To hear Nick Clegg talk on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, you’d think there was no housing crisis. There he was telling us how Housing Benefit needed to be capped and how the money saved from this would go towards the building of new ‘affordable homes’. He also said that social landlords (reported in this blog a few days ago) would be able to increase their rents to 80% of the so-called market rent. He denied that this would cause homelessness and force those on low wages to move out of places like London.
I find it breathtaking that Clegg would make the claim that his government’s economic policies would not lead to less homelessness when logic dictates that if the poor and the vulnerable have their benefits capped, they will be forced to live either in unsuitable accommodation or forced onto the streets. And this is a ‘price worth paying’ for economic growth? People clearly do not enter into the thinking of this government or the opposition who are still wedded to neoliberal economic policies. The cap on housing benefit will force people out of cities where they have established roots. It may also signal a return to Rachmanism in the private rented sector, where many landlords aren’t interested in the condition of their properties as long as they get the rent. What hasn’t been mentioned is the amount of housing benefit fraud that is committed by private landlords. The government’s logic here is simple: private landlords are entrepreneurs and benefit claimants are leeches.
On the other hand, many landlords refuse to offer accommodation to benefit claimants. What will happen to these people?
The government are fond of invoking the 19th century in their rhetoric. Now they seem determined to drag us back to the age of Dickens. Children will be forced up chimneys and into mines and the workhouse will make an unwelcome return. I can see the Hon Gid and IDS dusting off the Poor Law of 1834 as I write this.
However the question that remains is this: if the low waged and the unemployed are forced out of cities like London, who is going to clean up after the rich? They aren’t going to to it. Rich women don’t even give birth because they’re ‘too posh to push’. If we were to apply social Darwinism in reverse, the rich wouldn’t survive a day without the poor to do their dirty work for them.