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Shapps defends social housing plan

Plans to raise social housing rents will enable thousands of affordable new homes to be built, housing minister Grant Shapps has said.

Mr Shapps defended the decision to bring social housing rents closer to private sector levels, a policy announced as part of the spending review.

New social housing tenants will be expected to pay around 80% of the amount people would pay in the private sector. Money raised from the increase will be used to build 150,000 new affordable homes in the next four years.

But the National Housing Federation has warned that the policy could mean thousands of low-income families have to pay up to £9,000 more per year in rent.

Labour have accused the Government of making ‘devastating’ cuts to housebuilding and council funding, and said that local communities would be forced to pay the price.

During Commons question time Mr Shapps said existing social housing rules had meant thousands of people could not secure a home - leading waiting lists to double to almost two million.

And he said: ‘We have introduced affordable rent which means rents can be up to 80% of the market rate.

‘It’s a more viable option, it means that less money can produce more homes and it means that new investment will come into providing homes for the most needy in society who were so badly let down by a (Labour) government who only produced a 14,000 net gain in affordable homes during a 13-year period in office.’

Mr Shapps also announced £12.25 million to help local authorities and the voluntary sector deal with changes to housing benefits.

‘There’s a whole package of service there, and we absolutely recognise the need to protect the most vulnerable,’ he went on.

But shadow communities and local government secretary Caroline Flint said the Government was pushing through ‘devastating’ cuts to housebuilding and local government funding, with town halls losing 27 per cent compared with average 19 per cent cuts across Whitehall.

‘These cuts are the Government’s choice and the choice of the Government is to dump the cuts on local communities,’ Ms Flint said.

But Mr Shapps hit back: ‘We will build more affordable homes every single year of our Government than you did in all of your 13 put together.’