As the temporary ban on evictions linked to the coronavirus crisis comes to an end, the government faces demands for immediate action to end the homeless tsunami that threatens one in five private tenants.
A variety of factors are at work to make this particular crisis worse than the routine human disasters that accompany the normal functioning of Britain’s dysfunctional housing system.
First of all, a huge backlog of rents has built up over the past year. This is not surprising given that millions of people have survived on reduced incomes and many find that as holiday subsidies run out, housing insecurity adds to their situation. precarious work.
Second, the starting point for this particular stage of the housing crisis is based on the uncomfortable truth that one in four renters in the private housing sector has entered this crisis already mired in poverty. Half of the children living in private rental housing live below the poverty line.
It’s a scandal that in 21st century Britain – in the world’s fifth richest economy – millions of families are faced with the choice of scrimping on food and fuel or paying rent.
Deeply rooted structural factors make the housing situation a nightmare for any working family who cannot access money or credit.
The housing crisis in Britain is rooted in the capitalist system itself and in the particular turn taken by British capital in which a highly financialized speculative economy has evolved into a continuing pressure for instability and housing shortage.
Despite attempts by the Conservatives – some successful – to blame the 2008 financial crisis on excessive government spending, the real root of the collapse, rampant US bank lending “secured” on unsustainable valuations on dodgy properties “Subprime mortgages” that have fueled directly into our economy, tells us a lot about how the housing market works.
Each owner, whether it is a small rental speculator paying for his own home by renting it out, or a large company that takes over the building stock from the former city council, or an investment company blowing up apartment buildings in downtown sites, or a builder covering the campaign of ‘executive houses’ for people fleeing the cities – they all know scarcity is what drives up prices and rents .
Official figures suggest Britain needs more than 300,000 new homes each year just to accommodate normal population growth and the kind of demographic changes that come with the routine functioning of a developed economy.
But even if that number were reached, it would not fill the backlog.
The simple fact is that, like in so many areas of modern life, the private sector cannot meet social needs.
Responding to the simple demand that everyone have a roof over their heads and a safe place to feel at home has proven beyond the capacity of the capitalist system.
Controlling capital is the basic solution to the kind of planning needed to solve so many problems.
There are over a million people on social housing waiting lists. Massive investment in public housing coupled with additional powers for local authorities to unlock capital, regulate rents and housing quality standards, acquire vacant property and reduce housing costs is needed.
Every expert, from the select committee to the shelter, knows what he needs. It is the political system held hostage by private property and profit that stands in the way.
If viable solutions to the systemic housing crisis cannot be found within the framework of society as it is currently organized, then the question arises, where can we bring together the strengths, ideas and people to bring the changes needed?