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Housing benefits cause 6% to move

Approximately six per cent of social housing tenants affected by the so-called bedroom tax have moved home, new research suggests.The BBC analysed data from social housing providers and also found 28 per cent of affected tenants were in rent arrears for the first time in the past 12 months.However, employment minister Esther McVey said the government is on track to reach its goal of 30 per cent of people moving by 2015.She also said feedback from the National Housing Federation and local authorities revealed an "indiscernible number" are in rent arrears. Ms McVey claimed 50 per cent were already in arrears before the policy was introduced.Benefits changes introduced on April 1st 2013 involved the removal of what ministers termed the 'spare room subsidy' - social housing tenants deemed to have one spare bedroom had their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent, while those with two or more spare bedrooms had their benefits reduced by 25 per cent. Some 480,000 social housing residents were affected by the changes, the Department of Work and Pensions has said.Labour has promised to scrap the 'bedroom tax' if it wins the next general election. Shadow employment minister Stephen Timms said the policy had been a "disaster" and should be abolished.Ms McVey said the BBC's figure of six per cent does not constitute a failure and she disputed the accuracy of the research, claiming the government's data shows eight per cent have moved.Kate Webb, head of policy at housing charity Shelter, said the lack of suitable housing is the reason why people are not moving."In the short term, the government has to think seriously about whether this is a sensible policy, given that we don't have the smaller homes for people to move in to, and given the levels of hardship and arrears that we are unfortunately going to see building up," she commented.Mr Timms said the policy is a waste of money because the costs of eviction are high and could detract from the savings the government aims to make on the benefits bill. 

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