Government housing policy: Homelessness for some, poverty for others

By Martina Stafford

The profoundly detrimental impact the housing crisis is having on working-class families, young people, lone parents, migrants and Travellers is impossible to convey. It is clear that there is untold stress and hardship caused by the inadequate and insecure nature of housing access and quality across the country.

Latest figures suggest that the housing waiting list of 60,000 could be double that in reality, if those in receipt of HAP (state payments to private landlords) are included – which of course they must be.

A new low

According to a new study that examined poverty risk in the context of the cost of living crisis; one-fifth of the population is living below the poverty line after housing costs are factored in, and half of all one-parent families are in poverty after they pay their housing costs!

You can be sure that this is the same section of the population who are low-paid essential workers, women and young people who kept society afloat throughout the pandemic. This is the section of the population that is absolutely disregarded by this government, or any government confined by the logic of privatisation and profiteering.

Homelessness and abuse

The housing crisis worsens the impact of domestic violence and gender-based violence by trapping victims in abusive relationships. A study of women who left their homes due to violence found that one in three had become homeless due to domestic violence and half reported that they had returned to live in an abusive situation due to homelessness, or to keep their children in a home.

Taking gender violence seriously means tackling the crisis of skyrocketing rents, evictions and the lack of public housing. Capitalist housing policies create huge power imbalances, most appallingly highlighted by certain landlords using the housing crisis to sexually exploit women seeking a roof over their head.

Landlords/developers prioritised

Government policy on housing has amounted to the gifting of public land and public money to private developers and investors via public private partnerships and rent schemes like HAP.

Incentivising investors and paying off landlords whose rents are unaffordable for the majority of working-class people are the key priorities of government politicians. They are extremely slow to actually build any social or affordable housing directly, because this would interfere with the interests of the developers and investors whom they serve.

Stepping into action

As long as the production and supply of housing is dominated by the interests of developers, investors, bankers and landlords; the right to housing will not exist. But we absolutely can change this reality if we get organised in our communities, workplaces and colleges around our interests. The reason capitalist politicians won’t act is because they are part of the minority that benefit from this system and are completely blind to any alternative.

Increasing numbers of people, especially young people, are looking for alternatives because they understand that this system does not benefit them, or offer any sort of decent future!

We need to build a movement that demands public homes on public land, real rent controls which bring down the cost of rent, a ban on evictions and an end to all profiteering from the housing crisis. This government, which includes many landlords, will resist all such moves, but like we did in other mass movements – such as water charges and repeal – we can force even the most right-wing parties to bow to mass pressure from below.

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