Nine billion pounds of taxpayers’ money goes to private landlords every year in housing benefit.
And the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that at least £3bn of that money is spent on poor quality accommodation annually.
BBC Panorama showed a programme last night called ‘The Great Housing Benefit Scandal’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32381471) This is not news to me.
Whilst delivering leaflets in this area of London terraced housing, I find that many are subdivided into 4 or more flats. One has 11 letterboxes. These houses are built as 3 bed residences with a box room. The area is green and leafy and I had no idea before leafleting that this area was so overcrowded, I’ve been living here for decades.
I have visited houses nearby in London where the building has been subdivided into tiny boxes. Tenants in these tiny boxes tell me they are paying £1,200 per month each which is our tax money spent in the form of housing benefit. This also leaves no money for them to live on, because of the benefit cap. All their permitted benefits go straight to the landlord.
Because of the selling off of council houses, there is nowhere else to put vulnerable people in this part of London. These places are filled with young single mothers, families and the disabled. Nobody else stands a chance of being housed at all locally. This is all due to greedy landlords, the selling off of council homes, and the benefit cap. Two out of three of these causes are policies brought in by the Conservatives.
Here’s an article by the excellent Kate Belgrave published in March http://www.katebelgrave.com/…/the-real-scroungers…/
The house next door to mine, once a family home, is now 4 flats containing 11 people, with no fire exit from the top floor. The tenants are frightened of a potential fire, they have small children and live in the converted attic. But they cannot tell the council because they’ll just be evicted, and its nigh on impossible to find an affordable flat in London, no matter how cramped and unsafe. This is a working family, not on benefits.
And its not as if the government doesn’t know. Here’s a Panorama program saying the same thing from 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/…/fron…/newsid_9122000/9122529.stm This was before the benefit cap.
The benefit cap means that NOBODY on benefits can afford a private rented flat in Inner London, or most of outer London. There are no council flats, they are being destroyed in their thousands and replaced by ‘luxury apartments’. The local authorities are being forced to satisfy their statutory obligations to house the vulnerable by placing them into slum rat holes, or move them hundreds of miles away from their support networks to where rents are cheaper. This is pushing up rents outside of London, too.
The Residential Landlords Association agrees there’s a problem, but says we don’t need more legislation. They say the existing legislation is perfectly adequate, the problem is that savage cuts to Local Authorities budgets means they cant enforce the laws that already exist. Last week the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that over the course of this Parliament, the budgets of local authority enforcement departments have been cut by over 37% per head of population in England. http://news.rla.org.uk/private-rental-market-is-being…/
My local community self help group, Kilburn Unemployed Workers, has had to set up a sister group just for housing, because of the terrible situations people are telling us about every week. The local council is useless. The local Citizens Advice Bureaux have been closed down. The charities are starved of funds and most cant take on cases, only ‘give advice’.
The foodbanks are thriving.