Speaking in parliament this week, Liam Byrne said three-bedroom homes ‘in places like the north east’ are being left vacant because the under-occupation penalty means families on housing benefit cannot afford the rent.
Addressing work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, he said: ‘There are now 53,000 households in our country being put up in temporary accommodation, which is costing the taxpayer billions of pounds.
‘When will he admit the truth: the hated bedroom tax now costs more than it saved? It is time to scrap it, and scrap it for good.’
Mr Duncan Smith said councils have received funding for discretionary housing payments, which can be used to help families hit by the government’s welfare reforms, including the bedroom tax.
He said councils have three years’ worth of DHPs, but it is up to them how they are spent. ‘They can top up the money if they wish,’ he said.
William Bain, Labour MP for Glasgow North East, said applications for discretionary housing payments in the city are up 338 per cent in a month.
Under the bedroom tax, working age social tenants who are on housing benefit have their payments cut if they are deemed to be under-occupying their home. Research carried out by Inside Housingsince the launch of the policy on 1 April has shown a surge in demand for DHPs.
Reports also suggest tenants are already falling behind on rent payments as a result of the bedroom tax, with as many as 50 per cent failing to cover the shortfall in rent that has arisen as a result of the penalty in some areas.