THE policy of the Tory-led coalition to slash housing benefit for the unemployed and low income families will result in hundreds of thousands being forced out of council and social housing.
This was the finding of an in-depth study carried out by Cambridge University into the effects of the government’s decision to force council rents up to 80% of those of private rented accommodation and to cap housing benefit to a maximum of £26,000.
When this policy was first announced last October it was widely predicted by housing charities that families with three children with a low income or surviving on benefits alone would find it impossible to live in London with its sky-high private rents.
London councils estimated that 82,000 would lose their homes in the capital as they faced the impossibility of coping with massive increases.
This new study, however, reveals that far from being confined to London the prospect of homelessness is now a reality in every town and city in England.
The study examined four housing authorities: East Sussex, Bromley, Hertfordshire and Mid-Sussex – all of whom house large numbers of families in council or social housing.
What they found was that in these areas families with three children will have a shortfall in their rent of between £34 and £56 a week when the 80% market rent is applied.
Only in the fifth area studied, Plymouth, was it found that larger families receiving benefit could just about survive the increase.
When the policy was first unveiled last year many organisations involved in housing issues denounced it as a plot to turn London into a replica of Paris; where only the rich can afford to live in the city and the low paid workers and unemployed are confined to ghettos on the outskirts and only travel in to perform necessary work.
What this study reveals is that the prospects for workers and their families are far worse even than this – there are no outskirts which are affordable even to those in employment.
The stark fact is that private sector rents in England now represent 58% of the gross weekly wage of low paid workers – this figure rises to 72% in London.
With wage cuts being imposed in both the public and private sector this spells destitution not just for larger families but for every single worker across the country.
What the Tories and their LibDem partners are attempting, is to drive the working class way back into the conditions of the 19th century when workhouses and poor houses were the order of the day, with families being forcibly split up and those lucky enough to have work having to live in barracks during the week, while the ‘undeserving poor’ were just left to rot on the streets.
This is the future that bankrupt British capitalism holds for the working class in the 21st century.
What is crystal clear is that capitalism today cannot satisfy even the most basic of human needs, that of shelter.
Affordable council housing was, along with the NHS, the great gain of the welfare state, a gain that has been systematically attacked since the days of the Thatcher Tory government – attacks that were enthusiastically embraced by the subsequent Labour governments of Blair and Brown.
Defence of affordable housing for workers and their families now demands a fight to remove this government, to bring it down through the organisation of the general strike, and replace it with a workers government committed to the nationalisation of the banks, building societies and construction companies and a mass programme of council house building works that will ensure decent affordable homes for every worker.