Salford's housing crisis

Salford building

Salford, one of the most deprived cities in the country, is at the frontline of Britain’s current housing crisis as it struggles with public sell-offs, demolitions and rising rents. From a high of some 25,000 properties in the 1970s, Salford’s last remaining council houses were surrendered to private hands in a deal with Salix Homes in early 2015. This move, at a time of unprecedented housing demand, escalating rents, and falling incomes is seen by many as further proof of the abandonment of working class communities by Salford City’s Labour-run council.

With all social housing in the city now firmly within the control of housing associations – which function in essence as private providers – there is increasing anxiety for many tenants. Indeed, these providers continue to rewrite the definition of social housing to reflect changing priorities within the sector. For example, City West Housing Trust, Salford’s largest provider of social housing, has indicated that it intends to move away from its social housing commitment as it seeks to ‘maximise returns’. Salix Homes has stated that it is to ‘work to change the view that social housing is a home for life towards being a resource for a particular time’, signalling the end of secure tenancies. Of course, there is little financial incentive for them in offering concessionary rents in a period of high-return private markets. Instead, housing associations are concentrating on the more profitable area of ‘affordable rent’ which can be as much as 40% above social rent.

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Savills: helping capital buy up public land

The estate agent Savills acts as an instrument for the corporate takeover of London’s council housing stock. Its major shareholders are City and international investment companies. Other shareholders are international corporations, combining banking, investment and insurance businesses. Most of its board of directors either currently serve on the boards of or were drawn from the directorships of companies including: Goldman Sachs (Asia); HSBC Holdings; Sky plc; Dresdner Kleinwort; Citigroup; and the London-based hedge fund Rubicon Fund Management. Trevor Rayne reports.

As surplus funds have poured into property ownership around the world so Savills’ profits have risen; profits are up 141% from 2011 to 2015 and total shareholder return is up 170% over the same period. Profits in 2015 rose 21% on 2014’s figure to £121.4m. In 2015, 56% of Savills’ profits were made outside the UK, (Savills Annual Report 2015) and in the same year Savills won the UK Property Industry Superbrand of the Year award for the eighth consecutive year and the award for Best Real Estate Agency in China and Vietnam.

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Autumn Statement – no end to benefit cuts

Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge in July 2016 that she would build a ‘fairer Britain’, helping those who had been ‘left behind’ and were ‘just about managing’ was a lie as the Autumn Statement on 23 November showed. Those who are ‘just about managing’ – a euphemism for millions of working class people living in poverty or on the edge of it – received a pittance: a reduction of the taper rate on universal credit from 65p per pound to 62p per pound that is earned above the basic income limit, a marginal tax rate of 74.2%.

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Bristol: the fight for affordable housing

Anger at plans to develop two new complexes of totally unaffordable housing have prompted many people in Bristol to step up the fight for social housing in their city.

The developers in Easton and Fishponds, two working class and largely black areas, openly flout Bristol City Council’s own guidelines by refusing to include any social, or even ‘affordable’ housing in their plans for hundreds of new homes. Generator South West, the developers of the Easton site – a derelict chocolate factory – claim that including on-site social housing would make the development ‘unprofitable’ for them – despite the price of land in the area increasing by 25% in the last three years alone. As is so often the case, neither the council nor the company have permitted their viability assessment for the development to be made public.

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Overall benefit cap: terrorising the poor

This is an updated version of an article published in October/November 2016 issue of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (No 253)

‘We need to be heard as one, not individually – there are 88,000 of us.’ (Steve, a single parent with four children, whose housing benefit is to be cut by £70 per week by the benefit cap, talking to FRFI)

From 7 November, according to DWP calculations, 88,000 families, each with three or more children, will start to lose an average £60 per week in housing benefit because of a reduction in the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC). When the OBC was introduced in April 2013 it was set at £26,000pa; it will now be cut to £23,000pa for families living in London, and to £20,000pa for those living outside. 80% of those affected will be single parent families (67% women, 13% men). Some larger families will lose all their housing benefit. Single people or couples without children have their benefit capped at two-thirds the level for families with children: many in temporary accommodation (which can cost £250 per week) will be hit by the reduction.

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