Housing, it’s all about housing. Shepway District Council wish to allow 26,292 new houses to be built in the district between now and 2030/35. That’s a 54% increase of houses in the district which currently stands at approximately 48,000, when we already live in an area where water is scarcer per person than it is per person in Morocco or Egypt
We need housing, we need social housing, truly “affordable” housing and local wages which allow local people to buy the housing, because the number of households receiving housing benefit to pay rent to private landlords has risen 42% since 2008, according to the National Housing Federation.
In Shepway in 2014/15 private landlords or their agents were paid a little over £2.6 million. And we have a market not just skewed towards landlords, but rigged by, and for them.
Today, the rented sector has become even more of a medieval fiefdom. Three million children are now in bad housing. The Conservatives voted against making housing fit for human habitation. Their MPs filibustered on revenge evictions. Their systematic running down of our social housing stock has ended in vast state subsidies to landlords via housing benefit, the cost of which is then punitively taken out on the poorest renters via the bedroom tax and benefit cap.
In 2015/16 In Shepway we paid to private Landlords or their agents close to £2.6 million.
Now young people could buy a house if they east less avocado toast, was the headline; which we personally find offensive. And talking of offensive, back in 2016, Conservative MPs voted against proposed new rules requiring private sector landlords to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation.
And in 2016/17 Shepway Landlords and/or their agents received a little over £2.4 million.
Housing Benefit is paid to households that cannot afford to meet their rental costs and have enough left over for essentials such as food, clothes, heating and lighting. Almost half the households in the private rented sector that receive housing benefit are in work, but not earning enough to cover the rent and living expenses, this includes sitting Councillors.
Inaction on low pay and high rents has meant that wages haven’t kept pace with housing costs, and so more people are struggling to afford their rent. This has meant huge growth in the number of working people now receiving housing benefit to help make ends meet and led to an overall increase in the B&B bill SDC pay.
Meanwhile both Chelsea Properties Limited and Richard John Overton who have offshore companies in Gibraltar and the British Virgin Islands respectively are doing very nicely out of Housing Benefit payments, and it is perfectly legitimate what they are doing.
A major cause of the ballooning housing benefit bill, according to experts, is the dearth of “affordable” housing. The number of “affordable” homes built in 2013/14 and 14/15 was the lowest in a decade – despite the UK’s population rising by five million over the past 12 years, a rate of growth unequalled anywhere in Europe.
This has meant that between 2014 – 2017 Shepway private landlords or their agents have received over £6.7 million in Housing Benefit payments.
Housing has become less affordable in all sectors over many years. Mounting demand for housing coupled with inadequate supply over the long-term has resulted in a housing crisis signified by unaffordable home ownership and unaffordable rents.
The average house price in England is now £234,466 – a rise in real terms of 268% over the last two decades. House prices have climbed at more than twice the rate of earnings. This means that average earnings would need to double with no change in average house price for home ownership to return to affordable levels last seen in 1997.
Rising rents in both the private sector and in so-called affordable rents in the housing association sector are becoming less affordable over time. The average rent is 43% of average earnings in the private sector and 30% for affordable rents.
Achieving more affordable lives generally is being held back by the decline in full-time and secure employment, replaced by part-time and zeros hours employment, and the rise in low paid self-employment. This has been exacerbated by welfare reforms, and has precipitated a rise in poverty – especially child poverty.
Social tenants are especially subject to financial exclusion, reliance upon low incomes, welfare benefits and high-cost lenders, and have seen their standard of living decline appreciably in recent years. This is linked to the large proportions of their income spent on food, fuel and transport, which have seen above inflation increases.
Low income households have borne the brunt of the squeeze on incomes since 2010 and will be the main losers by 2020. The bottom 40% can expect real terms decreases in incomes over the next four years, while the top 40% will see their incomes rise.
These trends fit with long-term widening of income and wealth inequality. The top 1% of earners now have a greater share of incomes (at about 20%) than at any time since WWI. The top 10% own 45% of national wealth while the bottom 50% own 9%. The wealthiest fifth of households own 117 times the wealth of the bottom fifth.
Some solutions include a massive investment in social and other forms of affordable housing, potential rent control in the private sector, enabling social and other renters to control their housing and community assets, greater access to affordable credit, the introduction of a real living wage and possibly a citizens’ income, reversal of welfare reforms, and introduction of more progressive taxation and a wealth tax.
Tomorrow is polling day in the General Election and you can decide with your vote to change things. We need a government both nationally and locally who will work with the people to provide the housing which is so desperately needed, like social housing and “truly affordable housing” in places and locations that the people want it, rather than imposed on them. Vote wisely people.
The Shepwayvox Team
There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in this blog post have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.