The real-life hunger games
The Tories’ divide and conquer strategy is certainly paying off. We had strivers vs skivers. We had unemployment benefits vs working tax credits. Now it’s time for private vs social tenants. To quote Suzanne Collins:
“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour!”
They are not but some people buy into the rhetoric anyway and believe the government. The recent upheaval is about private tenants not being subjected to the bedroom tax. This is not so.
Housing benefit for tenants is called local housing allowance. As a previously single and working person, I could have had a four bedroom house because I could afford it. Once I lost my job in 2010, my housing benefit would only pay for one bedroom. This is absolutely fair – either I pay more for the big house or move to smaller accommodation.
Since April 2012, however, they decided that a single person aged 25-35 is only entitled to a shared rate. This means that, living as I am in a one-bed flat, I would either have to pay the difference (£25 a week in my case) to stay here or rent a room.
So far, so good. Here are the problems with moving house when you are on benefits:
- No DSS, no smokers, no pets restrictions in most ads – I cannot even arrange a viewing because the first question asked is: do you work? Why? I assume it is because landlords are fed up with people being late with their rent whenever the council screws up.
- No money for the move – I don’t know anyone with a van. I don’t even have a car. Moving costs are extortionate. Impossible if you are struggling to pay for basic sustenance.
- In my area, renting a one-bedroom flat costs exactly the same as renting a room (and it does not include bills).
- The small problem of my disability. I do not want to go into details to preserve my anonymity but it does have impact on the household. You would not want to share with me if only so that you do not have to watch me suffer.
Our rents line private individuals’ pockets – the same people who contributed to the housing boom by artificially increasing demand by means of zero percent interest-only mortgages with tracker rates that actually meant that at some stages they were paying no mortgage at all as the interest rates were so low.
Private lets are usually in poor state of repair. LHA is paid at the 30th percentile of all rents in area. You could easily infer that they are in the bottom 30% of all houses available for rent. What follows are old boilers, draughty windows and threadbare carpets that soaked up tears of people affected by Thatcher’s government (mining was big in my area back in the day). Private let also means that you cannot change anything in the house – you need the landlords permission for everything. Then, with a two-month notice period, it’s too risky to invest into something you might lose before the summer.
If you are poor, you are in the same boat as other poor people. It does not matter if you work, cannot work or cannot find a job. It does not matter if you are a social tenant, home owner or private tenant. You struggle with bills and shopping. You have no security and no hope. Don’t let the rich manipulate you. You and I are in this together – they are cushioned by their tax-free, offshore wealth.