smaller place of equivalent quality or to rent out those rooms. I can well imagine, though, that renting out rooms in your council accommodation is prohibited. Also, I can easily see someone being told they are having their benefit reduced when there are no smaller flats or houses available – government rules and regulations always have unintended consequences like that.

  34. Chris Rickard
    February 19, 2013

    The trouble with starting down this road is that you concede the tax agenda to those on the left like Labour & the Lib dems – tax spare rooms leads to tax second homes/ buy to let which in turn leads to wealth tax etc etc. This is despite the fact that property is paid for out of taxed income in the first place (so taxing it twice is invidious) and property in the UK is already more heavily taxed than most European countries. We need to get the agenda back to proper conservatism of firstly cutting Gov spending & cutting tax for everyone and secondly shifting the basis of tax away from income and onto spending (not property). Jeremy Hunt wants to champion patient care in health, Dominic Raab wants to champion consumer rights and more competition – both of which is real conservatism. Why can’t we have a Conservative Chancellor who implements Tory values rather than the Labour-lite Mr Osborne.

    To the extent that the “spare room tax” has any justification to mind, and even this is a weak argument, it would be where the State provides the accomodation (Council Housing or Housing Benefit) rather than the individual fending for himself (either by buying or renting). The argument in favour is that it minimises the cost to the State; the argument against that the individual has no choice in the accomodation offered that he / she is required to take (which may or may not include a spare room). The best answer is to both tighten eligibility for housing benefit and reduce the value of the benefit.

  35. uanime5
    February 19, 2013

    I believe those on housing benefit might be more willing to downsize if the house they were offered was either better quality than their current living conditions or in a more convenient location (such as closer to town or their place of work).

    Another problem is that young people who at present may not need such a large house may need a house this size if they have children. So if women are threatened with downsizing it provides them with a strong incentive to have more children, which will be more expensive for the tax payer.

    In other news Ian Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit programme may not be available in April due to problems with the complexity of the project and the most important staff leaving/being sick/dying. Blaming the Civil Service for this problem also isn’t helping.

    1. Iain Gill
      February 19, 2013

      I did tell JR on a comment here sometime ago IDS universal credit programme was in big trouble…

      Seems Conservatives are no better than labour at running real deliveries!

  36. Antisthenes
    February 19, 2013

    The government already takes a large slice of everyone’s earned income now they want to dictate how what is left is spent. Fake charities, government and vested interest all want us to eat, drink, purchase goods and services and contribute to only that to which they approve. The last vestiges of democracy the right of individual choice is now to be removed. The glorious socialist utopia has reached it’s final hurdle and soon we can all live happily ever after as Big brother/state takes complete control of our lives. No more worries, responsibilities or any need to make decisions the state will do it all for us. We can for ever more live in the new Orwellian world that it is drab, uniform and and authoritarian is a small price to pay don’t you think?

  37. Tad Davison
    February 19, 2013

    Not withstanding all of the above, there is a social cost to all of this. People are being pressured not only to leave a home they know and love, but the community of which they are a part as well. For a single person, possibly getting on in years, that could quite literally be their death knell. Moving to a strange place, not knowing anyone, feeling isolated and certainly under-valued. So what happened to Labour’s ‘social cohesion’ when they opened the doors to all and sundry, and their poor record on house building, could they not see where this was all headed?

    Yet I think this bedroom tax has a hidden motive. It has been brought about with one eye on the impending influx of immigrants next year, and come they will! There are firms already fixing it for Romanians and Bulgarians to travel to Britain, one-way. There will be so much pressure on our housing stock then, they’ll be camping on village greens, and who knows where else, just as a lot of immigrants are right now in parts of London. Or maybe given poor quality housing in sub-standard outbuildings, many of which have been constructed without planning permission.

    This no-good rotten parliament is little more than a rubber stamp for the expansionist EU, and it’s time the problem was corrected. Our own people must always come first, and it is their welfare that must override all other considerations.

    Tad Davison


  38. Dennis
    February 19, 2013

    I didn’t realise that people renting a spare room to live in do not need a bathroom, a toilet, a kitchen, and another room to relax/lounge/etc. etc. Is this a sign of human evolution or what?

    1. Bazman
      February 19, 2013

      The no cooking facilities room is quite common. I don’t know about the rest. Why would you need a kitchen in say Cambridge and London with so many cafes shops and restaurants? You could always use their toilets too. If you needed to wash, say every once in a while and washing is not need as much as modern people believe, you could use the public baths with wet wipes and the pub sink. Any legislation is clearly not necessary and should if it exists be repealed to help the housing shortage. Lets get those rooms rented out. Ram it.

  39. Barbara
    February 19, 2013

    We worked hard to be able to afford our small house, no holidays, didn’t smoke or drink, and we worked, to pay the mortage. Never owned a car, with two children to put thru collage couldn’t afford to. We now have no debts the house is long paid for, and we’re now retired. Its not been easy, especially seeing others go off on holidays and we stayed home, Christmas time, were good but again, home came first and a full table.
    Living in Council properties was for some the only way to have a place of their own, it then became a way of life for many. Living there for years, when is some areas which are now classed as affulent the properties are valued high. Elderly people get used to the same neighbours, but many would vacate three bedroomed houses if bungalows were available to them. The problem is flats have been built by the dozen, and they are not popular. Now Council housing new builds are a rare thing to see, its private rented sector that’s fitting the bill with Housing Associations; Councils don’t build like they did in the 50s, and its a good job in one way they created estates which became infested with crime and a don’t care attitude. Having a spare room or two is inevitable once family have departed, with the housing crisis we have, and more immigrants expected, what do they really want to charge people for? Is it to rehouse immigrants, and get them to move out and downsize, one does wonder? With the change in benefits that wil come shortly we may find coupled with this bedroom tax, many will be homeless including children. Is this what we really want as a society?

  40. Tom William
    February 19, 2013

    High levels of Stamp Duty were acceptable when house prices were rising but are a brake on the housing market when they are not, or are declining.

  41. Pleb
    February 19, 2013

    I see that the underhand privatisation of the NHS is well under way.

  42. Bazman
    February 19, 2013

    You are all getting a bit mixed up with a small number of wealthy bleating rich with a dangerous entitlement complex and the middle classes. This over class themselves think they are middle class. The middle classes see this as fantasy as much as the working class. You are not middle class if you have millions and a large number of high end houses and also as some point out that includes labour MP’s. The thousands of holiday homes are fewer than 1% of the total, so this idea that to tax them would be some sort of attack on the middle class strivers is as much as fantasy as the idea of taxing one Russian in a mega mansion and is somehow unfair. In Russia he would be lucky to keep his shirt on in prison that’s why he is he here. America? Europe? Tax havens? No way. He is a big fish and is here for a reason. Political stability and safety. It is not as unfair as having millions on social housing waiting lists and B&B’s or tightening up some pleb with a spare room in a council flat who cannot afford to pay the extra rent and cannot possible buy a smaller flat as there is’nt any. All this paying is easy when you have the money, and as you point out it does not come from nowhere. The poor cannot pay as they are poor. The rich can and often without any hardship. A BMW instead of a Bentley is not hardship. They do not have this luxury of spare money. Are you all able to understand this with your mean simple little wealth adulating apologist middle class minds? Its not aspiration that’s for sure. Ram it.

    1. Bazman
      February 20, 2013

      Yellow! I am not making it up, but merely goading you darling. LOL! Sorry, Bazman..

  43. StevenL
    February 19, 2013

    I want more people to have spare rooms

    You’d best get building a couple of million more houses then hadn’t you? My folks have 4 spare rooms, but I hardly ever visit them as it costs about 80 quid in petrol and puts 450 miles on my car. My girlfriend has 2 of them. But due to the high taxes on motoring, if I moved in with her I’d spend more commuting as I do renting someone else’s spare room now. So I only visit her at weekends.

    She works in social housing. She reckons the best way to get more spare rooms is to run out of them. Once they give you a small place you move some family members over from (abroad-ed), then you say you are ‘overcrowded’ and the council give you a bigger place with more rooms. Then you move more family members over and say you are ‘overcrowded’ again, and the council give them a second house. And so on, and so on.

  44. Mark
    February 20, 2013

    Apologies for this post, but it seems it’s the only way I can make a disappeared comment join the moderation queue.

  45. Tony
    February 20, 2013

    I think one of the biggest issues for the majority of people that may be affected by this change, is the lack of one and two bedroom accommodation. It is all very well saying we will cut your benefit because you have a spare room, but if there is no accommodation available, where do you go?

    There are also a lot of issues surrounding disabled people who may need a spare room for equipment, or other use directly related to their disability.

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