Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/737/15415
The hidden homeless - "Sofa surfing is my lot"
At the Tory Party conference the idea of cutting housing benefit for under 25s has again been raised.
Not content with sowing divisions between old and young, Cameron and Osborne tried to turn young workers against young unemployed people by questioning whether young people should be able to claim housing benefit if they've never worked. These toffs understand nothing of the situation facing working class young people.
James Ivens explains the impact of the housing crisis.
I live in transit. Since July my kit bag and I have toured half a dozen couches and floors. Like "countless thousands" more, according to the charity Crisis, I am part of the growing 'hidden homeless'.
Britain's housing problem continues to spiral. Its roots stretch back to Thatcher's 'right to buy' legislation.
Sales gutted council stock. Private landlords extort huge sums from workers with nowhere else to go. There is a cap on benefits, but not on rent!
And that's not all. Dancing against this backdrop is the cruel can-can of squat clearance. Housing charity Shelter has uncovered at least 288,000 long-term empty homes in England.
The coalition has criminalised the more than 20,000 people living in some of them. In this time of rising costs, repossessions and redundancies, it's astonishing anyone has a home at all!
Sofa surfing is my lot. Like many other young people, rocketing rents and insecure employment have forced me into friends' front rooms.
A colleague has been sharing a bed with his ex for months. Other friends crowd in subtenants to keep each other off the streets.
I live in the most expensive city in Britain. My latest day job is yet another casualised, menial and poorly paid position.
The remnants of the benefit system are of little help. Even with support from my parents, I can't always afford rent.
What little social housing remains is prioritised for the most vulnerable. But the result is ghettoisation of those most in need of social integration.
Even this is under attack. Labour wants to kick anyone not in work down to the bottom of the list. The Con-Dems want to disqualify households with a joint income of over £40,000 from council homes.
You would think by now a light bulb might have pinged on over Labour leader Ed Miliband's head: build more social housing! You would be wrong.
True, Jack Dromey, shadow housing minister, wants a construction programme. This would "put unemployed building workers back to work, create jobs" and provide homes - all good stuff.
But the proposed 25,000 new builds are not enough for nearly two million households in waiting. And since it clearly works so well, Labour wants them handed over to the private sector!
Young people and families desperately need quality, affordable housing. The Socialist Party calls for decent publicly owned homes to be built for all, rent caps not benefit caps, and an end to council house sales.
The main parties seem set on putting us all on the streets. I can think of a couple of houses in Westminster sorely overdue for eviction notices.
In The Socialist 10 October 2012:
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