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Families who earn more than £60,000 and live in government-owned housing could face a steep rise in rent under plans to end subsidies for well-off households.
Ministers will launch a consultation in the next few weeks into whether there should be a cap on how much a household can earn while still living in a property subsidised by a local authority.
Grant Shapps, the housing minister, had previously suggested a cap could be set at £100,000, which would capture 6,000 households.
But Number 10 believes £60,000 would be a fairer limit, because this is the level at which families are no longer able to claim government support for other housing programmes, such as shared ownership schemes. The lower level would affect 34,000 households and government officials believe it could raise £21.6m a year.
The amount of money raised is less significant than the political message it sends, however. The government is trying to regain its reputation for fairness after sustained criticisms of the Budget, which lowered income tax for top earners while raising tax for pensioners and charitable donors.
It will also allow ministers to pick a fight with Bob Crow, the leader of the RMT transport union, who has been criticised for living in a council house while receiving a salary of about £140,000.
A Downing Street official said: ‘It’s not right that high earners benefit from taxpayer funded housing subsidy. Just as we have introduced a cap on housing benefit and welfare payments to make the system fairer, now we’re acting on social housing too.”