The Tory attack on the welfare state is ideological, it is not about tackling debt. In housing this is combined with sheer greed.
Housing is a basic need. To the Tories it is a commodity to be used for maximum profit.
In the 1980s Thatcher virtually abolished building social housing, creating huge shortages and simultaneously driving vast numbers into the private sector. The Tories now want to increase rents to market levels for council and housing association tenants. In many areas this means rents increasing to £350-400 a week.
Iain Duncan Smith's assertion that Tory policy will reduce private sector rents flies in the face of all reality and the experience of private sector tenants whose rents are soaring.
The interplay of market forces means social housing rent increases drive up private sector rents. This is very good for landlord companies and estate agents who are raking in millions as a consequence, — just look at the price of lettings in any estate agent window — but very bad for tenants.
The Tory-imposed cap on housing benefit will see many driven out of their homes to find cheaper accommodation elsewhere . The Tories talk about the high cost of housing benefit but this has been caused by the high rent policies of successive governments.
The Tory plans have led to the beginning of an “ethnic cleansing” of working class people from parts of London and the south east.
It is not enough to condemn the Tories and their Lib Dem poodles. We need positive policies from Labour. Unfortunately housing is another issue on which any vision from Labour is sadly lacking.
We need a socialist housing programme which would include:
1. Every year for the last thirty years rents have risen substantially faster than the rate of inflation. As a proportion of income, rents in Britain are the highest in the EU. We need a two year rent freeze, After this rent increases for all social housing, both council and housing association, should never to go above the rate of inflation.
2. Protection of tenure for all those in social housing, and increased security for those in private rented accommodation.
3. A substantial increase in the building of new social housing, with the emphasis on council housing.
4. A cap to be imposed on all private sector rents.
5. The full restoration of all housing benefits.
6. Additional help for the first time home buyer.
7. Many people buying or renting in the private sector are being ruthlessly ripped off. We need a special body, with legal powers of enforcement, to investigate and curtail the blatant profiteering of landlord companies and estate agents.
This programme could reverse the government’s attack on social housing.