2013 has been every bit awful as I feared, due to the five horsemen of indifference. Cruel policies implemented – or rather inflicted - by a party of out of touch millionaires caused chaos, despair, hunger, isolation and homelessness.
First The Bedroom Tax. Or ‘spare room subsidy.’ Which it isn’t. Rich people watched a documentary about social housing which show that some people - mostly older tenants - cling to their homes when their family and dependents have moved on.
They’re not evil. They simply wish to stay because their friends, social network and support are close by, and in any case there’s nowhere else to move to – the private sector is tenuous, expensive and actively discriminates against claimants or the poor (openly displaying signs reading ‘No DSS’).
So money was taken from their allowance to cover the ‘cost’ of this so-called spare room. The result was arrears and therefore, debt. They didn’t move. There is nowhere else to live. Labour have promised to repeal this stupid tax. I await the proof of this. I also await the mass evictions, which will start next year.
Next, The Benefit Cap. This too is vile. Hideous. People are limited to how much they are entitled to, not on the basis of dependants (I wonder if this includes disabled children and elderly parents…) and not on their need. It is an arbitrary red-line. It will force low paid workers from property hot-spots – which in truth means London. So who will serve in the shops, clean the homes, work as clerks, nurse, study and set up new businesses in the capital? I’m curious, that’s all.
Rising rents are a nightmare, but this isn’t true everywhere. Prices are still stable and reasonable where work is scarce and supply plentiful. Even so, letting-agents try to insist that rents must be raised.
So, yay letting agents, once more. My friend was house hunting in Scotland, where fees payable by tenants are unlawful. She was being shown a ‘studio’ by an agent, and when they reached the flat, it had no central heating (in Scotland, this is just plain intolerable). To make matters worse, she was informed that the owner would not permit Calor gas heaters. Sarcastically she suggested an open fire in the bedroom. ‘Burning what?’ demanded the agent, obviously immune to irony. ‘Well, the documents which set out the fees you’re illegally trying to charge me.’ She replied. Oh – the fiends from last years roll of shame who claim to be ‘Licensed by ARLA’ in their bumph, posters and ads continue to do so. For now…
The cheering news saving my endangered sanity was the spirit of Digs aka Hackney Renters, and other tenant rights organisations, who are angry, but increasingly organised. This means that I believe for the first time the tide might well turn, with better prospects for rent control and long term tenancies.
Turning my deeply etched frown upside down, I would like to thank and remember the following, who are wise and make me smile.
For his patient demolition of SEO cowboys, and also his blog on housing law - @nearlylegal, aka Giles Peaker http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/
There’s @BenreeveLewis. Stern, brave and increasingly furious, he’s a Tenancy Relations Officer. Do not mess with him. He also makes me laugh. Which, things being as they are, is very much appreciated.