Money spent on housing benefit could build tens of thousands of new homes, says union

"Ending corporate welfare will save taxpayers' money"

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The Independent Online

More than 80,000 new homes could be built in Britain every year if half the total spent on housing benefit goes instead towards investment in new social housing, argues a report presented to the GMB Congress in Plymouth today.

The report breaks that number down by area, including 15,544 new homes in London, 11,128 in the North West, 8,669 in the South East and a total in Scotland of 8,432.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said that the cost of housing benefits for rented accommodation for those on low incomes had ballooned to £23 billion per year. "Over the past 30 years a huge slice of the £411 billions of taxpayer’s funds spent on this policy has been funnelled to private landlords as “corporate” welfare," he added. "Much of the stock of social housing that was sold off is now in the hands of “buy to rent” private landlords."

He gave the example of Wandsworth where there are 977 private landlords who own more than one of the 6,180 ex-council leasehold homes sold under the 'right to buy' which are now owned by buy-to-let landlords. One private landlord owns 93, another owns 32, and a further 15 landlords each own 10 or more. More than 80 landlords each own between five and nine.

"Public funds should be switched to investment in social housing and away from this failed expensive policy of corporate welfare and private greed," he said. "Ending corporate welfare will save taxpayers' money and will kick start the local economy. It will provide families with better quality houses with more security of tenure."