So the con dem coalition are looking to make cuts a little bit more popular. And what better way than to talk about cuts to housing benefits. If you read the papers last year you would have seen a number of “scandals” over the high amounts of rent local authorities were paying to house larger families. Councils have a (fairly weak) statutory obligation to ensure adequate housing, and often such homes were amongst the cheapest that could be found.
Yet there is a reason that renting homes for people on benefits can cost so much. If you have dealt with landlords or letting agents any time recently you will have become used to a notice emblazoned on virtually every website and shopfront: “no DSS”. In other words we won’t rent to the unemployed. It such circumstances it is obvious that the small number of letting agents who are willing to deal with these apparent untouchables will be able to charge what they like.
It is in fact a disgrace that years after the worst forms of housing discrimination started to be tackled, this kind of crap is still allowed, and for no good reason. Renting to somebody on benefits is in fact less risky – because the money comes straight from the DSS. And moreover the idea that everybody on benefits shares certain unesirable characteristics is – not least in the present climate – obvious rubbish. The unemployed now acccount for 2.5 million people. Considered against the fact that there are only 500,000 vacancies in the economy, it is patently obvious that unemployement is for many people an inevitable reality.
Given the coalition aim to bring down benefit bills, and given the moronic Iain Duncan Smith’s professed concern for the most vulnerable in society, then they really ought to do something about this. I wouldn’t hold your breath.