Just the tip of the PRS-Berg


Conservative Policy Freezes Renters Out

What does the fate of The Titanic have to do with the British Housing Crisis? The Captain of that vast ship was warned of impending disaster well in advance, but ignored all warnings, instead choosing to stay his course even though it meant condemning the ship’s occupants to their doom.

The newly reinstated Conservative Government has cast itself in the same captain-as-executioner role, blithely ignoring the escalation of the housing crisis, and heading for a collision with the ‘PRS-berg; a collision so deadly in implication, its fall-out it cannot be underestimated.

Government has no idea of the breadth and depth of the Private Rented Sector, like the iceberg of lore, it hides below the surface. A case in point is that “Newham Council estimated there were 4-5,000 landlords operative in its borough, but by March 2015 over 22,500 landlords had come forward to be issued with licenses. Newham Council made an under-estimate of 18,500 landlords, in other words, there were roughly 80% more landlords operating than the Council knew about.

The unknown quantity of the sector, has allowed it so far, to ‘absorb’ much of the overflow of the population forced out of previously council owned homes, and out of their mortgages, as austerity measures have taken precedence over human rights. Please note that I use the term ‘absorb’ loosely here, to delineate hidden homelessness, concealed families, and illegal properties such as over-crowded houses and unregistered HMO’s. Apparently this state of affairs is more preferable to our country’s leaders, than say, a committed re-haul of the failing housing programme, and investing in building some more homes? Is it really our best option to continue to allow over £9 Billion of tax payer’s money to be sucked into the housing-benefit whirlpool?

Conservative Government' neoliberal talk of the PRS market being 'self-regulating', and not wanting to scare away investors with licensing and ‘controls,’ chimes grotesquely at odds with the increasing numbers of citizens dying homeless on the streets of Britain. Thirty-three of our Local Authorities have had a wearingly sociopathic response to that too.

A recalibrated danger in the Tories’ arson, is the Extension of their Right to Buy policy, akin to firing cannonballs into the already-sinking -remnants of the social housing stock; This extended policy which intends to sell off Housing Associations into private ownership, ensures that it passes over the pressure-gauntlet onto the PRS and the tax-payer. Rather than building more homes, the Government is instead, reducing the stock of social housing, by selling off the most valuable at cut-throat discounts. As with the evidence already amassed this can only exacerbate the under-supply issue.

The crisis that looms has already hit the most vulnerable, and wrought countless damages to economy, to the faith of tenants, and the morale of those, not just in the rented sector, but owner-occupiers marooned in declining neighbourhoods where absentee landlords reign supreme.

Such policy conditions will only lead to further victims of food, fuel and rent poverty. With Dickensian- era living conditions and instability rapidly crystallizing into the ‘norm’ for the majority of this country’s renters, someone has to ask the question- when will we save ourselves? The last lifeboats are already leaving…and our cabinet ministers are on them.
Are we serious about surviving? The re-election of a Conservative Government would suggest otherwise.

The hidden suffering that has come to light as a result of the declining housing sector is encapsulated by the 50,000 families who have been ‘shipped out’ of London due to ‘reforms’ under our last Government, such as Local Housing Allowance Caps which don’t take into account the spiralling cost of rents in the capital, or elsewhere for that matter.

“In 2010, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, vowed that the controversial welfare reforms would not lead to “Kosovo-style social cleansing”, pledging: “You are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have been living.”
That is exactly what we have seen, and the impact has been brutal; with their lives uprooted many families cannot cope:
“ The Independent has uncovered cases of depression, attempted suicide and the miscarriage of a child involving those forced to move many miles away by their councils…

In many cases, councils are not telling each other when they move families, leaving vulnerable adults and children without the support they need. “ 

Other symptoms of the jarring impact of the housing crisis are to be found in the most recent Citizens of Advice Bureaux findings, where between July and September 2014, the Citizens of Advice Bureaux helped 22,000 people with over 30,000 issues related to their privately rented homes and in those three months saw:
7 % increase in people struggling to get their deposit back.
15 % increase in the number of cases of harassment and illegal evictions
14 % increase in repair and maintenance issues
While the above statistics sound less frightening than the fact that tens of thousands of families have been secretly shipped out of their communities over the last Government’s term, they hint at just how much more quickly and closer that iceberg is approaching.

If you think it’s time to Save Our Souls, get on board with Generation Rent’s campaigns.


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