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Housing benefit claimants 'set to double'

Housing benefit is driving up welfare costs, with the number of people claiming support set to double.This is according to the Labour Party, which is launching an attack on the coalition's record on benefits. It says that between 2010-11 and 2018-19, the rise in the number of people claiming housing benefit will cost £12.9 billion - or £488 for every British household.Tomorrow (Tuesday August 5th), shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves will set out Labour's alternative to the Conservatives' policies."Labour will raise the minimum wage, introduce living wage contracts and get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020 to tackle the housing benefit bill and ensure working people can make ends meet," she will say.Ms Reeves is also set to criticise the implementation of the government's flagship universal credit programme, pointing out that the latest figures show less than 6,000 people are claiming it. If the uptake proceeds at the current rate, it would take over 1,000 years to roll out.However, the government responded to the criticisms by claiming the Labour Party had created "a culture of dependency".Mark Harper, the minister for disabled people, said: "Their system saw some people claiming £104,000 a year of hardworking taxpayers' money to live in expensive areas." He added that Labour voted against the housing benefit cap and the overall cap on benefit, and it will restore the "spare room subsidy", saddling future generations with debt.The government recently released new statistics on the Help to Buy programme, which it claims is helping to address the housing shortage by stimulating construction.Over 32,500 households have bought new-build homes through the equity loan and NewBuy options, with a further 7,300 sales though the mortgage guarantee.More than 80 per cent of sales have been to first-time buyers and have been for new-build homes, leading to a 34 per cent increase in house building in the scheme's first year. 

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