So-called “Housing benefit” is of zero benefit to tenants. It is a massive flow of taxpayer cash to landlords – an incredible £25 billion per year. It plays a pivotal role in the growth of landlordism and the bubbling of house prices to well beyond the pockets of most young people.
It is argued on the right of politics that rent controls would be an unwarranted interference that would distort the housing market and prevent it operating efficiently. Yet housing benefit is itself a massive distortion, allowing landlords to charge rents far beyond what the market would ordinarily bear. If the state is to pay or top-up rents in this way, the state must also have a right to interfere in the level of rents.
For the sake of clarity of argument, I do not regard “Housing Associations” as anything but part of the landlord class, especially given the high salaries they pay their executives.
Both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith have recently argued for a rent control solution – and in Jeremy Corbyn’s case he believes it. That would certainly be a vast improvement on the present situation. But my own view is that it is illogical to boost rents by a massive transfer of taxpayer cash to landlords by housing benefit, and then seek a second mechanism to control them.
Housing benefit should simply be abolished. The results would be the collapse of the buy to let market and the bankruptcy of some of the least lovely people in the country, a crash in rents, and the pricking of the UK’s property bubble, where homes are priced in much of the UK at 8 to 12 times average salary.
The abolition would need to be accompanied by a one year moratorium on all evictions until the market settles down and rents can be renegotiated. I do not rule out rent controls as part of the new arrangements to govern the market.
It is worth pointing out that as housing benefit is taken from general taxation, and as London accounts for an obscenely disproportionate percentage of housing benefit paid, it represents yet another hidden area where London sucks the wealth from the rest of the country.
Housing benefit is not actually a “benefit” to the needy at all. Have you ever wondered why the Tories make zero concerted efforts to cut this “benefit”, when they are so keen on driving disabled people to suicide and sanctioning the unemployed?
It is because housing “benefit” is the UK’s biggest con, a direct subsidy from the taxpayers to the very wealthy.