SHORTAGE of affordable housing coupled with benefits changes is likely to lead to increased overcrowding and homelessness, according to Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield.
He has called for a ‘massive Government infrastructure programme’ to build new housing and create jobs across the country, using the £2.34 billion windfall from sale of new 4G mobile phone licences.
Labour MP Mr Blomfield said: “We are seeing increasing overcrowding, such as couples that would perhaps be setting up home instead still living with their parents.
“Homelessness is rising – partly due to a shortage of housing but also due to factors such as the bedroom tax and the increasingly harsh way people on benefits are being treated generally.
“People are having their benefits stopped for different reasons and can’t afford the rent. Also, people are going to be paid their housing benefit directly and will then have to hand it to landlords.
“There are real concerns that some tenants will be unable to budget and then left with no money to pay rent.
The shortage of affordable housing will worsen what is already happening.”
Mr Blomfield’s fears were echoed by Mick Daniels, of Brushes Tenants’ and Residents Association.
He said: “Before we get the rise in population, we are going to have more problems due to welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax.
“People will have to move back in with their parents or share private housing – you’ll be back to the situation where people are sleeping top to toe in the same bed.
“It’s going back to the olden days.”
But Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg has hit back at Labour politicians accusing Sheffield Council of being slow to spend the £5 million it had last year through the New Homes Bonus.
Currently less than a tenth has been used.
Mr Clegg and opposition Liberal Democrats on the council say more could be done to bring empty council and private homes back into use to help address the housing shortage.
The Deputy PM’s spokesman said: “Given the complete failure of the last Labour Government to build affordable homes during their 13 years in power, the coalition has provided more than £5.3m to Sheffield through the New Homes Bonus so far.
“However, only £448,000 of this fund has been spent due to the sheer incompetence of Sheffield’s dithering Labour councillors in the Town Hall.
“Labour need to ask themselves why they are complaining about a lack of investment when they have millions sat in the bank account waiting to be spent.
“They need to stop blaming others for their own shortcomings.”
Mr Clegg said: “The problem you cannot duck is that we have 1.8 million households in this country who are waiting to get social housing provision and we have one million bedrooms which are standing empty.
“That doesn’t make sense to have a benefits system that continues to support this mismatch between people needing places to live and empty bedrooms.
“That is what we are trying to address and as with so many things in the reform of welfare, why is it that there were no reforms of any meaningful description under Labour and now they balk at every tough decision.”
The bedroom tax
Around 6,000 Sheffield households will receive a cut in their housing benefit from April because they are deemed to be living in homes which are ‘too large’.
The new rules allow one bedroom for each adult or couple. Children under the age of 16 are expected to share, if they are the same gender. Those under 10 are expected to share whatever their gender.
The government says it will mean an average loss of about £14 a week for council tenants.
Sheffield Council says it will be unable to rehouse all 6,000 people affected if they decide to downsize.