Councils must freeze rents and defy government cuts
Paul Kershaw, Socialist Party member and Chair of Unite Housing Branch LE1111
Rents are rising at their fastest rate for five years. Over 200,000 private renters in Britain are in the process of being evicted, or face eviction, and that is before the battering they will get from increased energy bills. The property website Zoopla reports the average rent jumped 8.3% in the final three months of 2021.
The government response? Callously cutting the funding councils receive for ‘discretionary housing payments’ (DHPs) by £40million, leaving many fearing they will have to leave their homes.
Social renters are facing a rent increase of 4.1% across much of England, the maximum allowed. That can mean as much as £20 per month.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive and some Scottish councils have frozen rents because of the cost-of-living crisis. There is nothing stopping Labour councils doing the same. Nor is there anything stopping councils continuing to pay DHPs in defiance of the government.
Some Labour politicians have called for a government-enforced rent freeze. Good. But if they are serious about protecting working-class communities, they should start with the rents they set! Councils should pressure housing associations, which make fat profits for banks and financial institutions, to freeze rent too.
But it seems Labour councils are committed to continue doing the government’s bidding.
In Croydon, campaigners say that the Housing Revenue Account starts the year with £27.6 million in reserves. They explain: “Struggling families need the cash more than the council does.” Socialist Party members standing in May’s local elections, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, agree! It’s time for campaigning councillors prepared to use all the tools at their disposal to fight for working-class communities.