Bishop of St Albans asks about rural exceptions from the under-occupancy charge

On 3rd November 2015 Baroness Quin asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether they have plans to undertake a regional study of the effects of the under-occupancy charge.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked about exemptions for those in social housing in rural areas.

Bishop of St AlbansThe Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, back in 2013 the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee urged that social housing in rural areas should be excluded from the underoccupancy charge, because of the near impossibility of finding alternative accommodation in many rural areas, where it is simply is not available for people to downsize. Already people in rural areas have higher social and housing costs, and there is some evidence that the underoccupancy charge is pushing some families further into debt. Will the Minister tell the House whether Her Majesty’s Government would be willing to undertake a reconsideration of their policy and exclude social housing in rural areas from this measure?

Lord Freud: We are actually sympathetic to that point about rural communities, and we ramped up the amount of discretionary housing payments which were particularly targeted at the most remote rural areas, so that the policy could be dealt with by that route.