I’ve been paying rent for 25 years and, yes, there have been periods where I claimed housing benefit. I believe in welfare. I want to pay tax, and I want my taxes to help people in need. But recent government decisions to cap benefits, coupled with a lack of housing and soaring rents, have now led to landlords Fergus and Judith Wilson publicly declaring that they will be evicting all tenants who receive housing benefit. I’m not interested in hearing Mr Wilson repeatedly justify their “purely economic decision”. I doubt his finances, fuelled by over 1000 properties he rents to people who can’t afford to buy, are dire. I doubt he wipes the condensation from his windows several times a day, or worries about the mould spores his children breathe in their damp, rented, accommodation. I really doubt he needs to make these people homeless in order to feed himself and his family. And yet all I’ve heard is his voice.
I want to know what’s happening to the people he’s evicted.
People now labelled, marred and presumably rendered homeless because they are either currently unemployed or on low pay and have no option but to claim housing benefit. (Only in their case the term “benefit” no longer applies, it’s a curse). I have my fingers crossed that in the coming days we’ll hear about how they were supported by their local council or housing association. My fingers are crossed, but I’m not holding my breath.
We all know that there is not enough social housing in this country. Yet the government and media choose to focus on the inaccessibility of the housing ladder for young people, and help to buy schemes. What about the waiting lists, Dave? The appalling homelessness figures? The middle aged saddos like me who face a lifetime of renting? A few years back my son and I had to move from a house we were privately renting because it was being sold. We ended up in a one bedroom back-to-back with no heating that cost an extra £25 a month in rent. It was the cheapest relatively decent place I could find at the time. Our neighbours included a family of seven – a grandmother and her partner sharing their one bedroom property with their daughter, her boyfriend and their three kids (including a baby). They lived like that for over a year until the young family were eventually housed by the local council. Seven people in a one-up-one-down for a year. In this day and age. This is unacceptable, but seemingly common, and paints a very clear picture about just how inadequate social housing is. And it doesn’t give me much hope for the families the Wilsons are evicting purely for “business” reasons.
“No DSS” has always been a fact of life when looking through the small ads for somewhere to live, but these evictions are new. The government have introduced the spare room subsidy (bedroom tax) in the belief people will move to smaller, privately rented properties, thus freeing up some social housing. But if the Wilsons’ recent action is anything to go by, the private sector will become increasingly inaccessible to people receiving housing benefit. So my question for Dave and his cabinet is this:
Where the fuck will they go?