For millions of the UK’s poorest people, the biggest weekly expense by far is the cost of buying someone much richer than them a house. Almost 4 million people now rent privately and many will live their entire lives without ever knowing what it is like to have a secure home. The gradual demolition of the social housing sector combined with buy-to-let vultures gobbling up low cost houses will only entrench this monstrous future.
No-one was ever asked whether this is a future anyone wants. Instead it is presented as inevitable – this is just something the free-market is doing to us that we have no control over. This is neo-liberal ideology at its most insidious. The only ones who benefit from the majority of the population living in insecure private rented housing are landlords and property investers. Therefore no alternative can even be imagined. It is a done deal and so the rich get richer and our lives get shitter.
This illusion is constantly re-enforced by those who benefit. Landlords will pull out of the market if tenants are given more rights they shrilly proclaim – as if buy-to-letters are all going to start paying their own mortages for a change. To back this up new laws are created, such as the ban on squatting in abandoned residential properties. If this law was removed then landlords leaving thousands of homes empty would almost certainly lead to the kind of squatting movement that was seen both after the second world war and in the 1970s when entire streets were squatted by homeless families. That is why no major political party opposed the squatting ban, the free-market must be protected with laws as well as lies.
The Labour Party is happy with this consensus. Ed Milliband talks about flimsy rights for private tenants, but never council houses for everyone that needs one. That even these wet proposals were met with howls of outrage from landlords reveal a private rented sector that is now out of control. Buy-to-let landlords even complain that the money they make from rents barely even allows them to make a decent profit, nimbly forgetting that they are not only also being bought a property, but that someone is paying them to live in it and look after it for them. These parasites seem to think that houses are free, probably because they are if you’re rich and immoral enough to convince a bank to give you a buy-to-let mortgage.
In truth nothing shows up the failure of the free-market run rampant then the private rental sector. Rents are now so high that the tax payer spends billions each year topping up the rent of even those in work via Housing Benefit. We are paying a fortune to keep landlords rich, whilst thousands still go homeless. The idea that a competitive market leads to the best for consumers is rendered laughable by the private rental sector. It is the customer, the tenant, who has to compete, jumping through endless hoops and shelling out a fortune just to get a roof over their heads. Landlords don’t increase profits by improving the service they offer, but by failing to carry out repairs, hiking rents and evicting anyone who complains. On some of the many internet forums devoted to landlords the contempt they hold for their tenants is staggeringly apparent, especially if they happen to rent to people on benefits. No other business would dare treat their customers this way.
Landlords discriminate at will. The vile No Blacks No Irish No Dogs of the past has been replaced with No DSS, which in practice means no lone parents, no disabled people, no unemployed people, or put more simply no-one poor. This is probably illegal, but no-one seems to care how landlords behave. A survey carried out by the government in 2010 found that almost half of private rental sector housing failed to meet the Decent Homes Standards. Many did not even meet the very minimum health and safety standards required for housing. Don’t expect the Government to do anything about this, they believe that ‘peer pressure’ is better than regulation to manage private sector landlords.
From shortly after the second world war up until 1980 millions of council houses were built in England, Scotland and Wales. The answer to the housing crisis is boringly obvious. But instead of low cost secure social housing we get offered hugely expensive ‘affordable rents’ that no-one can afford. The so-called Living Wage isn’t even enough to pay Affordable Rents in many parts of the UK where they can run as high as several hundred pounds a week. The situation would be laughable if it wasn’t such a fucking disgrace and didn’t cause such acute suffering.
And yet not one of the politicians who claims to represent us will even consider any alternative to this profit-crazed exploitation of our most basic human need – a safe, secure and genuinely affordable home. This is hardly surprising. Around a third of MPs are landlords themselves. They really are all fucking in it together.
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