Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/690/12997
Rocketing rents leave tenants facing eviction
Average private rents are now beyond the reach of ordinary families in most of the country (55% of local authority areas) according to a new survey by housing charity Shelter. It calculates, for example, that the average monthly rent for a two bedroom property in London is £1,360. The private rented sector has grown by more than a million over the last five years now overtaking the numbers in social housing.
As jobs become more insecure and mortgages harder to come by the dream of home ownership is moving out of reach for many. The average age of a self-financing first time buyer is now around 37 years and home ownership is projected to fall to 61% in the next ten years.
Conditions in the private rented sector are an increasingly pressing issue affecting young workers and wide sections of society. The government responds with talk of building 'affordable' homes but, by affordable, they mean 80% of market rent.
But according to Dave Hill on the Guardian website, in Westminster, local market rates would require the tenant to have an annual gross income of £77,257!
The Con-Dems are cutting housing benefit and, grotesquely, have blamed tenants for claiming large amounts in rent. The best that Labour can manage is to say the 'benefit caps go too far', (when in government, they had their own plans to restrict housing benefits).
Trade unions and anti-cuts campaigns must call for an immediate reversal of the housing benefit cuts and the reintroduction of rent control to cap rents. Behind the statistics, low paid workers and others relying on housing benefit feel desperate and isolated.
An energetic campaign linking low pay to rising prices and rocketing rents and a call for action would gain a big response from trade union members and would demonstrate to unorganised workers that the Labour movement can take up their problems.
Following an unsuccessful attempt to stop the benefit caps through the courts the head of the Child Poverty Action Group commented:
"This is not about jobless versus working families - it is precisely working families that will be hardest hit by this measure. For example, 80% of those claiming housing benefit in London are working. Savings may not be made either because, as has been pointed out by the office of the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, an expensive burden is going to be placed on many Greater London authorities by increased homelessness and the relocation of families."
In opposition to rent control it is sometimes argued that such measures introduce 'market distortions' and limit the supply of private rented homes. It is true that the private rented market will not supply enough affordable homes; it hasn't done so even in the period since the Thatcher government deregulated rents in 1989 when profiteering has been unchecked.
Rent caps and the reversal of benefit cuts are an essential step to respond to the housing catastrophe.
The support for the international movement to occupy Wall Street, the City of London and elsewhere points to an increasing understanding of the failure of the profit system to meet the needs of 'the 99%'.
The banks need to be nationalised and resources mobilised for a massive programme of building publicly-owned social housing with genuinely affordable rents in order to meet the desperate need for decent homes.
In The Socialist 19 October 2011:
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