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What does Hands Off Our Homes Do?
Since the bedroom tax was introduced in April 2013, we have seen thousands of households falling into debt. People have been cutting down on food and doing without fuel and other essentials, all because they are terrified of losing the roof over their head. Many have been forced into the squalid private rented sector where rents are high and tenancy rights virtually non-existent. Some of the worst affected have been carers and people with disabilities
The bedroom tax is just one part of a massive attack on our rights to security and a decent standard of living. Our benefits, our public services and our homes are all under threat, whilst thousands are forced into low/unpaid work.
Now, the government has launched a whole series of new attacks on social housing, and on the benefits which enable people to keep a roof over their head. As with the bedroom tax, these cuts are affecting those with least resources – people with disabilities, carers of young children, and those in low-paid, insecure work.
The government would like to see us all blaming each other for these attacks on our security and quality of life. They tell us the cuts are necessary, that we need to keep the benefits bill down, that people claiming benefits are scroungers and that migrants are putting a strain on our services. All these things are lies designed to divide us and distract attention from the true agenda of syphoning more and more public money into the private sector.
We reject the scapegoating of the disabled and the chronically ill, of migrants, of parents and carers and the unemployed. We all need welfare, and we demand a decent quality of life for everyone.
Here you can see some of the policies we are facing and campaigning against at the moment. This information is also available as a flyer (see front page here and back page here)
The Housing and Planning Act
End of social housing
The Act requires councils to sell off their most valuable houses to pay for the discounts on housing association “Right-to-Buy” sales. There is little chance of one-for-one replacement of the lost homes – since 2012 only 1 in 10 homes sold under RtB have been replaced.
Instead of homes for social rent, new developments are to include “starter homes” to buy at a publicly-funded 20% discount. Starter homes will cost up to £250,000 (outside London) even with discount – unaffordable to a couple on average earnings in half the country.
These policies subsidise home ownership available only to the well off, whilst reducing the amount of desperately-needed secure rented homes.
Working families in all social housing will have their incomes means-tested. Tenants will be expected to disclose their earned income to their social landlords. If the joint income of the two main earners is £31,000 or more they will face rent increases. The extra council rents will not be put back into social housing – they will go straight to central government.
Phasing out of secure tenancies
New tenancies will be reviewed every 2 – 10 years, with the possibility of being forced to move if the tenants’ circumstances have changed. Tenants decanted due to demolitions, or moving to escape domestic violence, will lose their security of tenure. There will be no right to inherit a tenancy.
Can we stop the Housing and Planning Act?
The council is still waiting for the regulations setting out how key parts of the Act are to be implemented. There is still time to force the government into a U-turn, and it is well worth everyone writing to their MP to press them to continue opposing the Act in parliament.
We believe the council should take a stand: they must join together with other councils to stand up to the government, publicise the harm caused by these policies, and help lead a public campaign to stop them.
And we the tenants and residents must also come together to build an unstoppable public demand for investment in more and better social housing; and to do whatever is necessary to defend what we have.
“Shared accommodation rate” Bedroom tax Household benefit cap Housing benefit limited to private-sector rates…..
What do cuts to Housing Benefit really mean?
Shared Accommodation Rate: Single, childless persons under 35 renting in the private sector can only get the “Shared Accommodation Rate” of Housing Benefit. In Leeds in 2016/17 that is £62.48. If your rent is more than that you have to make up the shortfall from your JSA/ESA. From April 2018 this will also apply to social sector tenants.
Bedroom Tax: Since April 2013, over 13,000 Leeds households have been affected, paying on average about £14 a week from meagre benefits. Two-thirds of these households have a disabled member.
Overall Household Benefit Cap (see flyer here): This is to be lowered to £20,000 a year (outside London). This will affect at least 1,400 Leeds families containing more than 5,000 children, with more affected as time goes on. The average Housing Benefit shortfalls will be around £70pw and far more for large families. The Discretionary Housing Payment budget will cover only a fraction of the shortfall, leaving many families at serious risk of eviction.
Housing Benefit limited to private-sector rates: Most social tenancies started from April 2017 will be affected from April 2018. Tenants in supported housing (including refuges, hostels and housing for older or disabled people needing support at home) will be affected from April 2019, regardless of how long they have been in their tenancies. New funding arrangements for accommodation-based support services are likely to be inadequate and more vulnerable to cuts, leaving tenants/service-users facing uncertainty.
What can you do?
Tell the council to announce a policy of No Evictions and extension of Discretionary Housing Payments to all tenants affected by benefit cuts. Contact us for help to organise a lobby of councillors in your area.
Organise with neighbours – contact us for help to set up a local meeting .
Contact Hands Off Our Homes and help build the campaign against cuts and for decent, secure affordable social housing for all who need it. Join our mailing list, or read our blog or Facebook page to find out how.