And the winner of the ‘No Shit Sherlock’ award goes to… (shuffles with silver envelope… serious face for annoying pause…) The Labour Party!
Hooray! It’s richly deserved, and they’ve worked hard to grasp the facts, but they won the prize for the following remark:
‘Labour has come to a settled view that it was a mistake in the mid-80s to switch from directly subsidising social rents and building homes to giving tenants the money to pay higher rents.’
I know! Bless their little cotton socks. Aw.
Here’s the situation. The Labour government started the appalling process of cutting rent paid to claimants when they introduced Local Housing Allowance. Someone in their ranks – an idiot SPAD recently graduated from McKinsey I expect - spotted that the benefit bill was rising, and even though most of that comes from pensions, chanced upon rising housing benefit.
So they had fantastic idea: imposing a ceiling on housing benefit, to persuade//cajole/force on pain of being homeless, so tenants would choose cheaper homes. There is so much wrong with that stupid idea, born as it was during the buy-to-let boom which was intentionally ramping up rents as if this was a good thing.
In some circles, rent paid to claimants as Local Housing Allowance is referred to as ‘Landlord Benefit’ because it’s paid to rentiers, not tenants. It’s like another way for the state to cover adequate to downright generous income those no longer working.
That’s why the (Labour supported) Benefit Cap is so misguided. People live where the jobs are, jobs which might be insecure, part time and low paid, and workers claim benefits, which cover the cost of their rent, to allow them to work. The money they receive does not go on hats, or champagne.
It is another form of state subsidy to the rich and to business – in the form of letting agents. The people who suffer are tenants, fighting at the bottom of the market to find a place they can afford, without paying stupidly high fares.
So build more homes. In London/The South/Everywhere, on brownfield sites. Build homes people need – one bed homes with plentiful storage and space to dry laundry, and family homes. Provide proper sound insulation, and separate rooms, to get round notions of ‘spare room’ so that tenants can have some safe space for people, like children of broken relationships, to stay, which is hard in the mania for open-plan. Somewhere to stow a bike safely, no communal post rooms, and not three floors squeezed in where there should be only two.
The need for these provisions explains why tenants cling desperately to rooms deemed ‘extra’ for bedroom tax valuation.
We might also need overcome a distaste verging on horror for high-rise housing, and learn again to build higher, ending short term economies, like saving on bricks by building small roomed dwellings.
Rents will be cheaper, people will have actual choice, and private landlords will profit less when the benefit bill no longer swallowed up by benefits covering stupid high rents. Labour it's great that you're awake, but now you need to listen.