The emails are dropping into my inbox in a flurry of last minute electioneering from all Labour candidates for the leadership election and London mayor.
I can’t remember how or when this happened or who said it in the first place, but I do recall a phrase: “people vote with their pocket” becoming very popular in the 1990s.
Thing is, for someone on Employment and Support Allowance and claiming Housing Benefit the pocket is that much more vulnerable than someone on a salary or with a second income to support them.
Particularly when they are trying to find somewhere to live in the shark pool that is the London rental market.
Now some of the candidates mention ‘affordable housing.’ I believe it’s Sadiq Khan who in their manifesto says that one initiative they’ll adopt is reclassifying ‘affordable housing’ as 50% of the market rate, as opposed to the 80% that it is now.
80% of the market rate in most parts of London does NOT make it affordable to someone who is either on benefits or low pay and neither does 50%.
Here’s a quote from Rightmove:
“Last year most property sales in London involved flats which sold for on average £456,984. Terraced properties sold for an average price of£591,112, while semi-detached properties fetched £559,693.”
That’s purchase price, a housing solution impossible to someone on benefits because of the lack of credit status due to not having a salary.
The Guardian reports that the average monthly rental figure in London is now £1,500.00 or £18.0000 every year. My ‘income’ from housing benefit is £10, 909 per annum and Employment and Support Allowance is £6000.00 per annum.
You do the math.
Having spent almost all of my available energy and time – in short supply with my health condition MECFS – over the last few weeks searching for a new place to live, I’ve developed my own housing manifesto.
Here it is:
- Eradicate Right To Buy for all council and housing association properties in the capital, effective immediately.
- Initiate legislation that all councils supply a fixed percentage of social housing and must prioritize creation of social housing over property development of other categories.
- Take the burden of responsibility of building affordable housing out of the hands of private developers whilst retaining the legislation requiring them to build a percentage per build.
- Initiate audits of empty council owned property and land with the aim of identifying where vacant properties and land can be developed for social housing / affordable housing.
- The priority for development in such land / properties is for affordable council housing rather than sale or alternative development.
- Change the council housing application process so that tenants who have below a certain annual income and are in receipt of Support Group ESA due to a long term health condition, are regarded as banding A / B priority in terms of housing, regardless of associated issues that would traditionally increase banding.
- Initiate an income-based review annually of all existing council tenancies.
- Incorporate an income-based assessment of council tenants on application regardless of associated issues that increase banding.
- End legacy council tenancies.
- Initiate a ‘fair rent’ policy whereby across London, properties that meet an agreed minimum standard should be priced at a ‘fair rate.’
- Repeal the measures affecting landlords’ tax which took place in the emergency budget of 2015.
- Councils are required to do outreach work with private landlords, including estate agencies, to educate them about Housing Benefit and the Equalities Act.
- Councils require legislation to force them to do this work.
- Councils require legislation to force them to provide a preferred landlord list of landlords who will accept social housing / DSS tenants.
- Councils / Housing Law must force private landlords to have had their properties inspected to gain a license, prior to them being allowed to rent those properties, to meet agreed housing standards.
- This license is awarded annually after a check of the property. If the landlord does not meet the improvements identified from that check, if necessary, the landlord has a financial penalty.
- There is a preferred list of tradespeople who have passed competency certificates for their trades, that Councils hold.
- This preferred list of tradespeople is used to advise landlords as to who to employ in the maintenance, upkeep and remodeling of their properties.
- This preferred list of tradespeople requires trade standards and experience that are identified in law.
- It is enshrined in law that landlords must perform an annual check of all electrical appliances within their properties. At the moment this only covers gas.
- Councils / Housing Law will require landlords to sign a separate agreement with the Council as to their approach and treatment of housing benefit / social tenants.
- Councils must not advise housing benefit tenants in private rented housing to remain in the property and ‘get evicted’ when private landlords reasonably and within the limits of the law, wish to break the lease.
- Mortgage companies need to amend their terms and conditions in buy to let properties to include the possibility of renting to part-time earners and housing benefit tenants.
- Councils have a ‘flag’ system whereby private tenants can flag being at risk of homelessness due to the gap between rental prices and income.
- Tenants that have been ‘flagged’ in this way automatically become under a Council’s remit to re-house in social housing regardless of prior banding or associated need.
- Councils must increase the discretionary housing payment to cover all of the advance fees required for tenants in private rented properties to move between private rented properties, when in receipt of housing benefit.
- Eradicate the risk of benefit sanctions or suspension of housing benefit claim when moving between one privately rented property and another.
- Housing Benefit becomes an allowance that follows the claimant, rather than something that follows a rental contract. It is automatically allowed when the claimant meets agreed criteria.
- The Whistleblowing policy: In the case of a private housing tenant on housing benefit flagging issues of disrepair or poor quality housing, the Council has a legal right to protect and re-house them in the way that whistleblowers are protected in law at work.
And the biggies:
Create a duty of care between Councils and claimants who meet certain criteria in terms of housing need and medical need.
Councils have a dedicated team who work with private landlords and estate agencies to house tenants in receipt of housing benefit.
Reverse the austerity cuts to Housing Benefit initiated by the Coalition Government so that Housing Benefit will cover rent required in London.
Increase the Housing Benefit cap for sharing properties so that Housing Benefit will cover the cost of shared renting in London.
After the points above are implemented, enshrine in Law that it is illegal for private landlords or estate agents to reject social tenants / tenants that are claiming Housing Benefit.
© Lindy 2015