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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 January 2016

Housing crisis reaches level of 1960s, half struggle with rent

Bob Severn, private tenant, Birmingham

Imagine that you live in a terraced house on a street that has, at one end, an airport and, at the other, a large factory. One day you get an email from your landlord that the rent is to increase 25%. This price hike, you are told, is actually a "discount" - as it is slightly below the "market rate".

But millions of people don't need to imagine such landlord generosity, as this tale is just one example of the real-life misery caused by Britain's housing crisis.

Shelter has found that 53% of private renters are struggling to pay the rent. The housing charity says that the homes crisis has reached 1960s levels.

50 years ago around one fifth of households were privately rented. This was reduced to one tenth by 1990. Now it's back to a fifth.


Shelter says 250,000 homes need to be built a year - twice the supposed current rate - half of which should be "affordable".

Less than 10,000 social homes were built in the last financial year. Even those aren't necessarily affordable as housing associations can charge 80% of rocketing private rates. At the same time, 64,710 households are living in temporary accommodation.

The government says it is "determined to create a bigger, better private rented sector". This is Tory spin for increasing the massive subsidies and tax breaks they give to private landlords and builders from the public purse.

We don't need a bigger gang of landlords filling their back pockets! We need rent caps instead of benefit caps, combined with a massive council house building and renovation programme.

200,000 council homes face axe

Tessa Warrington, private tenant, Leicester

Almost 200,000 council homes will go by 2020 if the Tory housing bill passes through parliament. It would force councils to sell one in every eight council properties through the 'right to buy' scheme.

Over five million people are waiting for social housing in Britain. Since 2010 when the Tory-led Coalition came to power, housebuilding has plummeted - while rents and property prices have sky-rocketed. There is a critical shortage of genuinely affordable homes, and homelessness is rising exponentially as a result.

Thatcher's government brought in right to buy in the 1980s. A third of ex-council homes are now owned by private landlords - in London a sickening 50%.

Scandalously, Charles Gow, the multimillionaire son of the very minister who introduced right to buy, is now a buy-to-let landlord. He owns scores of former council flats.

The idea of really affordable housing is a joke in London. Desperate tenants pay extortionate rents.

Boosting right to buy will only make this worse, with homes selling to overseas investors and buy-to-let landlords rather than those in housing need. The 200,000 homes sold will do nothing to plug the five-million-home gap.


Today's generation of low-paid and zero-hour contract workers cannot even begin to think about taking on a mortgage. Those who benefit are Cameron's rich chums.

What we need is to immediately stop all sell-offs, and begin an intensive program of building decent accommodation that is publicly owned, with democratically decided, genuinely affordable rents.

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In The Socialist 20 January 2016:

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Preparing a no-cuts people's budget

Momentum and democracy in Hackney and beyond

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Workplace news in brief

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China: Financial turmoil spreads fear across global markets

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