Cuts are a charter for homelessness

Submitted by martin on 20 October, 2010 - 11:59

The Government is cutting the social housing budget to less than half of its current level. This cut comes on top of the cuts in housing benefit already announced.

Fewer houses will be built. What's built will be more expensive - about 80% of average market rents, where "social housing" today is about 40% of average market rents.

The 1.8 million households on waiting lists for council housing will be offered only that "affordable" housing (80% of market average rent), mostly from housing associations.

Anyone who gets a new council or housing association tenancy will hold it only for five to ten years (though existing tenants will still have security).

All this is on top of the housing benefit cuts, which, according to the homeless charity Crisis, will cost 160,000 households in London alone an average of ₤22 a week, and more after 2013.

Already, one million children growing up in overcrowding, and the average age of a first-time buyer without financial help from parents is 37. About 3600 people slept rough in London last year alone, and Crisis reckons that for every person sleeping rough there are about 100 sleeping in homeless hostels and about 1100 living in overcrowded conditions with friends or relatives.

The certain results are:

∙ More homelessness, at every level, from homeless-on-the-streets to the homeless who sleep on friends' sofas and floors.

∙ Poorer people "priced out" of inner-city areas, and forced into long commutes if they can find work at all.

∙ People who lose their jobs but could get work in other cities being unable to move there because rents and house prices become so much higher in areas with lower unemployment.

∙ More households forced into poverty because housing takes such a big chunk of their income.

Before World War Two and before the big expansion of council housing by the 1945-51 Labour government, something like a third of the working class lived in "tenements", often single-room dwellings for whole families with taps and toilets shared by the whole building.

Only the recognition - by mass council house-building programmes - of housing as a social right, not as something like champagne which the better-off can get and the poorer must do without, changed that situation.

The government wants to push us back to the previous era.

Labour councils should refuse to make the cuts in tenure and increases in rent proposed by the government (they are not compulsory). The whole labour movement should commit itself to a campaign against the housing cuts, and Ed Miliband should commit Labour to a big programme of council house building, to make good the backlog, as soon as the coalition is thrown out of office.

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