Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/855/20683
Housing crisis deepens
Shelter, the homelessness charity, says more than 80% of homes for sale in England were unaffordable for the average working family looking to buy their first home.
Its latest survey found that in London there are only 43 homes for sale (0.1% of the total advertised) that are genuinely affordable, based on an average family income at £31,000 a year. And those 43 properties include house boats and a mobile home! In 13 London boroughs Shelter found no affordable houses at all.
The re-election of the Tories will see the nasty party legislate to extend the 'right to buy' law to 1.3 million tenants in housing associations. Expect many of these sell-offs to end up in the hands of private landlords, as happened with council house sales.
Meanwhile, new housebuilding continues to falter in both private and public sectors. Not least because of a massive 66% cut in the housing investment programme by the previous coalition government.
Only 107,980 new homes (private and social) were completed in England in 2012-13 - the lowest total since the 1920s. While in 2013-14 just 118,770 new homes were built.
The current welfare cap, combined with soaring rents, has led to 50,000 families being moved out of London over the last three years. The size of this 'social cleansing' rivals the forced movement of people in recent European conflict zones, despite Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson's claim that welfare cuts would not lead to "Kosovo-style social cleansing".
The Tories pledged in the election to further cap welfare payments by £3,000 and end the limited housing benefit currently available to under-21s claiming Jobseeker's Allowance. Such draconian measures will increase evictions and homelessness.
I was interested to read the article on rent controls in the Socialist (issue 854).
In 1988 I was renting a one-bedroom ground floor flat in South East London. Both it and the identical flat upstairs were "fair-rented" on a secure tenancy. As long as we paid the rent and didn't wreck the place, we couldn't be thrown out. The rent was £200 a month pus rates (this was before the Poll Tax.)
The upstairs tenants moved out in October 1988 and the landlords kept the place empty for three months. As soon as the Tories' Housing Act came into force - I think it was 31 January - the next day the flat was rented out for £400 a month (plus rates of course!) on an 'Assured Tenancy', which meant that after six months the landlord could throw the tenants out on a whim.
So under the Tories' Housing Act rents literally doubled over night!
A consequence for me was that the landlord continually tried to get my rent put up far more than the rate of inflation using the argument they were getting twice as much for an identical flat up the stairs! This meant annual trips to the Rent Tribunal with the additional hassle of preparing a case. But with the help of the Local Authority Advice Centre we managed to fight these.
I have since moved on but as the saying goes I couldn't afford to live there now.
Tom Prentice, East Lothian
During the election Labour said it would eventually build 200,000 affordable homes if elected.
However, tucked away on page 9 of Inside Housing (1 May) was an article headlined: 'Brick shortages delay plans'. In it the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) says that brick production ground to a halt at the beginning of the recession and is still struggling to catch up.
Some of the brickworks were closed for good and will never work again. As well as the shortage of materials, there is also a shortage of bricklayers and the FMB says they may well have to rely on migrant labour.
If ever there was proof of the need for a socialist planned economy this debacle is it. Only then would there be control of raw materials, the means of production, training and apprenticeships, all linked together to meet the needs of society.
Yet again the failure of market forces undermines the needs of the people.
Kevin Wilson, Leeds
In The Socialist 13 May 2015:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns