Socialist Worker

Housing report exposes the misery of private renters as landlords grab more cash

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2621

 

The private rental sector is booming thanks to a lack of social housing

The private rental sector is booming thanks to a lack of social housing (Pic: Tim Green/Flickr)


Money-grabbing landlords, a lack of social housing and sky-high rents are fuelling a private rental sector that means many suffer in insecure, unsafe homes.

A new report based on research from two University of York academics provides damning evidence.

“Declining home ownership and a shortage of social rented homes have led to a surge in the number of people privately renting,” said Julie Rugg, one of the review’s authors.

Rugg and her colleague David Rhodes point out that many accounts of the housing crisis focus on what is “­affordable” for middle income households.

Their report gives a wider view of the market and it shows what housing campaigners and tenants have been saying for years—that the ­poorest are disproportionately affected.

It hones in on changes to benefits that have affected people privately renting. Caps on housing benefit since 2011 have led to “a progressive mismatch between asking rents and the level of support available to low?income families”.

It singles out the transfer to Universal Credit as “likely to exacerbate ­tenants’ financial precarity”.

And “the accompanying sanctions regime places tenants at increased risk of a sudden fall in benefit income, so undermining any ability to meet a housing benefit shortfall”.

Right wingers like to pretend that people prefer to rent privately because it gives them “flexibility”. The study explodes that myth, and many others.

Shadow

It shows how the most desperate are forced into the worst kinds of ­private housing. The authors describe a “shadow” private rent market.

Some 80 percent of recent migrants are forced to rent privately because of the lack of social housing.

That busts another right wing myth—that migrants snap up social housing. There is a social housing crisis, but scarcity is not down to migration.

The review found widespread ­evidence of homes failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard measures introduced in 2000.

In social housing, a fifth of properties with the highest rents failed to meet the standard. A third of social housing at the bottom of the rent scale met it.

The report calls for a landlords and letting agents’ registration system, with a stringent licensing system.

Yet at the same time it gives reasons why such recommendations may not be carried out.

“Even where the law is unambiguous, there is a lack of effective enforcement,” reads the report. “It is estimated that fewer than two per cent of all privately rented properties were formally inspected in 2013-14.”

Enforcement teams have had their numbers slashed while the number of people privately renting has doubled in some local authority areas, according to the authors.

Something has to give, and it won’t be the Tories unless they are forced to.


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