To The Minister for Welfare Reform.
Listening to the debate on the benefit caps yesterday, and their obvious responsibility for increasing the unaffordability of housing for many of the poorest citizens in the UK, it became ever clearer that tenants are being asked to carry the pain of deficit reduction for the landlords and landowners; who are untouched by the ferocity of measures in the bill creating debts, eviction and misery. That injustice is spelt out in the following letter which was put together with my colleagues in the Pro-Housing Alliance.
There is a fundamental injustice at the heart of deficit reduction in the UK . Landlords have annually taken billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in housing benefit by raising their rents to keep up with a housing market in short supply, but awash with the reckless lending of many financiers in the City of London since deregulation was allowed by Parliament in the 1980s. It rose to £21 billion in 2010. Around £3.5 billion was paid to sustain the unhealthy tenancies of neglectful landlords that give rise to significant but avoidable costs for the NHS in 2009, when 4.7 million (21%) of England’s 22 million homes were unhealthy, unsafe and poorly maintained.
The coalition’s response to the inevitable crisis has been to take a total of £18 billion from welfare claimants and nothing effective from landlords. It would be squeezing an already dry lemon to expect claimants to take any more cuts. Parliament should look for alternatives which require landlords and landowners to pay their share. It is essential to create a coherent national housing and land policy, the first in living memory, to cover every aspect of housing for all, rich and poor, that puts decent housing at the heart of national health and wellbeing.
Parliament should also explore how a land value tax could replace council tax, business rates, and abolish the other inefficient taxation measures such as stamp duty, capital gains exemptions, and second home council tax discounts that have helped create the current inequalities of health and wealth in our society.
Stephen Battersby, President, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
Peter Ambrose, Visiting Professor in Housing and Health, University of Brighton.
Peter Archer, Chair, Care and Repair, England.
Stephen Hill, Director- C2O futureplanners.
Rev Paul Nicolson, Chair, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust.