What’s that high pitched whining noise? Why, it’s tenants, struck by the reality of renting. Renting is horrible, this we know, but it’s not horrible in a vacuum – it’s yet another example of life worsening for the precariat – the buzzword which describes people who’s work and employment is precarious. What sounds like a sustained mass onslaught of monstrous, unfocussed griping must be placed in context.
First off the noble Condem overlord’s Benefit Uprating Bill limits housing benefit rises to 1% per year, even when, in certain places, rents rise at 16% per year. The bedroom tax, and other benefit reforms will also help expand benefit saturation where jobs are scarce but homes cheaper and more readily available.
Remember – many, or most, claimants are in work. Employed but low paid tenants now seem less than ideal to all powerful owners who give an imperial thumbs up - or down - to potential tenants. Low wages thwart us. Many renters battle with two or more part-time jobs. Renters dream of earning enough to buy, or just to rent a more spacious home. That nightmare of unattainability is fuelled by cut price Dairylea, not artisan cheddar, and they end up as couples in home shared with other couples.
Rents are sometimes so high that tenants can’t afford to feed themselves properly or heat their homes, let alone put aside something each month for a deposit to buy somewhere. They rely on the legendary ‘bank of mum and dad’ which assumes we have a Mum and Dad, that they have a ‘bank,’ and are not worried about their own coming under-funded retirement.
Meanwhile, owners no longer retain property for decades, profiting instead on slowly accumulated equity, insisting on a ‘return’ each week in places where demand is high.
Renting is inevitable – rarely is it a choice. Suitable, affordable homes are rare, and by suitable, I mean fit for modern life – room to study, for blended families to invite children to stay, or care for elderly relatives. Victorian villas and even terraces have been sliced in two, and then again, while developers build ‘dovecots’ not family houses or the one-beds with room to live as we need.
Employment is insecure, with vulnerable, desperate workers compelled to accept low paid work, either freelance and those damned, soon-to-banned, zero-hour contracts, or else they weave a complex, mine-strewn path in and out of employment back onto social security. Firms go bankrupt or relocate abroad, and workers are employed by companies who pay them as little as possible and therefore profit from social-security themselves.
There are added complications, like rent-to-let, sealed bids for houses, short tenancies, no rent controls etc. Everyone agrees that letting agents fees are horrendous, but nothing is done, and there’s no appetite for ending retaliatory eviction, or notice issued on a whim.
That unbearable whining is turning into hopeless screeching. It isn’t about unachievable dreams. This is about somewhere safe and secure to live – somewhere we can cover rent without worrying daily in case we are turfed out of job or home. Context, context, context explains that deafening noise you can hear.