‘EAT, heat or pay rent’ that is the stark choice facing millions of low paid and unemployed workers living in private rented accommodation in Britain today.
This is the inevitable outcome of the Tory policy instituted in 2016 of a four-year freeze on housing benefit. According to research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) this freeze has pushed even the very lowest private rents across the country beyond the means of low-income families forcing on them the choice between paying the rent or feeding and heating and so face the inevitability of eviction.
The Chief Executive of CIH, Terrie Alafat, said: ‘Our research makes it clear just how far housing benefit for private renters has failed to keep pace with even the cheapest private rents. We fear this policy is putting thousands of private renters on low incomes at risk of poverty and homelessness.’
Housing benefit, designed to help low-income families meet the rents demanded by private landlords, hasn’t been increased in line with the massive rise in rents since 2013 leading to the CIH report to state:
‘As a result, renters are facing gaps ranging from £25 a month on a single room in a shared home outside London to more than £260 a month on one to four-bedroom homes in some areas of London. Over 12 months, those gaps rise to £300 and £3,120 – making it increasingly likely that renters will be forced to choose between paying for basic necessities like food and heating or their rent.’
In Greater Glasgow the gap between benefit and rent on a four-bedroom home is £82 a week, in Bristol £71 and Greater Manchester £53. The cap on housing benefit, due to last until April 2020, is driving the increasing rate of homelessness across Britain and placing thousands at immediate risk of being chucked onto the streets by landlords who are not required to give any reason for eviction.
Charity Crisis estimates that currently there are an estimated 236,000 people across the UK suffering from the most extreme forms of homelessness, including living on the streets or in unsuitable hostels or forced to ‘sofa surf’ at friends or relatives.
Over 80% of the rise in homelessness since 2011 has been attributed to evictions by private landlords and this figure will only increase dramatically. The situation has reached the point where an investigation by the homeless charity Shelter recently uncovered the fact that letting agents were operating a policy of refusing to let to anyone on benefit even if they could afford the rent.
With local councils demolishing entire council blocks and selling the land off to private developers for luxury apartments affordable social housing is being systematically destroyed by a Tory government that doesn’t give a damn about families and children being thrown out of their homes and starving on the streets.
Theresa May famously claimed there was ‘no money tree’ for public services or benefits – the only money tree any government has is the one used to bail out the banks after the capitalist financial crash in 2008. Over £1.162 trillion was spent propping the banks up or by the Bank of England pumping money into the financial system to prevent capitalism from collapsing – but no money for housing or any of the public services.
These have been looted in order to keep the bankers, the bosses and landlords in luxury while over 4.1 million children in Britain live below the poverty line. The only response from the Labour Party to this attack on housing benefit has been to call for the Tories to ‘scrap the cap’.
The Tories have no intention of scrapping their cap – all they have promised is permanent austerity as the only future for the working class. Millions of workers have had enough and are demanding scrap the Tories, that this weak, terminally divided Tory government be brought down and replaced by a workers government that will go forward to a socialist economy where the bankers, landlords and bosses will be expropriated and production will be for human need not for the profit of the capitalist class.
Only under socialism can poverty and homelessness be ended forever.