This is a delayed reaction caused by extreme shock. I knew it would be really bad. By ‘it’ I mean of course the new regime. By regime I mean of course Grant Shapps, George Osborne and Ian Duncan Smith - aka The Three Stooges.
Over the years, I grew chillingly cynical, to the extent that I think I am being sarcastic even when I talk to myself. So why am I so incredulous at the latest pronouncements on housing? I thought I was immune, and am checking to see whether I’ve missed the point, or my brain fell out of my ears, or if all those ‘stupid’ tablets I've taken are starting to happen.
Here then, is the story. In the beginning, there was the housing market, which was quite deliberately cranked up, with humungous price rises seen as undeniably a good thing (naysayers were stoned to death.) A multitude of amateurs from the tribe called The Neophytes invested in property, because they didn’t have a pension. Rents rose.
Meanwhile the expansion in buy-to-let construction created vast swathes of identikit one or two bedroom flats, but as for much needed family housing – dream on, you deluded peasant. And yea, the rents rose. And then they fell, as flats were too numerous. And lo - the investors did go bankrupt. There was a plague of letting agents in Ipswich, and swarms of value consultants descended upon Birmingham. Verily we were being punished.
Given the climate of increasing job insecurity and pensions falling through the floor, I’m not convinced it’s the fault of the people who invested in property – I even suspect this is a deliberate ploy to undermine the working people, as those on short term contracts become more malleable, pliable, and simultaneously – breakable.
And still people just wanted somewhere to live. But jobs were hard to find. And through no fault of their own, people who didn’t expect to visit those lovely chappies at that marvellous Jobcentre+ thingy found themselves existing/subsisting/clinging to dear life on £64.30 per week (“…HOW much?”)
And then they lost their houses, but landlords were still ramping up rents and tenants had to claim Local Housing Allowance which didn’t cover all of their rent, and they had to top it up, because the landlords, the government, the banks – everybody actually - had encouraged rents to rise.
And then...and then…the new coalition government slipped into power. And they did spake unto the people exiled as ‘scroungers’ punished them with a budget that put a cap on the rent allowance: £240 a week for a one bed flat – even in London (really! I am being serious, I am not making that part up.)
What happened next? People couldn’t pay the rent, and fled to the imaginary social housing that was never built, or the pretend council houses that were all transferred or that never actually existed, or to the private rented homes they could afford, but which were miles away from friends, family, safety and jobs. Failing that, they became homeless.
This fairy tale does not have a happy ending. It is a horror story.