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Second homes curb dropped to get support for axing ‘bedroom tax’

By GDemianyk  |  Posted: September 01, 2014

Andrew George MP: "I would have preferred to abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ altogether."

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Proposals to legislation to cap the number of second homes in popular holiday areas such as Cornwall, Devon and Somerset have been dropped.

Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, wants new laws to make housing more affordable after being selected as the first MP to take forward a Private Members’ Bill in this parliamentary session.

The original draft of his Affordable Homes Bill included proposals to limit the so-called “bedroom tax” housing benefit crackdown and new planning restrictions on allowing more part-time holiday homes.

But ahead of the Bill being debated on Friday, Mr George has revealed a lack of support from the Conservatives and Labour has forced him to drop measures to tackle second home ownership that critics say undermines services and pushes up house prices to unaffordable levels.

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Labour has, though, backed Mr George’s efforts on “bedroom tax”, which will help the Bill to jump the first Commons hurdle.

He said he was “disappointed” to see measures on holiday homes dropped but it was necessary for the Bill to have a “chance of success”.

Labour’s support now puts the pressure on Lib Dems to back Mr George. The party recently announced it wants to persuade the Tories to axe the levy before next year’s election.

A Private Members’ Bill stands little chance of becoming law without Government support, which means controversial proposals often fall flat.

Another element to have survived is extending the Government’s Help to Buy mortgage scheme to support shared equity, shared ownership and mutual housing schemes.

Mr George wants to limit the “bedroom tax”, which cuts benefits to social housing tenants deemed to have an empty room, so it excludes families living in their homes for more than three years, and where properties have been made more disability-friendly.

The Cornwall MP said: “Of course – to be consistent – I would have preferred to abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ altogether, but, for a Private Members’ Bill to have any chance of success, compromises have to be reached.

“The poor should have as much entitlement to a stable family home as the better off. There are better ways of solving our housing crisis than creating misery for the most vulnerable.

“Naturally, if I succeed at Second Reading, I hope I can beef up the Bill with amendments at Committee Stage, to extend exemptions to the ‘bedroom tax’ and promote the intermediate housing market to make home ownership affordable to more people.”

In Cornwall the average house price is more than 12 times the average income and more than 40% of houses are second homes in some villages.

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