The Conservative Government, claiming to be the party of ‘hard working blue collar workers’, is planning to double,
even triple, rents for working tenants in council and social housing.
To pressure tenants to buy their homes the government plans to force councils and housing associations to charge full market rents for households with a joint income of over £30,000 - doubling or tripling their rent. A couple earning just £7.70 an hour each with 2 children in a 3 bedroom social housing in Oxford could see their rent rise by £170 a week.
There is already a crisis of housing in the UK, with Oxfordshire one of the most expensive places to live. Employers report an inability to recruit and retain enough workers due to housing shortages and associated costs. The Housing Bill currently going through parliament will make the housing crisis worse. The knock on effect is the huge agency costs paid to cover vacancies in Oxfordshire’s hospitals.
Charging market rents for some working households will force people out of their homes and communities as the rents become unaffordable. For others it would:
• deter members from work, promotion or overtime, undermining the idea of ‘mixed communities’
• force affected households to move, or take in lodgers and intensify overcrowding.
• Push some to consider Right to Buy leaseholding, though most can not afford this even with maximum discount
• as with the Poll Tax, push many off the rent book, and create further conflict as tenants refuse to declare income and challenge landlords’ powers to force disclosure.
Existing council and housing association rents are not ‘subsidised’ as Ministers falsely claim; ‘social’ rents are lower because they are not based on maximising profits.
Tenants did not cause the economic crash and austerity, but are being asked to pay for it.
The bill includes plans to force the sale of council properties, with funds raised being given to a few tenants in Housing Associations to allow them to buy their homes, further reducing the number of affordable homes.
Additional council rents will be siphoned off to central government. These proposed rent rises are a massive tax on workers in social housing.
In the Autumn statement the Chancellor announced plans to build 400,000 new homes in the next 5 years - well below the 1 million needed. Most of this building will be for owning and not social rents. Osborne also announced that Councils can sell off property to fund services starved of funds, further reducing social housing stock.
The government obsession with home ownership, incorporated into the Housing Bill undermines social housing for future generations.
‘Pay to stay’ will increase pressures on employers to put up wages to keep workers necessary for their businesses.
Mass action by tenants and their supporters can defeat this bill - we can’t afford not to.