Fighting ‘No DSS’

no dss

A recent investigation by the BBC found that just 2% of all rental properties listed on the website were available without a ‘no DSS’ clause. ‘No DSS’ is a dated term which refers to the old Department of Social Security, now replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); it bars anyone claiming housing benefit from being able to even apply for a private rental. The BBC figure tallies with the experience of FRFI comrades in Manchester: we have found one private letting agent listing 57 of its 58 properties as ‘no housing benefit, no DSS’. The problem is not new: in 2012, the Manchester Evening News reported people claiming some form of benefit were excluded from four in five rentals in the region. The degree of exclusion is growing: membership surveys by the National Landlords Association reveal that the numbers willing to let properties to recipients of Universal Credit (UC) or Local Housing Allowance (LHA) has fallen from 46% in 2010 to 18% today.

The ‘No DSS’ policy puts landlord interests before the basic human need for housing. It is a leftover from a period when council properties were more widely available and was designed to keep the poorest sections of the working class out of the private rental sector. The sell-off of council housing started by Thatcher in the 1980s and the subsequent failure to build any replacements forced working class people back into the private letting market. Landlords, estate agents and mortgage brokers have re-adopted ‘No DSS’ to exclude poorer working class people from private rented accommodation.

Successive attacks on housing benefit have reinforced this process. Cutting LHA rates from the 50th percentile point of local private rents to the 30th percentile point in April 2011 excluded people and families dependent on LHA from 70% of all private rented properties. The reduced Overall Benefit Cap will add to those who cannot afford adequate private rented housing. Now the six-week delay in paying UC to claimants is adding to the pressures on working class people to accept the cheapest and worst of private rented accommodation. Inside Housing says that 86% of UC claimants are in rent arrears even for cheaper social housing and that the average amount of arrears is growing.

‘No DSS’ is a form of social cleansing which forces working class people out of their communities and into overcrowded slum accommodation to ensure increased land and property prices. The policy exposes landlords, agents and brokers as the parasites they are, seeking only to profit from the human need for shelter and security. We are clear that to solve the housing crisis we must destroy the idea of housing as a profitable venture. It must be viewed as a social and human requirement, no longer a commodity used to express a social status, but a home.

Andy Fairbairn

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 256 April/May 2017


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