The number of tenants being evicted has reached its highest level for over a decade.
According to the Ministry of Justice, between January and March this year, landlords made 47,220 court claims to repossess property — and average of over 500 repossession claims a day.
The rise in evictions comes from welfare cuts, housing shortages and stagnant wages.
The Bedroom Tax, which docks housing benefit for those with a spare bedroom is also responsible.
Some Labour councils have attempted to soften its impact by implementing it leniently, or promising to circumvent it. Nonetheless, many people who are unable to find new housing have been forced to stay put with reduced housing benefit, causing them to fall further and further behind with the rent.
And the Bedroom Tax is ineffective even in its own terms. A report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals that the measure has been unsuccessful in moving people into smaller homes and freeing up large homes for larger families.
On the whole, those affected by the tax have stayed put, but with less money to survive on.
Pressure is also being applied to tenants through the change in Jobseekers’ Allowance. New powers to sanction claimants, as well as stricter requirements for signing-on, mean that the unemployed face losing both their Jobseekers’ and housing benefit for months if they make even a small administrative error. The sudden loss of income can abruptly dump people into rent trouble.
The fact that the large majority of repossessions were made by landlords of social housing is particularly striking.
In a report by the Guardian, lawyer Daniel Fitzpatrick said this was down to the shortage of council housing and the length of the housing lists. Councils were acting “ruthlessly” in a bid to force out some tenants to clear space for new ones, thus shortening the lists.
A depressing cloud of farce and futility surrounds Britain’s increasingly acute housing crisis.
Demonising and persecuting tenants is of no benefit to anyone, other than to rip-off landlords and Tory ministers who want to slash welfare spending. The only humane, rational solution to the housing crisis is for councils to build more decent, affordable homes and to be enabled to take possession of and renovate empty properties.
Socialists and the labour movement must raise these demand with renewed urgency.