LibLink… Danny Alexander: Coalition tackling housing crisis

Danny Alexander writes in today’s Scotsman about the benefit reduction which has become colloquially known as the Bedroom Tax.

He argues that the Coalition had to take action after Labour mismanagement and failure to build houses:

However, they may not know that Labour also left a legacy whereby hundreds of thousands of families in Scotland are waiting for a house that is big enough for their family to live in. The government has a responsibility to make sure that we change housing benefit rules in a careful, sensitive and managed way. But we also have a responsibility to those families.

Housing benefit is there, rightly, to help people pay their rent, whether they are unemployed, on a low income, or sick. But the amount of help you receive should not depend on who owns your house; it should be based on need. If you live in private rented accommodation and receive housing benefit, these rules already apply – and have done for nearly 20 years.

He outlined what he saw as the Liberal Democrat perspective on welfare reform and contrasted it to Labour’s record:

Labour had the opportunity and the money during its 13 years in government to tackle this problem by building more houses. It is to Labour’s shame that it failed. Instead, it left us with an unaffordable welfare system that failed to incentivise work, which is the best route out of poverty. The great Liberal reformer William Beveridge declared that “benefit in return for contributions, rather than free allowances from the state, is what the people of Britain desire”. But under the last Labour government, his principles were forgotten. What underpins the Liberal Democrats’ vision of the welfare state is a balance between the role of the state and the role of the citizen.

It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that support is available for those whose need it, but every person who can must also take responsibility by working hard. The Universal Credit will ensure that, for the first time, everyone on benefits can be sure that they will be better off in work. The big income tax cuts for working people delivered by the Lib Dems in government are ensuring that people on low incomes are keeping more of the money they earn than they ever did under Labour.

He went on to talk about what the Coalition Government is doing to improve the supply of affordable housing. He didn’t take the opportunity to have a go at the SNP Government, though, for its cuts to the social housing budget in Scotland.

The core problem in the Highlands, where my constituency is, and elsewhere is the need for more investment in affordable housing. During Labour’s time in office, the number of affordable homes available across the UK fell by 650,000. We have, for the first time, made available government guarantees for housing associations to help them build more homes more cheaply. This is also available to housing associations in Scotland. Our Help to Buy scheme will help more people on lower incomes to own their own home, and stimulate the construction of new homes across the UK.

You can read Danny’s whole article here.

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15 Comments

  • David Wilkinson 17th Apr '13 - 4:26pm

    What great thinking by a Liberal minister, we will make 660,000 households worse off to solve a problem instead of building enough homes.
    Yes we all know Labour where useless on increasing the numbers of social housing and that they also introduced a similar scheme in the private sector which as failed.
    Instead of learning from Labour’s stupid housing failures, the current government thinks up even more daft ideas and the sad thing is Danny and comapny are not interested in those 660,000 but only in the Tory mantra of cutting benefits

  • mike cobley 17th Apr '13 - 4:33pm

    Ah, right, so all our fears are just the empty imaginings of easily-panicked fools. How daft I was to think that cutting benefits could make people’s lives more difficult, even to the point of forcing them to choose between food and heating. And how utterly silly I was to be annoyed with the Coalition government over the lack of lowcost rented accomodation when any dipstick can see that every housing problem we face is Labour’s fault! The blinkers have been lifted from my eyes, and I can now see that anyone who ends up half-starved, or shivering in winter, or even homeless has clearly brought it upon themselves since the Coalition would never, never, ever punish someone who didnt deserve it. How lucky we are….

  • I think you’ll find that its going to turn out to be quite expensive punishing the poor!

  • Help to buy is just another name for negative equity. Only solution is for house prices to drop to normal
    Level compared to average salaries.
    Help to sell just makes the problem worse.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Apr '13 - 5:53pm

    This posting does not address the issues of the crass failures to create appropriate exemptions and transitional arrangements for people who would like to move to somewhere smaller but genuinely cannot. Nor does it address the question of why pensioners (who are by far the biggest group of ‘under-occupiers’ in receipt of Housing Benefits) are exempted from these new rules.

  • Yes but unemployment is rising so the idea that people will be better off in work is something of a moot point. Oh and wages are failing to keep pace with inflation. And the the export lead recovery is not looking too hot as it turns out you have to produce stuff, Plus there are not enough one or two bedroom properties . So rather than freeing up homes for appropriate sized households the government is encouraging people to take in lodgers or knock rooms into one. The bedroom tax is nothing like LHA which was based on rental cost not the number of rooms, it’s merely an absurd set of policies that makes no sense.

  • Helen Dudden 17th Apr '13 - 11:17pm

    The problem with politics is one part tends to blame another. There should be a more positive attitude of less talk, and more actions.

    Of course, we have a housing shortage, of course we have bedroom tax. This is not brain surgery, this is get the housing problems sorted, be positive and constructive on the subject of building homes, stop and think about the many problems being caused by the objections to new homes.

    And I thought that human rights was a difficult subject.

  • jenny barnes 18th Apr '13 - 8:52am

    Put a duty on local government to build social housing to at least 10% per year of their local housing need. This to be funded by compulsory purchase of agricultural land without planning permission, and selling some of it on to developers with residential planning permission, using the proceeds to build social housing. There’s plenty of low rise shed type buildings in London, plenty of railway tracks, plenty of brownfield sites can be built on. Build the houses.

  • @Jenny barnes
    “This to be funded by compulsory purchase of agricultural land without planning permission”

    So you want to legalise robbery?

    Just because you want to use the profits from your sale of the stolen land to developers to build social housing does not justify the original crime.

  • jenny barnes 18th Apr '13 - 11:41am

    So you want to legalise robbery?
    No. Compulsory purchase at agricultural valuation. This is no more robbery than compulsory purchase of land for roads or railways or airports. And if we’re going to get all moral about it, some of the enclosure acts immorally deprived the local peasantry of their access to common land.

  • “No. Compulsory purchase at agricultural valuation.”
    It is still theft!

    The agricultural valuation assumes the land will be sold for agriculture usage. However, where the land is being sold for development significantly higher prices prevail.

    For example in my area agricultural land sells for under £10k per acre. However, where there is “development potential” then sale prices of around £80k per acre are frequently achieved, and with outline planning permission the land will in crease in value and be worth over £500k for residential development. So on your premise the land that is being compulsory purchased is being purchased for residential development, it is therefore right that the purchase price reflects this.

    But there is a second element to this theft, the stupidity of building on agricultural land!

  • Dominic Curran 18th Apr '13 - 1:17pm

    @ jenny – what about places without agricultural land, like, er, i dunno, cities? you know, where more than half the population live? what should london boroughs CPO?

  • Ryan Dungallon 19th Apr '13 - 4:01pm

    A Tory in all but name

  • @Dominic Curran
    “what about places without agricultural land, like, er, i dunno, cities? you know, where more than half the population live?”

    Er, like, what did the cities use to be before they were cities? Oh, yeah, agricultural land. D’oh.

    If London, or any other city, doesn’t have room for expansion as you suggest, then the only option is to build on agricultural land. What exactly is the point you’re trying to make?

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