Bedroom tax condemns homes to demolition because they are too expensive for families

The obvious solution: The government should be helping build new social housing - not forcing the demolition of what little there is.

The obvious solution: The government should be helping build new social housing – not forcing the demolition of what little there is.

If the government really wants to make larger social accommodation available to overcrowded families, why are housing associations knocking them down?

They have to go because the Bedroom Tax has made them too expensive, according to The Guardian.

The story, published yesterday, is another nail in the coffin of Iain Duncan Smith’s credibility. It doesn’t matter how many polls the Conservatives produce to support their claim that people agree with them; in practice, it simply doesn’t work.

Housing associations are finding three-bedroomed properties impossible to maintain. They cannot let them out, sell them or keep up with the costs of keeping them while they are empty.

All of this has serious implications for the Coalition government that voted the Bedroom Tax onto the statute books as part of Mr ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith’s hugely unpopular – and now proving to be unworkable – Welfare Reform Act last year.

On Tuesday, MPs will debate the future of the Tax, when Labour members are expected to vote for its immediate repeal. Senior Liberal Democrats are also believed to have doubts – The Guardian (again) has quoted Danny Alexander’s father as saying it is “particularly unfair”.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves has overcome a shaky start in her role as shadow Work and Pensions Secretary to get right on-message with this. According to The Guardian report, she said: “This incompetent and out of touch government seems oblivious to the perverse and costly consequences of this unjust and unworkable policy.

“Not only is it hitting 660,000 vulnerable households, including 440,000 disabled people; the costs to the taxpayer are mounting as people are pushed into more expensive private rented accommodation while existing social homes are left vacant.”

Of course, Dear Reader, she’s right. You read it here first – all the way back in October last year.

Surely it makes more sense to have someone living in these properties, rather than losing them altogether? Does the government have an answer for this?

Apparently not. A government spokes-robot trotted out the same tired nonsense we’ve all come to despise: “The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform that will return fairness to housing benefit. We’ve been clear that hardworking people should not be subsidising tenants living in properties that are too large for their requirements.”

Let’s all remember that there never was a spare room subsidy for the government to remove. It never existed. Therefore its removal is not a necessary reform; it can never be vital to remove something that is fictional. Also, the removal of a fictional thing cannot restore fairness anywhere.

Hard-working people probably shouldn’t be subsidising tenants who are under-occupying, but then hard-working people were never the only ones paying for this to happen. Everybody in the UK pays taxes one way or another – even children.

And while we’re on the subject of what hard-working people subsidise, why is it bad for them to help people stay in the social housing that was originally allocated to them, but good for them to help massive corporations keep their payroll costs down by paying tax credits, housing benefit and council tax reduction costs for people earning less than the Living Wage? Why is it good for them to pay the cost of MPs’ energy bills as well as their own?

“Consent from the Homes and Communities Agency is required before any social housing provider can dispose of a site on which social housing stood and will ensure that public investment and the needs of tenants are protected,” the robot continued, but we should all know that this will be no obstacle.

Demolition of social housing means land becomes available for private developers to build new, luxury homes for the very rich.

That’s where the big money is.

29 thoughts on “Bedroom tax condemns homes to demolition because they are too expensive for families

  1. Robert Fillies

    Another well written piece explaining the pitfalls of the bedroom tax, and its many consequences for the future of the provision of social housing(which of course should never have been sold off). We are reaping the consequences of that mistake of tory government now and as far as one could see into the future.

  2. Robert Fillies

    And let’s not forget that RTU or as he is otherwise known IDS seems of late to be keeping a very low profile, unusual as past history shows he likes to huff, puff and bluster in the justification of his policies whenever possible.

    1. Can't remember

      Looks like this Big Bad Wolf has done what the other Big Bad Wolf couldn’t: – huffed and puffed and blown several thousand brick houses down.

      You’ll be pleased to hear that my brain’s fresh out of puns – I’m too Jacobed!

    2. Kay Lowe

      He’s supposed to be called before the work and pensions committee to explain himself. The DWP accounts for 2011/12 have also still not been produced, I believe. No wonder he’s in hiding!

      PS. Mike, good to see someone else banging the same drum about how everyone pays taxes (even kids), not just employed people 😉

  3. Big Bill

    If we can’t subsidise spare rooms people don’t need then why are taxes taken from us to subsidise spare LAND people don’t need? The DWP’s argument is nonsense.

    1. Big Bill

      It does, it wants poor people to move out so their homes can be demolished and plush apartments built for their wealthy tax-dodging chums to use as an asset class. Britain’s going to be predator central. Well, it is now, the City’s here, but it’ll become more obviously predatorial.

  4. Steve

    I always thought it was a house (The Whole House) we were renting and Not a Bedroom… Or is it only me that thinks this.?

    1. jed goodright

      the whole notion of a ‘spare bedroom subsidy’ is an invention – why nobody has picked up on this I don’t know. There is nowhere in the legislation, nowhere in rental agreements about ‘spare room subsidy’ – once again the opposition have missed a very obvious target for ridicule and challenge – they behave as if the tories are correct – even in today’s debate nobody has challenged the whole notion of ‘spare room subsidy’ – they blather about ‘bedroom tax’

      1. jed goodright

        additionally, the coalition are trying to redefine ‘social housing’ much like they are redefining social care – ie for those in ‘greatest need’ – it is all an ideological programme of blaming the poor/disabled/unemployed for the so called economic crisis caused by the financiers and bankers and politicians

  5. Deborah Harrington

    Your final paragraph, “Consent from the Homes and Communities Agency is required before any social housing provider can dispose of a site on which social housing stood and will ensure that public investment and the needs of tenants are protected,” the robot continued, but we should all know that this will be no obstacle.’ is spot on. Of course people won’t be rushing off to check what the Homes and Community Agency is, or what it actually does, but I have posted about it before, elsewhere, because it appears to exist only to speed up and facilitate the identification and disposal of publicly owned land and property. In theory local community projects are offered first refusal on anything for sale by the HCA, but in reality (amongst other things) community projects have to raise the money, at market rates, in advance of the purchase. Private investors, on the other hand, are offered a ‘buy now, pay later’ scheme, where they are not expected to pay until they have completed their development and made their profits.

    So not only are all these policies designed to remove families from adequate housing and leave large swathes of that housing inaccessible to them, there are also policies in the background to remove that property entirely from public ownership with all speed. If hospital grounds and publicly owned housing (and ex royal mail) stock is built on by the private sector then no amount of re nationalisation at a later date by a different government can magic it back.

    Top this off with the help to buy scheme for individual purchase refuelling a housing bubble which will push private rents even higher and it is clear that when this process is finished we will end up with a toxic combination. Out of work and low income workers – individuals or families – will remain in overcrowded and inappropriate accommodation, with no hope of improvement. Families under stress have a greater potential for breakdown and surely this can only lead to greater street homelessness? And meanwhile the housing benefit cost to the state will escalate to genuinely untenable levels as inflated rents for 2 bedroomed properties replace the modest and affordable payments for 3 bed roomed council properties. Just as the cost to the state of the NHS escalates as privatisation spreads.

    All of the government’s policies is driven by the bottom line of wealth creation. That is to say the transformation of public monies, whether from previous investment or current tax incomes, into wealth (in the form of land ownership) for the corporate sector. Every step along the way concentrates wealth into fewer hands. Whilst a future government may well decide to instigate a massive and corrective building programme it will be increasingly difficult to fund as buying land back at market values is obviously far more expensive than building on land we already publicly own. The policies of today are surely creating a long lasting bleak future for our society as a whole.

      1. Deborah Harrington

        Land Value Tax – set at appropriate levels – might well start to have a corrective effect on the housing market. One of the reasons the London housing market remains buoyant (and has seen an increase of 10% so far this year) is that foreign investors benefit from the fact that we have no land value or wealth taxes to speak of. Our council tax rates are disproportionately high for properties of lower value and virtually non-existent proportionately for high values. 40% of land in London is now in foreign ownership (I mean in a non-Dom sense) where money has been parked to earn approximately 10% interest from rentals with a tax regime so light as to be laughable. The majority of purchasers of £1m+ houses are cash buyers. We are the world’s biggest tax haven. And we do it mostly through property.

        Of course the fundamental reason why no political party will touch this with a barge pole is that a serious correction of the market will bring house prices down considerably. And what politician could risk suggesting that in a ‘property owning democracy’ where the main problem for young working people is presented as a standard of living crisis in which they cannot ‘get a foot on the housing ladder’. The solution is presented in terms of support for mortgages, lower deposits, help with deposits, shared ownership. No-one says increased council rent properties, long unfurnished leases in the private sector, rent controls, lower house prices, money regulation so that banks can’t allow more combined credit debt than x% of income.

        In fact no-one seems to be suggesting sanity…

      2. Big Bill

        Since mortgages consist of banks creating credit from nowhere then charging huge interest on it, and paying this off takes up most of the efforts of the average working life, I’d suggest mortgages should be done away with. We have a central bank which can create money, being fiat it needs to be backed with proportionate wealth to keep its value. The central bank can create money and have new houses built for people with it. No more mortgages. They’ve only ever been a scam. I’m not sure how we’d compensate people who’ve already paid though.

      3. Deborah Harrington

        Well, having read your article I’d say we are singing from the same song sheet! You are quite right. The government is the only body who is allowed to create ‘money’ as people know it, in terms of hard coin and paper currency, but this accounts for a paltry 3% of all ‘money’ in existence. Not only do commercial banks create the other 97% out of thin air, but there’s no legislation that prevents them, as our laws relating to money creation were created before anyone imagined electronic money. It means that 97% only exists on balance sheets and that with every credit deposit in an account – to create a mortgage for example – a simultaneous debit has to be created to equal it. That 97% exists, therefore, purely as money owed. Most people think, of course, that loans are related to savings, and that mortgages effectively come from a huge amalgamation of other people’s bank deposits. In fact the mortgage money is created only for the duration of the loan and disappears the day the loan is paid off, leaving the bank with all the interest with which to pay its salaries, bonuses, shareholder profit and all for lending ….. nothing! We live almost entirely in a debt economy. And our personal debt burden exceeds that of the country by miles. That is where the effort should be made to reduce the debt, the national debt can manage perfectly well without draconian cuts in our social security and NHS. The national debt, of course, is made of ‘real’ money, unlike our personal debt!

  6. Joe smith

    Why is Ian Duncan Smith hiding in deep cover? Is it, the hacking trial? Cameron never camera shy, has also gone very quiet. So, anyone else feeling uneasy? Or is it IDS’s embarrassing defeats over his flawed policies which have caused so much hurt and despair to those who cannot defend themselves? Or has IDS been warned that someone or a group or organisation may be plotting serious criminal charges against him? You can hear the silence. Now, some suggestions. 1. The expenses scandals have not gone away; MPs are just better at concealment. Let’s publish the big earners. 2. Let’s highlight / promote / publicise IDS’s, Shapps’, Cameron’s broken promises, (every one he made in 2010), bedroom tax failures, DWP covering up deaths from benefit cuts etc etc and the fact that the FOI has been effectively gagged by this Government. We need rid of these scum.

    1. Big Bill

      If, as is suggested, the whole point of the benefits cap and the bedroom tax is to tax poor people off the land so it can be cleared and redeveloped into properties for the wealthy then IDS is spearheading a very important project. I don’t suppose Cameron et al care much either way what happens to the benefits system so long as the lands are cleared. This idea also makes sense of the involvement of Freud. I’ve never been quite happy with this idea of him as the bumbling hapless sort, school of Boris, he’s plopped up from deep beds of shit smelling of roses and wealthy too many times for it to be coincidence. I’ve wondered whether underneath it all he might not actually be a very clever man and if he’s deiberately designed a disguised reverse LVT, as he seems to have done, then he is indeed that.

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  8. Joe smith

    There’s an epetition calling for the benefits inflation cap of 1%. Benefits should increase by the higher rate of inflation. This cap is fining the least well off in our badly flawed society, this Government is deliberately wilfully creating divisions in our society and not even doing that with any skill.
    Sign the petition they need lots of support within the next six weeks.

    1. Joe smith

      I’ve been doing some research, what I’ve found is worrying and disturbing, I’ve noticed an e petition calling for a general election which over 15,000 have signed, however, the government has responded by saying that as a result of the “fixed term parliament act 2011, which states that unless a government is unable to govern as a result of cabinet no confidence vote a five year term is an absolute with the public having no say in the matter. As a consequence, no matter how stupidly crass and self seeking the Government is (as this lot are) we are stuck with them and the bullies like IDS the spineless nodding donkeys, the expenses cheats, ( yes they are still at it only it’s better concealed) the liars, the wealthy greedy ones we are stuck with then until 15 may 2015. That for me is unacceptable, so a new e petition has been started calling for the act to be overturned, the public being able to demand a general election if we ever get stuck with a bunch of idiots similar to this lot. Additionally, and in my opinion this act discriminates against the publics right to demand their MPs do vote “no confidence ” if voters so wish, I also believe this act should have been subjected to a public referendum. It wasn’t. There’s a nine month window, it goes live later this week if it doesn’t get buried by the self seekers.

      1. Deborah Harrington

        Joe, we should all write to our MPs about this, I think. The Coalition brought in legislation very early on for a fixed 5 year term and a change to the rules on votes of no confidence. The latter means that it is now almost impossible to win a vote of no confidence. Oliver Letwin said, when they came into power that there would be no NHS left within 5 years, so them changing to a fixed 5 year term rang a lot of alarm bells. Of course if their plans for the EU/US Free Trade Agreement go ahead unchecked and include the NHS (already categorised as a private business, not a public service since the Health and Social Care Act (2012) came into force in April this year) then their job will be done by the end of 2014. We live in terrible times.

      2. Big Bill

        I’m waiting for the backlash hoping it’ll finally blow away the criminal British Establishment. If I may ask, Deborah, how do you know so much yourself? I showed you mine… 🙂

      3. Deborah Harrington

        Lots of my friends say I should blog, Bill, but I read Mike, Steve Walker, Kitty S Jones, Tom Pride, tax research and Taxpayers Against Poverty … and it seems there’s so many good people out there writing already there’s no need for me. But I can’t resist chipping in when there’s a good dialogue going! As for how I know so much…I just read and when things don’t seem to add up properly I go off in search of White Papers, House of Commons Library reports, USA Federal Government reports, peer reviewed journals, until I understand a bit better and things make sense. But I end up knowing bits about lots but not lots about anything. Jill of All Trades, I’m afraid!

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