UNDER the Localism Act 2011, councils were granted greater powers to restrict access to social housing. Vulnerable people are now unable to access social housing. They are trapped ‘in a cycle of homelessness’, due to this change in the law. Since 2011, 700,000 households have disappeared from waiting lists across England, and have been left to their own devices.
As soon as this Act became law, councils were no longer required to consider all housing applications, and began organising a mass removal of households from their lists on the basis that they did not have a ‘local connection’ for a sufficient period. This has resulted in the current situation where 35% of councils require a presence of more than five years in a borough before a homeless person or household can have access to the social housing register.
Housing charity Crisis says the act is responsible for one in five homeless people being unable to move out of emergency housing such as hostels and B&Bs. Chief executive Jon Sparkes said: ‘Restricted eligibility for social housing is trapping more and more people in a cycle of homelessness that they have no route out of. ‘We are calling on the government to end these blanket bans that block people in need from registering for social housing.’ This call is being made in vain.
Not only is the government not willing to listen or take action, it is standing by as boroughs such as Windsor work out how they can drive the homeless out of their area onto the highways and byways as in the 17th century. There are now 160,000 homeless households in Britain, while rough sleeping is forecast to rise by 76 per cent in the next decade. The truth is that, with a massive housing shortage and with rents sky high, homelessness and poverty are a threat to the entire working class.
Households, once in poverty, are unable to remain in one area long enough to qualify for any assistance, according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Rising rents then keep them permanently on the move. As well, more than half of all councils now restrict access to social housing to those without a history of rent arrears. Thousands of households are permanently locked out of both the private and social housing sector.
Clavia Chambers, a single mother of two, was evicted by Lambeth Council after building up ‘months of rent arrears’.
She says the council ‘have no empathy, no sympathy, nothing’. According to Ms Chambers, a problem calculating her housing benefit when she took up seasonal work led to the debt. Unable to find housing through the council or afford private rented properties, she has stayed with a succession of friends on their spare beds and sofas. ‘My eldest has been referred to a support unit in school, as she’s not handling being homeless very well,’ she says.
Since 2010, the number of homes built for social rent has fallen from 39,600 to 5,300 a year across England.
At the same time as the poor are being driven onto the streets, councils, often Labour councils, are evicting them, demolishing their council estates and selling the land for the building of luxury tower blocks that are being bought up by the rich of the planet, from the USA to the Gulf, to be kept empty as investments. This policy, called decanting, is driving the working class out of the centres of big cities such as London and onto the streets. However, the working class will not be driven back to the 17th century. It will move forward to answer the attacks of the government and the landlords with a socialist revolution.
The first steps in this movement must be to occupy the massive luxury blocks that have been built and lie empty to house the homeless at nominal rents. The working class must advance to take over the ownership and control of the means of production to put an end to capitalism.
Then the massive productive forces that have been built up can be used in planned production for the benefit of humanity as a whole.