The Socialist 14 February 2018 |
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Rent doubles in a decade: cap rents, build council homes!
Protesting against the effects of the housing crisis, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Sam Gleaden, Lambeth and South West London Socialist Party
A stunning new report reveals the total rent paid in the UK has doubled to £51 billion since 2007.
These figures, from estate agent Countrywide, are symptomatic of a housing system driven by profit, at the expense of the working and middle class. We are forced into ever more expensive, smaller, and worse maintained housing.
Particularly vulnerable are Millennials, the generation born between the early 1980s and late 90s. We bear £30 billion of this renting cost alone - triple what the same age group did a decade ago.
The last English Housing Survey found 46% of 25 to 34-year-olds live in private rented homes. This has soared from 27% in 2007.
This matches my own experience of the private rental sector. Over half my wage now goes on rent for a tiny two-bedroom flat in London, while my landlord cares little for the upkeep of the property.
It was therefore no surprise to me to read that Shelter has found four in ten private renters live in homes so poorly maintained or crowded that they are dangerous.
Added to this is the predatory nature of many landlords. A government report found gangs of landlords club together to extract housing benefit in exchange for tiny 'microflats'.
The taxpayer subsidises greedy landlords and poverty-wage employers £24 billion a year in housing benefit.
Labour's announcement that it will force land owners to sell at the nominal pre-planning price is welcome. So are Jeremy Corbyn's proposals for more social housing.
But Labour councils, controlled by the anti-Corbyn wing, are part of the problem. They continue to gut council housing stock in favour of pricey luxury flats.
But more than half of London's top-end luxury apartments have failed to sell, according to property researchers Molior London. And many of the rest are unused land investments.
A good start to solving the housing crisis would Corbyn calling for nationalisation of the land and big construction firms, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need.
That would allow an anti-austerity government to build masses of council homes, with genuine regeneration to actually improve homes and communities, not gentrify them.
While this is happening, private renters need caps on our rents so living is affordable for us.
To fund these ambitions properly, a Corbyn government should also nationalise the banks and top corporations. For a democratic socialist society that guarantees quality, genuinely affordable housing for all, not the profits of the super-rich.