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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 May 2015

Housing crisis deepens

March for Homes, London, 31st January 2015, photo Paul Mattsson

March for Homes, London, 31st January 2015, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

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.

Rent controls

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

Socialist planning

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

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In The Socialist 13 May 2015:

Elections 2015

Organising resistance to Tory cuts starts now!

Fight against "five more damned years"

Tenacious TUSC celebrates hard-won progress

Labour annihilated as SNP sweeps in

Don't mourn - organise and join the socialists!

Socialist Party news and analysis

New Tory cuts: Hammering the poor

Housing crisis deepens

Bradford Fire: victims demand independent inquiry

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Rage in Baltimore: aftermath of Freddie Gray's death

Disaster in Nepal - amplified by capitalism

Iran: free all political prisoners

Socialist Party workplace news

Dundee porters enter sixth week of action

Barking bin workers' eight-day strike

Bromley Unite plans more sell-off walkouts

Check-off attack will not defeat PCS

FBU conference looks to continue fightback

Kone blocks negotiations

TNT/Whistl stops deliveries

RMT members vote for Network Rail strike

CWU telecoms oppose Openreach changes

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

EDL protected by huge police presence

Brixton marches against gentrification

Student occupation of Birmingham library

TUSC prominent on anti-academies demo

Left gains at NUS conference

Anti-PFI battle bus


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