Monday, 28 November 2011

A Home Is Not A Treat

‘The sight of a Labour council - a labour council – evicting tenants convicted of rioting.’

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, Al Quaedi planned 911, and NASA really did land on the moon: deal with it.

Recently however, the internet meme/satire quoted above highlighted my own growing suspicions: that there is an enormous conspiracy, audacious in its implantation and spiteful in its intent. I honestly believe that recent housing laws are aimed at scaring and undermining poor people into submission.

That paraphrased parody of Neil Kinnock’s searing speech put into words how I feel. During the UK’s summer riots, I read about the aftermath from afar, but like many I am subsequently wondering how can it be that a crime unrelated to a perpetrators home will end in their eviction?

Remember it’s rare that even the most hardcore anti-social, drug-dealing, violent bully is evicted permanently for bad behaviour, so why the sudden rush to associate a roof-over-your head with being a good little citizen. This policy is ideologically led, unsupported by data and punitively transformative in its philosophical agenda: no more housing as of right, no more council tenancies for life, no more housing benefit (the new universal credit effectively abolishes housing benefit and Local Housing Allowance, or didn’t you notice?) Ed Milliband has even equated ‘bad’ council tenants with those beloved, mother-loving bankers.

This is the most undermining of all Condem wheezes: that housing a luxury and not a necessity- an extra, a privilege. The LibDems are standing by and watching Grant Shapps detonate the idea that everyone deserves a permanent home. He’s big on ownership and keen on boats (I still don’t believe he really said that.) But housing is essential; without a home, people are overcrowded, unfit and miserable. The homeless die young. Even Victorian grandees knew that.

The insidious notion of housing as a treat to be withdrawn for bad behaviour is seeping into policy. Unlike food, you can’t grow your own house on an allotment or scavenge, and housing benefit cuts are starting to bite. Tenants will either make up the difference from food budgets when weekly benefit does not cover the rent, or ask landlords to drop prices – and we all know that landlords love lowering rents.

Many casual landlords will collapse like straw men when interest rates go up, with tenants again be expected to pay. Those who moved to find or begin work can hardly return; they will be declared intentionally homeless and workless, entitled to neither housing nor benefits, stranded in high rent areas enduring low earnings, choosing rent or food.

After both world wars, decent housing was a national priority. Now it’s a national scandal, with tenants undermined by cuts, enduring slack protection, under a growing fear that the behaviour of their children might lose them their home. This is housing used as the stick when there is no carrot.

And never let it be forgotten: the ceiling on rents in local housing allowance is a Labour party innovation. A Labour party innovation…


Dazzla said...

Excellent post. I fear that the Inside Cack little-Englander wannabe-neocons will be along shortly to explain to us that it's all the fault of the low-waged and how they should have looked ahead, worked harder and have had the foresight to have been born to richer parents.

Although I obviously can't condone theft and violence, I do understand the anger that was behind the riots we saw earlier this year. It seemed to be an irrational backlash against years of abuse: an abused partner kept timid and quiet who one day picks up a knife and lashes out. For a decade and a half now, perhaps since the death of John Smith and Blair's ascent to the leadership of what is now Britain's opposition party and the rise of the Third Way, there has been no choice in politics. For those who want to think beyond the dogma of the eminence of the free market, only a few minority parties, many of whom hold extremist views unpalatable to most voters, have really represented an alternative economic and political view.

And as a logical extension, we see Ed Milliband, the leader of the Labour Party, supporting the Prime Minister - a millionaire old Etonian, son-in-law to a Baronet and fifth cousin to the queen - in his campaign to make the poor pay the debts incurrec by his millionaire friends.

Does this not make you want to riot? Perhaps riots are protests lead by the inarticulate? I think it'd be naive to suggest that they've nothing to do with the continued marginalisation of the electorate.

If you take away everything someone has, you leave them with nothing to lose...

RenterGirl said...

Thanks Dazzla!
No trolls here. I don't allow it.
Also - when voting against something doesn't work, and there is no-one else to vote for, taking to the streets is a viable way of making your voice heard. But why is a house now a luxury? Because it makes people scared.

Tim said...

Hand-wringing liberal rubbish! The riots were for the most part not politically motivated, but opportunistic acts of theft, arson and vandalism. As The Guardian reports today, of the c.2,000 convicted of offenses during the riots, around three quarters had previous offenses.

Society has limited resources (including housing) to distribute to human beings, who (as the economists tell us) have unlimited wants. Why shouldn't society withhold these limited resources from those individuals who attempt to destroy it, and instead direct it at those who are perhaps more deserving AND law-abiding?

RenterGirl said...

Ladies and gentlemen: I present for your amusement - a bona fide troll! Who thinks people should be homeless. No more. Just the one. I shall allow only one of your kind, famous nastiness. And stupidity. Readers - do not feed the troll.

Anonymous said...

There's some things i totally agree with you about, but characterising council home dwellers as innocents in need of basic protections against evil forces isn't helpful. Presently 20m people in Britain rent. 5m would dearly love a council house, but can't have one because there are none. So they continue to rent privately- living in worse conditions and paying many times more for the privilege than their counterparts in council houses. oh and they have absolutely zero security of tenure, unlike council tenants who can threaten neighbours, riot and rob local businesses and keep their 'homes' forever. And these council homes are subsidized through taxes by people who have to pay much higher private rents, in further out suburbs, commuting further. There's no point ignoring real working class people's problems because it goes against ideology.
So the solution is more houses, for everyone. But really, it's not going to happen fast enough. But all your fighting for people in council houses is actually fighting AGAINST people in rubbish private rented sector. People in council houses aren't the most needy in society, they just got there first (frequently by benefit of being born quite some time ago), so keeping them there isn't necessarily the fairest solution for everyone in society.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

I think the stink over rioters and the accompanying demonisation of the mythical underclass is covering up the legal point that taking a home away for behaviour not related to that home in any real sense is a huge change in legal logic and the very nature of how social housng was set up.

With squatting to become a criminal offence what happens next? Eviction for supporting the wrong football team?

I read in yesterday's Guardian a criticism of Kensignton & Chelsea's rent deposit scheme, earmarking thousands for PRS tenants but the sum they get wont allow them to rent in that borough but it will in outer London boroughs. K&C farming their housing benefit tenants out to lower their HB bill? Hows that for a conspiracy theory for you?

RenterGirl said...

Sadly Ben - I think you may be right about the whole HB in Ken and Chel thing. It is a massive legal leap. And you are right - where will it end? The opportunities for being punished for unrelated crimes with home loss are endless.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

And it continues RT. I just read an article in Inside Housing that Croydon council have seen their homeless families in temporary accommodation rise from 61 to 300 in the past couple of years and that they are looking to relocate people in Yorkshire because rents are cheaper.

People being forced to move away from their homes, families and support networks, the towns they grew up in and they call it 'Choice'

RenterGirl said...

Just as Sheila McCechnie said it would. Learn and use the phrase she suggested - 'bantustans of poverty.' See rentergirl: Sheila McCechnie was right. And I think she would have loved to be wrong.

space cadet said...

As i see it, it's every man for himself now. All the messages coming out of Britain certainly seem to suggest so. There is just a nasty game of one-upmanship going on here. And two wrongs have never made a right. Where should all the criminals go? Cos they're going to have to end up living somewhere.

RenterGirl said...

As for the people who are hardly hardened criminals, where will they go? Where will we all end up?

BOZ said...

Rentergirl, I'm a bit puzzled about your apparent sensitivity to 'trolls'. If you are referring to the Dazzla post & Tim post as trolls, they both seem to be just genuinely expressing their own opinions and nothing more.

Of course Tim's opinion is highly unpalatable to any reasonable person, but it isn't 'trolling' and it is important to let readers see the full range of other people's opinions to validate any debate about anything, I think.

Trolling (which usually might reasonably and usefully be deleted) is quite different from even the most diametrically opposed and inflammatory opinions which always add a relevance and a bit of spice to any debate.

Anyway, I just thought I say my little piece there before making my own comments; only I will have to come back later for that now, as I have to catch the last hour of Saturday shopping before all the shops clang shut here in Market Smugborough.

I have a lot to say about renting as I have had a murderous time as a single dad trying to survive the malice of the benefits system for years, losing my own home and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds to the satanically evil sub-prime mortgage market set up by the mainstream banks as a pure extortion racket.

When my son and I were finally evicted from our home with effectively just one day's notice about six months ago, we were thrown onto to the private rental market and at the mercy of the greedy and rapacious letting agents.

It just took my breath away. The fraud, the fallacious nonsense spouted by the empty headed idiots posing as 'estate agents'; I just could not believe it !

And we now live in an overpriced substandard pigsty at an extortionate rent.

And, surprise, surprise; the house is owned by a middle aged person who works in the banking industry in a far away banking capital of an 'emerging economy' - the natural habitat of the go-getting get rich quick man on the make.

RenterGirl said...

Boz - this my blog, not a message board. I haven't published the actual trolls, but the other comment is a troll in my book. Lucky I let the little blighter through. Sorry to hear you're experiences: but they are typical in the renting market. No politicians are keen to take up renting. It just isn't 'sexy' enough as an issue, I fear. Especially not for a dickhead like Grant Shapps, the barely stable housing minister.

PleaseExplain said...

I came browsing here from Alice Whatsername's UK Bubble blog.
And for the record, I am a renter too.

Its good to see that unlike Alice Whatsername, you believe in freedom of speech.

Yes of course Tim is a troll. He is just like that evil crypto-nazi and former fascist state functionary Craig Murray who also strangely shares the same opinion of this summers glorious revolutionaries:

Perhaps its a conspiracy?

RenterGirl said...

Alice allows more freedom to comment on her blog than I do. She also supports freedom of speech. I think she is scared of the riots, and that has formed her opinion.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this will be deemed a 'troll' response RenterGirl but I find it hard to justify giving money and a home to someone who feels it is acceptable to destroy someones business and steal their property - as it is these people (the ones who ultimately suffer) who pay for their rent, food etc!
I wasn't born into a rich family, I work my backside off, and I am angry at the people who destroyed livlihoods. Does this give me the right to riot on council estates across the land???
Where will the rioters end up if we stop their benefits - 2 options I see it...
1) They are homeless and thieve so end up in prison. I still pay for their life but at least they won't be holding me up at knife point and I feel safer.
2) They realise this is no life and get some pride and start supporting themselves.

RenterGirl said...

Punish them in law, but not their home. The two are not linked. It's like taking a kidney for joyriding.