Thursday 14 March 2013

Why I oppose "Bedroom Tax"

I've been repeatedly accused by reactionary right-wing defenders of the "Bedroom Tax" of only complaining about it because I'm a social housing tenant that wants to "live beyond my means". 

The problem with these assertions is that they are the same kind of flaccid assumption laden nonsense that right-wing folk often seem to rely upon in lieu of actually presenting evidence or conducting critical analysis.

For the record I'm not, and have never been a social housing tenant. Therefore these accusations, that I'm only complaining because I want to "live beyond my means", are lazy assumption based rubbish.

The reason I'm complaining is that I recognise that this bonkers scheme is an absolute shambles, which will end up penalising many of the poorest and most vulnerable families in the UK, because there are insufficient smaller houses for them all to move into.

170,000 families in two bedroom homes have been told that they are "under-occupying their property, yet in the year 2011-12 only 85,000 one bedroom social housing properties became available throughout the entire year and most of them were given to new high-priority tenants, rather than to existing social tenants downsizing their property. This means that tens of thousands of social tenants will be unable to downsize, simply because there are insufficient smaller properties available.

This lack of available smaller properties is particularly bad in the North of England and Scotland. In Hull 4,700 families will be hit with "Bedroom Tax", yet there are only 73 available smaller properties. This scheme amounts to little more than the collective punishment of thousands of economically vulnerable families.

Then we come to the question of why is there such a shortage of affordable and social housing. The answer is that the previous Tory administration sold-off swathes of social housing and explicitly banned councils from using the cash to build or properly maintain other social properties. One of the worst aspects of the "right-to-buy" firesale of social property is that more than 30% of these properties have now found their way into the private rental sector, with one of the largest beneficiaries being the son of the guy that dreamt up the social housing sell-off in the first place!

In their 13 years in power Neo-Labour did absolutely nothing to rectify this situation, actually continued the sell-offs and even instituted a policy of bulldozing tens of thousands of affordable properties across the Midlands and the North of England (Pathfinder).

The shortage of social housing has very little to do with people having a single "spare bedroom" in their property and everything to do with 34 years of orthodox neoliberal governments that desperately neglected (and even deliberately vandalised) the social housing and affordable housing sectors.

Right-wingers are always chuntering on about how the state should just leave people to get on with their lives, however, under the "Bedroom Tax", the state has decided that it has the right to interfere in the sleeping arrangements of the family unit (you know, the family unit that is supposed to be "sacred" to the Tory party). They have decided that if a family doesn't make a 15 or 16 year old boy share a bedroom with his 3 year old brother, the family are "guilty" of deliberately "under-occupying their property". Surely, nobody in their right mind thinks that it should be the government's responsibility to force 3 year old kids to share a bedroom with their teenage brother?

One of the other things that exposes the Tory hypocrisy over this, is that pensioners are totally exempt from bedroom tax. The only conceivable reason for this exemption is that pensioners are the biggest Tory voting demographic. There must be tens of thousands of pensioners with large empty family homes, yet the government are more concerned with forcing little kids to share a room with their teenage brother, or making low income families with kids at university either pay a fine of £500+ a year or get rid of their kid's bedroom meaning that these students will have to kip on the sofa when they come back for Christmas and during the summer holiday.

Then there's the fact that two thirds of the families that face being fined for not moving into smaller properties (that don't even exist) have one or more severely disabled members. In many cases the house has been especially adapted for the needs of the disabled tenant. Forcing them out would put a huge financial burden on the council to make the same adaptions to the new property! This isn't the only case of the taxpayer being stung. In many cases families will move out into smaller private rented accommodation, meaning that the taxpayer has to fund much higher Housing Benefits payments, with the cash going to a private profit making landlord, rather than to local councils or not-for-profit social landlords.

The scheme is absolutely bonkers. I could go on with more and more reasons, however I've already listed various other complaints about the unfairness of the "Bedroom Tax" here, so for the sake of brevity I'll draw my conclusion.

The reason I oppose "Bedroom Tax" is not out of my own personal self-interest, it is because "Bedroom Tax" is an incredibly shoddy, malicious and economically illiterate piece of legislation. The Tory party seem intent on collectively punishing many of the poorest and most needy people in society for the fact that there are insufficient smaller properties available. What makes this so malicious is that the reason for this shortage can be traced back directly to the Tory contempt for social housing and their decision to sell huge swathes of it off.

Essentially the Tory party are intent on punishing the poor for the mistakes of Tory party.

I know it is difficult for right-wing folk to grasp this, but in outlining these criticisms I'm not acting out of pure self-interest. As I said before, I am not, and have never been a social housing tenant. The reason I oppose "Bedroom Tax" because I have something that reactionary right-wing thinkers often seem totally unfamiliar with; a thing called a "social conscience".

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Is there a e-petition for getting it scrapped ?
If not could you start one and cross post it so we can all sign and cross post it, to prevent homelessness caused by this.