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From: The Socialist issue 1016, 31 October 2018: Only a socialist alternative can end austerity

Search site for keywords: Housing - Universal Credit - Rents - Homelessness - London - Homes - Transport - Homeless - Tenants - Council - Households - Low pay - Hove - Wages - Evictions - Public transport - Poverty

Homelessness, Universal Credit misery, high rents, cramped flats, isolated estates...end the housing crisis now!

March for Homes, London, 31st January 2015, photo Paul Mattsson

March for Homes, London, 31st January 2015, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Connor Rosoman, Brighton Socialist Party

Housing in Britain is in crisis. Bailiffs were called to a house in Hove on 26 October after the tenant - struggling to get by on Universal Credit - fell into rent arrears. I joined a local tenants' union which held a picket outside the house to prevent the evictions.

Many tenants find themselves unable to live alone due to skyrocketing rent prices. Under new 'co-living' schemes in big cities, up to several hundred tenants are packed into massive apartment buildings with shared bathrooms, kitchens and other such facilities. Bedrooms are cramped, leaving people with little space to themselves.

The spread of small, overcrowded housing can have negative effects on physical and mental health, and such 'co-living' spaces are another step in this direction.

At the same time, many of those who can afford their own homes find themselves living on new housing developments built on the edges of towns without local facilities and with poor transport links.

This means many working-class families are forced to drive to reach, schools, doctors and shops. As a result of the increased traffic, families spend hours in the car just to reach essential services. Instead of these poorly designed neighbourhoods, we need quality, affordable housing and decent public transport.


Meanwhile some have nowhere to live at all. Homelessness has seen a dramatic increase, with an estimated 4,751 people sleeping on the streets last year. This is a 15% increase since 2016 alone.

But councils have tried to sweep the problem under the rug - forcing rough sleepers out of the cities by using Public Service Protection Orders (PSPOs). Many homeless people have been denied legal aid in challenging councils that have used PSPOs in an attempt to criminalise homelessness.

Universal Credit has driven many people into rent arrears and - alongside precarious contracts and poverty wages - thousands of people in work cannot afford a home. We need to fight back against low pay, benefit cuts, rent hikes and poor-quality housing.

The Socialist Party campaigns for rent controls and we raise the demand that local councils fight back by using their extensive reserves and borrowing powers to set no-cuts, needs-based budgets.

With the Tories having lifted restrictions on borrowing to fund council house building, there is absolutely no excuse for Labour councils not to act. They should begin a massive programme of council-house building to provide all people with high-quality, affordable places to live.

This means building a mass campaign and demanding the funding needed from the government. Jeremy Corbyn should pledge now that any council which took such a road would see its funds restored on day one of a Labour government.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

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Article dated 31 October 2018

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RMT picket at Nottingham station - East Midlands Railway dispute - Sunday 13th June, photo by G Freeman

RMT picket at Nottingham station - East Midlands Railway dispute - Sunday 13th June. Photo G Freeman

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