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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 November 2010

Housing: Rent caps, not benefit caps

'NO-ONE should ever be worse off working than they would be on benefits'. This is the carefully chosen mantra repeated time and again by Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and the rest of the Con-Dem wrecking crew to justify housing spending cuts.

North London public sector worker

This soundbite, along with the other lies being put forward by the government, will no doubt have some resonance for individuals and families working long hours on low pay and struggling to pay the bills.

However, the latest wave of government attacks on housing benefit (HB) is not designed to deliver 'fairness' but is an attempt to force workers into a spiral of lower paid jobs, economic insecurity, longer working hours and squalid housing. These attacks began under New Labour and are being accelerated by the latest incarnation of 'free market' government.

Since April 2008 the local housing allowance (LHA) has replaced housing benefit for people renting from a private landlord. Existing claimants that move house or break their claim are shifted from HB to LHA.

LHA rates are calculated using the broad rental market areas (BRMA) formula which uses average rental rates in a particular zone.

From October 2010, LHA rates have been reduced - on average by about 60 a week for a two bedroom flat in central London. However, the comprehensive spending review dealt an even more devastating blow to families living on benefits in high rent areas. The maximum LHA for a two bedroom flat has now been set at a full 190 a week below the average cost of such properties in central London.

Even for those living in parts of outer London the gap is as high as 80 a week. For larger families needing three or four bedrooms the difference becomes astronomical, they will be expected to magic up 600 a week on top of their benefits to remain in central parts of the capital such as Westminster.

It will become impossible for individuals or families on benefits to live in private rented accommodation in 70% of the capital. Figures show that in central London boroughs only 7% of accommodation - undoubtedly the worst housing - will be affordable under the new benefit rates.

The newspapers have been full of stories about families in London receiving 40,000+ benefits but it's not the claimants who gain. They receive the same or less benefits than people in other parts of the country - it's the greedy landlords who actually receive the money.

Taken on top of the plans to introduce an 80% market threshold for rents in social housing and the already acute shortage of new social housing stock, these measures amount to social engineering and spell the end of social housing in the city over the next ten years.

Socialists, trade unionists and community organisations must explain the impact that these attacks are going to have on our communities and develop movements of resistance in our working class neighbourhoods.

Campaigners must demand rent caps not benefit caps and a programme of affordable, decent house building. Organising rent strikes when families are faced with eviction should be discussed.

Such struggles should be linked to the wider cuts movement. Socialists understand that capitalism can only maintain itself on the bones of the working class and we must fight to stop this disastrous route being used.

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In The Socialist 3 November 2010:

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Anti-cuts movement continues to grow

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Con-Dem shock therapy - midwife to a double dip?

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Fund the fight for socialism

Socialist Party news and analysis

Housing: Rent caps, not benefit caps

India - no voice for Kashmiri struggle

Graduate unemployment: We will not be a lost generation!

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100 students march against cuts and fees in Leeds

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National Shop Stewards Network: Anti-cuts conference

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