Tag Archives: social housing

Squaring Up to The Bedroom Tax: Resistance Grows Around the UK

bedroom-taxResistance to the Bedroom Tax, which will lead to thousands of people at risk of imminent homelessness, is sweeping across the UK.

From this April, council tenants with a spare room will see vital housing benefits cut by an average of £15 a week.  This will see those who are unemployed, on low incomes, or out of work due to sickness or disability, facing paying a huge chunk of paltry benefits towards keeping a roof over their heads.

Along with changes to Council Tax Benefits, and soaring fuel and water bills, some claimants could find themselves left with virtually nothing left at all to buy food. Amongst those hit will be parents whose children have recently left home, separated parents, foster carers and disabled people living in specially adapted properties.  Around 660,000 tenants are estimated to be affected by the change.

The Government has demanded that tenants should just move if they have a problem paying the extra costs.  Yet there is a woeful supply of one bedroom social housing meaning transfers to smaller properties in most cases will be impossible.  This is likely to lead to an exodus of social housing tenants to the private sector – where rents are far higher.  Not for the first time this policy seems to be more about attacking the very poorest and undermining social housing then actually saving money.

Tenants are now acting together to resist these changes, with news of meetings, campaigns and actions happening across the UK.  Here’s a list, which is far from exhaustive, of some of what’s been organised so far.  Please feel free to add details of anything that’s been missed in the comments.

Liverpool – A wide network has emerged opposing the bedroom tax with a ‘Ruckus at Mutual Homes’ on Wednesday 7th February at noon.  Astonishingly the Chairman of Liverpool Mutual Homes proposed workfare for tenants to make up the rent shortfall.  For details of the protest visit: http://www.facebook.com/events/472210886178901/

Several local planning meetings are being held around Liverpool in the next few weeks – for full details visit: http://combatbedroomtax.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/liverpool-tenants-meetings-housing.html

Glasgow – Groups including Black Triangle Campaign, Govan Law Centre  and Glasgow Housing Action are all agitating against the bedroom tax with some form of action inevitable. A meeting has also been called by the Socialist Party Scotland on February 11th: http://www.facebook.com/events/615638345129882/ whilst Coalition Of Resistance have a meeting on the 13th.

Edinburgh – Similar mobilisations are taking place.  A call has also gone out on facebook for a protest against the bedroom tax in Scotland on March 30th: http://www.facebook.com/events/369488576491663/

Leeds – A website is up and a meeting has already been held in Seacroft, with a further meeting being held in Armley on February 14th.  Full details at: http://leedshandsoffourhomes.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/armley-stop-the-bedroom-tax-meeting/

London – A protest has been called on March 30th when campaigners will meet at Trafalgar Square then walk down to Downing Street to literally hand over the shirts off their backs – full details at: http://www.facebook.com/events/147409045413846/

A meeting in London recently took place in which a new network to fight all the welfare cuts was established including DPAC, Right To Work, Defend Council Housing as well as the PCS and UNITE Unions – more info at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2013/01/campaign-for-benefit-justice-sign-up-to-our-statement-against-tory-attacks-on-the-poor/

And there is of course the inevitable petition aimed at scrapping the bedroom tax at: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Paul_Higgins/

Finally worthy of a mention is the SPeye blog which has featured some of the best coverage of the bedroom tax, including revealing that despite Tory lies, it seems many pensioners will be hit by the tax.

Please tweet, share and spread the word about all groups and events.  It’s early days yet and networks are still being formed and co-ordinated.  If your group is organising a meeting, action or protest then please spam the fuck out of the comments below.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Affordable Housebuilding Collapses – and it’s going to get worse

soup-kitchenFigures released today show that genuinely affordable housebuilding – meaning housing that most people can afford to actually live in – has dropped by 28% in the last year.

According to the National House Building Council, the number of public sector housing registrations dropped from 36,680 in 2011, to 26,390 in 2012.  This dwarfed a small rise in private sector house building, meaning the number of new homes built overall in the UK fell by 9% last year.

The devastating loss of social provision is only likely to get worse over the next year.  Social Housing providers have warned that they may have to cut new house building by 8% simply because of the impact of Universal Credit.  Early pilots of Iain Duncan Smith’s sweeping overhaul of the benefits system showed that arrears doubled in areas where the new payment system was trialled.  Housing Associations are stockpiling cash rather than building houses due to fears of an oncoming wave of arrears and evictions.

Not to be outdone, Housing Minister Mark Prisk is determined to make the situation even worse.  Prisk recently squandered almost a million pounds of tax payer’s money promoting the very same Right To Buy policies that created the desperate lack of affordable housing in the UK.

In many parts of the UK even so called ‘affordable homes’ can cost more in weekly rent than the wages from a minimum wage job will pay, or those on even average incomes can afford.  Recent changes to legislation could see Social Housing providers charging rents at 80% of the local private sector average.  In parts of London ‘affordable’ rents could be upwards of a thousand pounds a month, even in the outer boroughs.

With housing benefits being slashed, a collapse in social housing and private rents soaring out of control, millions may soon found themselves at very real risk of homelessness.   The safety net of the welfare state is no longer strong enough for even the working poor to be able to afford a place to sleep

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

8% Less New Houses Built Due to Universal Credit Warns Housing Association Boss

eviction_noticeA director of one of London largest housing associations has warned that house building and provision of new properties has been scaled down due to fears about the upcoming changes to the benefits system.

Speaking before the Public Accounts Committee today, Mike Donaldson, a director of social housing provider L&Q, warned of a double whammy with evictions and arrears set to rise under the new regime.  The impact of this will be that housing associations will be unable to spend cash building new homes meaning a toxic combination of fewer homes and more homeless people.

Such are his organisation’s fears of the oncoming debt tsunami that Donaldson claimed they had already cut the number of new properties provided over the last year from 1000 to 920, a fall of 8%.

Benefits are to be paid monthly under the new system and payments will go direct to tenants, leading to fears that some of those on the lowest income may find managing money difficult and fall into arrears.  On top of this a ‘bedroom tax’ will mean claimants having money docked from benefits, leaving them with either a weekly shortfall or forced to move.

Donaldson’s shocking admission comes on the day that information from pilot schemes to test the new payment system was announced by the DWP.  The figures suggest that rent arrears have doubled in the pilot areas, even though many of the most vulnerable tenants have not been included in the pilots.  No tests of the new system had taken place for tenants in the private sector, where around 30% of claimants have rent payments sent direct to their landlords.

With homelessness already soaring it seems that everyday this Government does something to make the problem worse.  The cardboard cities which emerged in London under the last Tory government may yet become a feature of every major city in the UK.

You can watch the meeting of the Public Affairs Committee, which also includes questions on the Work Programme (haven’t watched it yet so don’t know what was said) at: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/main/Player.aspx?meetingId=12123

Join the Housing for the 99% protests in London tomorrow (Tuesday 18th December)