THE UK is in the grip of a huge housing crisis with workers who have jobs and earn wages being evicted by greedy landlords who have got hold of the housing stock and are determined to make huge fortunes out of showing ‘no quarter’ to their tenants.
A buy-to-let landlord, Fergus Wilson, in Ashford Kent is already evicting 90 households and plans to throw out another 700 households onto the streets. He is sending out ‘no fault’ eviction notices and has already been told by nine families, with children under 10, that they have no chance of getting another home to live in and will be sleeping on the streets.
Hillingdon Council told dozens of Hayes families just before Christmas that they must move out by March so that their refurbished homes that have been bought by Barnet Council can be offered to other tenants. What a disgrace that a council is making its own tenants homeless. In vain the families have pleaded that rising rents and the massive deposits demanded by landlords will force them out of that area and ‘onto the streets’.
40% of the council homes sold under Margaret Thatcher’s flagship right-to-buy policy are now in the grip of private landlords. Their tenants pay more than twice the rent levels charged by local authorities. In fact a counter-revolution has taken place as far as the housing stock is concerned.
The Attlee Labour government began and carried through a massive council house building programme that continued under Wilson into the late 1960s, leading to boasts by reformists that they had solved the housing problem. The reformists did not reckon with the sheer greed of the private landlords and their Tory friends to get their grip on the council house stock.
This is what the Thatcher governments did. They brought in the right-to-buy, that allowed tenants to purchase their council homes cheaply so that the major landords could get their hands back on the housing stock – something that they have done with a vengeance.
The reformist Labourites had boasted that they had resolved the housing problem and that the Marxists were wrong when Frederick Engels declared in his article the ‘Housing Question’: ‘It is not that the solution of the housing question simultaneously solves the social question, but that only by the solution of the social question, that is, by the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, is the solution of the housing question made possible.’
The right-to-buy allowed private landlords to get their hands on the council housing stock, and to use it to make vast fortunes while putting working families onto the streets. ‘Freedom of Information requests sent to 111 English local authorities by Inside Housing magazine reveal that 40.2% of housing stock sold by councils to then tenants are now rented out, rising to 70.9% in Milton Keynes, which it dubs the ‘right-to-buy-to-let capital’ of England.
Seven councils – Milton Keynes, Bolsover, Brighton & Hove, Canterbury, Cheshire West and Chester, Stevenage, and Nuneaton & Bedworth – have letting levels of more than 50% among former council-owned homes. Thatcher’s promise that the ‘right-to-buy’ would result in a property-owning democracy, was a fraud. The private landords are back in the saddle and putting workers out onto the streets.
The end result has been people sleeping on the streets and the government paying huge amounts of housing benefit to buy-to-let landlords charging high rents. A section of the working poor are now living on the streets.
Inside Housing says the average council rent in England is £88 per week, compared with £210 charged by private landlords. In London, this gap grows from £108 for council rents to £359 for private rents. The government has confirmed its intention to extend right to buy to more housing association tenants, with a regional pilot in the West Midlands planned for next year. The housing question can only be resolved by political-revolutionary means. Engels was right.
Workers must set up Councils of Action to stop all evictions. Councils of Action, supported by the trade unions must take over the tens of thousands of empty properties to end sleeping on the streets.
Workers and youth must join the WRP to organise the socialist revolution to smash the landlords and capitalists and bring in a planned socialist economy in order to solve the housing problem for all time.