I’m a big fan of the American sitcom Frasier. Not all of them though. Once Niles got together with Daphne the quality began to slide and there were too many mawkish, self-indulgent bits of family drama starting to creep in.
A classic is the Antiques Roadshow episode, where Frasier and Niles start to think they may be descended from Russian Royalty. The family plays a game watching the Roadshow, where every time the presenter appraising a piece of furniture uses the term “Veneer”, they all shout it back and take a swig of beer.
I’ve started doing my own version, whenever I hear or read the phrase “Affordable Rent”. I shout it back and mime punching someone in the face very hard. For those who aren’t up on this trend, “Affordable Rent” refers to rents in social housing that are around 80% of market rents and as we all know, in areas like London, market rents are so off the scale that often people are paying up to 60% and 70% of their take home pay on them.
I’m happily and consciously invoking Godwins Law here, the notion that at some point, all internet discussions are inevitably bound to stray towards comparisons with the Nazis, in quoting Hitler’s head of propaganda Josef Goebells, who said:-
“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes truth”.
Such is the case with “Affordable Rent”, which in recent years has become a normal and acceptable phrase, used by government and media alike, without reference to what it actually means.
We should NEVER lose sight of what it means and where it comes from
- “Affordable rent” is used to justify rent hikes in social housing, driving out poorer families.
- “Affordable Rent” is a massive social lie, that should be called out whenever it appears.
If we don’t shout “Foul” everytime we read the phrase, then it is in danger of becoming part of our language, that nobody thinks about or questions anymore and if that happens, the developers and investors have won control of the argument of homes v. investment opportunities.
Research carried out last year by the Joseph Rowntree Trust found that on average, affordable rents for a 2-bed property are 30% higher than traditional social rents. In 10 London boroughs, amounting to a massive extra £5,000 a year.
Only particularly cynical and manipulative social engineers would raise rents and re-label them ‘Affordable rents’.
What is so wrong with the model of social renting that it needs to be forcibly metamorphosed into ever higher levels in its own interests?
Writing on Red Brick Blog he ever excellent Steve Hilditch pointed out:-
“Social rent is an exceptionally robust model of housing provision, and remarkable in the degree of self-financing it involves. It meets four key objectives:
- First, tenants pay a rent that is genuinely affordable (on all definitions).
- Second, rents broadly cover the costs of providing homes over the long term.
- Third, rents at these levels minimise the requirement for housing benefit, making it easier for people to make work pay.
- And fourth, long term very substantial savings in benefits fund the initial subsidy required to get the homes built in the first place.”
The group SHOUT, a campaign for the promotion of social housing, commissioned a report which found, among many other things:-
“in almost all parts of the country, the cost to the welfare system of supporting low income households in private rented housing (and, to a very considerable extent, in homes at Affordable Rent) is greater than supporting equivalent households in homes at social rent”
Low-Income Families are priced out
Affordable rents don’t just price out low-income families, they also fuel gentrification, whereby the only people capable of remaining in an area are middle-income earners spending £12 on a slice of Artisanal cheese to put on their sourdough toast.
I was born and brought up in Deptford. A particularly dog rough part of southeast London. For many years, when you told people where you lived they would laugh, it was that legendary.
I only live about a mile and a half away now but whenever I drive around my old stomping ground I hardly recognise it. Nearly all the pubs in the high street have gone and Hipster joints are starting to spring up.
Councils should take some blame too
Lewisham Council has been doing weird stuff there on the Besson Street development, bordering Deptford and New Cross.
Back in 2007 they knocked down 69 council houses as part of the New Deal for Communities, regeneration deal, which was earmarked to include a gym, library, community centre and houses, 41 of which were to be social housing, which earned them criticism and threats from the GLA at the time for the loss of council homes.
Then the crash hit and the site remained just empty space, until recently, when the council got into bed with developers, many of them offshore companies.
They now have 15 different developments in the Deptford area going on and not a single one of them contains any social rented housing, being a mixture of owner-occupied and, that phrase again, “Affordable rents”. Lewisham, like so many local authorities, are selling off the crown jewels to keep services running.
There is a current trend in London, of councils partnering up with offshore based property development companies laundering money for foreign gangsters, while the residents of social homes are priced out and even shunned by social landlords, as this article from the South Wales Argus tells us:-
“Plaid Cymru councillor Lindsay Whittle suggested that the chief executives of every RSL operating in Caerphilly borough should meet with councillors and explain their actions”.
“I find it staggering that registered social landlords who receive millions of pounds from public funds are not able to assist us. We give them planning permission to build on precious land, and they have a duty”.
In the past year, only 34 homes in their district have been offered to people coming through the homelessness route, the rest going into the PRS, where rents are higher and the, lets not forget, public funded housing benefit bill, increases as a consequence, pointing us straight back to SHOUT’s comment mentioned above, about the costs of shoring up low-income families in the PRS as against social tenancies.
People in favour of affordable rents will simply dismiss this article and say:-
“Oh he’s off again”.
Those who oppose them, already know this stuff but if you are new to the concept, keep it in mind and every time you read or hear the phrase “Affordable Rent”, shout
“LIAR”, very loudly.
Turn it into a family affair, like Frasier and the Antiques Roadshow.
Teach your kids to call the lie out whenever it comes up. If you don’t then they will forget how it all started, as they sit with their own kids, showing them pages from a history book about a time long ago, when people used to own their own homes and weren’t so crippled by rents that they were forced to eat Artisanal dog food on toast as bits of it drip onto the faded photographs.