The Profits of Housing

One of the primary reasons why there is a housing crisis is because houses aren’t being built. During the 1970s the average number of homes built each year was 322,000. In 2012 only 127,000 homes were completed; while since the turn of the millennium, the number of households who have been forced to live in privately rented accommodation had doubled from two to four million.

The latter trend relating to the burgeoning private rental sector being intimately linked to the long-standing right-to-buy scheme (which led to the sale of more than two million council properties during the first three decades of its implementation). “Over a third of ex-council homes in London are now privately let with rents averaging over £200 a week more than those charged by council, an increased bill often picked up by taxpayers through housing benefit.”

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With the introduction of short hold tenancies, buy-to-let mortgages that are “heavily subsidised by the state” soared from the mid 1990s onwards. Indeed it seems that…

“Landlords still enjoy tax relief on mortgage repayments (relief that had been abolished for owner-occupiers in 2000), while the Chartered Institute of Housing estimates that they benefit from a further £7 billion of tax allowances per year for deductible expenses such as repairs and maintenance, and insurance and professional fees, with no matching requirement that this relates to proper standards…

“The proportion of homes in England and Wales lived in by owner-occupiers rose dramatically from just under a quarter at the end of the First World War to peak at seventy-one percent in 2003, but is now back to sixty-five percent, it lowest for twenty-five years. If the 1.3 million Britons who now have interest-only mortgages – essentially a glorified form of renting with the asset belonging to the lender and not the mortgage holder – are excluded, home-ownership figures fall to nearer fifty percent, around the level of the early 1970s.”

Sadly incessant Government propaganda has encouraged the public to believe that forty-one percent of the welfare budget goes directly to the unemployed, when the actual amount is just three percent. Forty-two percent of social security payments actually go to support the elderly. “The next largest proportion goes to people in work while sick and disabled people account for sixteen percent.”

In fact it seems that the biggest beneficiary of benefit payments in recent years has been landlords: “one in five private rents is subsidised directly through housing benefit. Between 2011/12 and 2014/15, £35 billion of housing benefit went to private landlords, £13 billion more than in the previous three years.”

This article draws upon Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack’s book Breadline Britain: The Rise of Mass Poverty (2015).

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