The beginning of the end of Social Housing?
By Sue Fairweather
I do have a very vested and selfish interest in the outcome of all that we fight for on this page to protect our ‘social’ homes simply because I live in one and passionately believe in Social Welfare. Let’s look at the progression of Welfare Reform that is being implemented in just this year alone.
BT (underoccupancy penalties)
14% or 25%/ Allowance for ‘right to buy’ more than doubled to £75,000/HB under Government/Universal Credit replacing Housing Benefit/Benefit Cap…to name a few!
The Bedroom Tax
However we are directly ‘taxed’ or not we are all personally affected, it is a reform that is openly going to cost much more than it saves and will hit the unemployed, the disabled, the vulnerable and ultimately the tax payer (inland rev type)…those tax payers are beginning to realise this and ask why?
- Working families are becoming increasingly dependent on state benefits to avoid eviction due to a soaring housing market, a report has said.
- A failure to build enough new homes in recent years has pushed rents and house prices up, and led to an 86% increase in housing benefit claims since 2009 by those in employment, according to the National Housing Federation (NHF) report. Homeless Bound
- The study revealed 10,000 more working families now need housing benefit every month to help pay their rent, with 417,830 more workers claiming it over the past three years.
Housing Benefit is no longer paid by Councils, it has been taken into the hands of Central Government and the DWP.
Councils/Housing Associations however, unfunded and unsupported, will have to face the cost of appeals,court actions, possible evictions and subsequent homelessness. They also should they take any measures against this happening as Knowsley on bedroom size and Councils/HAs refusing to evict, finance this alone…a sure way to lose their own financial backing!
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) is not a solution. It may even be a huge governmental publicity stunt! If every affected household gets an award it would be only a little more than a couple of quid per week; it is short term; it is administered by the Councils who in this small area hold the funding. It is a divide and rule measure as Councils will decide priorities differently. Who will we blame?
For all of the above reasons I urge caution when you consider your way forward as your Social Landlord could crash and fail very soon …privatisation of your houses would follow. Strike one.
Right to buy
We all know of the Thatcherite initiative and many have benefited and live happily in their own homes. Let’s look at some details past and present. In the past the monies from those sales have gone directly to the Inland Revenue; now this will be put to building ‘affordable housing’; it nowhere says Social Housing SH will simply not be replaced.
- Right to Buy Allowance went down from its initial 50% to a varying up to £33K,the new maximum is £75,000. It will tempt many and that’s what it’s there for…get them locked into a mortgage and they will accept any work conditions.
- 1 in 22 social house tenants who have exercised their right to buy have defaulted on their mortgages and lost their once secure homes as compared with 1 in 77 in the private sector.
- What happens to that once social housing? In some areas up to 50% is sold on to private landlords…this has been happening since the Thatcher years.
This is already a great loss to social housing stock and with the recession will increasing lead to a private ‘buy to let’ market. Strike two.
This is the decider for the fate of Social Housing! Who amongst you will be able to bear the increasing costs of food and fuel this year and then be hit by the change to monthly payments and budgeting where you will have to sign up to a ‘contract’ of conduct and pay your own rent from that budget? Who will pay their rent first? Add the Benefit cap which will affect mostly larger families with children to feed, who wouldn’t feed their kids first?
Social Landlords, I believe will face rent arrears on a monumental scale which they cannot survive…Strike 3 and you’re out!
I will return…but it is worth noting that any future social housing to come onto the market (new builds or newly bought) will carry an 80% of local private sector rental! My house rent as an example would then be £240…doubled!.
- Shelter: 2013 Changes to Housing Benefit
- The unnatural death of affordable Housing. Think Left
- This isn’t Dickens, it’s today – Winter’s Cold, Homeless and Hungry, Think Left
- Softly, softly into slums, New Law gives councils the right to turn homeless away. Think Left
- Guardian, Polly Toynbee 2013 Boom for Slum Landlords
- Sky News , with video clip: Workers need Benefits to avoid eviction
- 24Dash: Homelessness soars from Wirral to London