Friday 19 August 2011

Record Rent Increases Bad For Economy, Bad For First Time Buyers And Damaging To Social Cohesion

The Guardian reports record rent hikes
Today's Guardian is reporting that rents in England and Wales have risen to a record £705 per month with the sharpest rises in the South East. This is a sign of the chronic housing shortages and policy failure. It will have a detrimental effect on households at risk of eviction because of the government's controversial cuts to housing benefits (HB) and Local Housing Allowance (LHA). It will also be critically damaging for first time buyers trying to save a deposit and get onto the property ladder.

It's useful to consider how Hammersmith and Fulham's Conservative Administration approaches the housing issue as its leading councillors have been the key influence on the current government's housing policies.

This time last year Shelter forecast that 134,000 UK households could find themselves evicted or forced out because of the government's approach to HB/LHA. Local councils, such as my own, were tasked with dealing with the fall-out. It quickly became apparent that they intended to shun their legal responsibilities. To start, they turned a deaf ear to the many experts and charities that had begun to demonstrate what is likely to happen, they failed to carry out any comprehensive assessment of the issue for themselves and eventually attacked those that had. All shocking stuff when you consider that there are 25,000 local households that will be adversely affected in some way. Today's rent figures will exaggerate the problems they face and add to their chances of eviction.

Meanwhile, our Council's failure to enforce its obligation for new schemes to have sufficient affordable, decent accommodation to buy and rent is also compounding this problem at a local level. Indeed, not only does it bow to the wishes of private property speculators but H&F Conservatives have also successfully ensured that their pet housing associations, such as Notting Hill Housing Group, equally fail in these duties - even when they have an opportunity to do the right thing.

Statistics currently demonstrate that the average person in their early twenties, will not be able to get onto the property ladder until they're in their early fifties. Meanwhile, literally hundreds of thousands of UK families who are bringing up their children in miserable housing conditions are just beginning to discover that this government has slimmed their chances of getting a decent affordable home and cut their rights as future tenants.

The next Labour government will inherit a housing emergency. One that will have a massive effect on our economy and social cohesion. Today's news underlines the importance of having a government and local councils that understands these problems and come forward with policy platforms able to take us in a different, better direction.

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