‘N’ this bird can sod off ‘n’all

The United Nations’ special investigator on housing has told the British government it should scrap the bedroom tax, after hearing “shocking” accounts of how the policy was affecting vulnerable citizens during a visit to the UK.

Britain’s record on housing was also worsening from a human rights perspective, Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur on housing, said in a Guardian interview after presenting her preliminary findings to the government.

Rolnik, a former urban planning minister in Brazil, said Britain’s previously good record on housing was being eroded by a failure to provide sufficient quantities of affordable social housing, and more recently by the impact of welfare reform.

Seriously? We’re listening seriously to some bint whose former job was presiding over Brazil’s favelas on the subject of how many bedrooms someone on benefits should be allowed?

What?

49 thoughts on “‘N’ this bird can sod off ‘n’all”

  1. “Britain’s previously good record on housing”

    Does she mean when the Bedroom Tax (ahem) was in situ for those using housing benefit to rent from the private sector ?

  2. It is a fundamental human right to have a spare bedroom for guests paid for entirely by other people.

    Removing this is practically a hollocaust.

  3. Brazilian public housing projects? Yeah. I’ve heard about these first hand. Bunch of cement block, corrugated roof shacks with minimal services, stuck out 30km from anywhere, with no bus service. On a piece of crap land conveniently, previously owned by the uncle of a planning minister. The occupants of the favella get their residence assignments via a notice stuck to a bull-dozer blade.

  4. Come off it, the bedroom tax is appalling. Yet another piece of collective punishment inflicted on the poor and vulnerable by a political system that serves the interests of those who caused the current economic crisis. Some of you guys really do need to remove your head from your arse just once in a while.

  5. Why she didn’t critise previous governments that allows the stupid situation of some people living in large council houses with several spare rooms while other families lived in bed and breakfast or overcrowded flats?
    Trying to sort this out will be painful, but it shouldn’t have got into thsi situation in the first place.

  6. Seth>

    I suggest you actually investigate the ‘bedroom tax’ yourself, rather than trusting what you’ve been told by those with vested interests to protect.

    As legislated, none of the ‘problems’ we have heard about actually exist. They’re solely a result of councils misapplying the law, generally to boost their own revenues from central government.

  7. Actually, there are a couple of problems with the changes.

    For a start, I don’t think the new rules allowed properly for people with a requirement for a residential carer. And we know that they were considered discriminatory re disabled children.

    Also, they were based on the statutory minimum housing requirement, where there probably should have been a bit of flexibility before you got to the “we’ll no longer pay for this”. As an example, I have no issue with children of different sexes having separate bedrooms at 8 rather than 10 if the property is available.

    However, the biggest problem seems to be a huge degree of inflexibility with the service provision.

  8. It is a fundamental human right to have a spare bedroom for guests paid for entirely by other people.

    Housing benefit pays the rent – there is no surplus. The tenant must find the balance if you take some portion of it away (the gov estimates average of £14 a week) while he waits for the landlord to consider reducing the rent. And to save what amount of money? Social rent totals £0 – the council invents the rent, hands over the housing benefit that the tenant hands back. Time will tell if private landlords reduce rents.

    You might advise the tenant to move. But to where? There are insufficient dwellings available to house the number of people who might be incentivised to move. You might advise the tenant to get a job. Last I heard, there are more unemployed than there are jobs.

    What problem are ‘we’ trying to solve with this and is there a better way of doing it?

    (the truth is that the bedroom tax is part of a panoply of things thrown out to satisfy property owners and Tory voters – it’s about political expedience, not problem-solving.)

  9. “What problem are ‘we’ trying to solve with this and is there a better way of doing it?”

    Presumably the problem of social housing tenants being given a certain house for life, despite people’s needs when they have a family being very different from when that family has left home. Unless you think it fine that ageing couples (and single widows/widowers) can continue to live in 3 and 4 bedroom houses that they needed when they had families, but no longer do, then some method has to be found to incentivise then to downsize, to free up family sized social housing for those that need it now.

    As for whether this is the best method of doing so, who knows? What other alternatives are there? Just forcing people to move because the State says so (a popular system usually with Leftists)? Asking nicely with no consequences if people refuse?

    What you need to remember is that in the real world where people pay for themselves, and don’t rely on others to fund their housing expenses, the problem of older people living in houses too big for their actual needs solves itself – bigger houses cost more to run (heating/council tax/maintenence etc), and are more hassle (bigger gardens are problematic for the elderly). Ergo there is a considerable financial incentive for the old to downsize. Cheaper living, free up some capital, live somewhere more suitable to your needs in retirement. All the ‘bedroom tax’ does is apply the same financial incentives that apply in the private sector to the social housing one. If you want those extra bedrooms for the grandkids to come an stay in, you pay for it. Thats the decision a retired couple have to make if they own their own 3 bed semi, why shouldn’t a council house tenant face the same choice?

  10. If it’s about allocation of dwellings, there are some 180,000 families ‘under-occupying’ two bedroom dwellings in England and fewer than 70,000 single-bedroom dwellings they could move to. The incentive is supposed to achieve an outcome – surely the outcome should be possible?

  11. UKLiberty: ‘Is the solution even worth the costs (including misery)?’

    The so-called misery isn’t a cost. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a benefit.

  12. INT. JULIAM’S VOLCANIC LAIR

    JULIAM spins around on her massive black leather chair, stroking her white cat.

    “The so-called misery isn’t a cost. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a benefit. Ah HA HA HA HAHA!”

    She presses ‘post comment’. Several disabled children are plunged into a pool of frenzied piranhas. Her comment appears on timworstall.com and she steeples her fingers with satisfaction.

  13. The sympathy meter’s been reading zero on this ever since I discovered that the same rules were applied to private tenants years ago.

  14. This is the problem with incrementalism in social policy. If we were to design a housing benefit policy from scratch, we (presumably) wouldn’t end up with the mish-mash we have now. But that’s the system we have and absent big-bang reform efforts to shift things are always going to look like this. Minarchocapitalists like me ask if provision of housing is a legitimate function of government in the first place, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt. I think a good compromise would be along the lines of a housing voucher. These would have to be tied in some fashion to prevailing market rents in the area.

  15. SE>

    “For a start, I don’t think the new rules allowed properly for people with a requirement for a residential carer. And we know that they were considered discriminatory re disabled children.”

    There are various compensatory benefits and so-on which could have been applied. For example, the amount paid for a residential carer might need to be very slightly increased to pay for their bedroom.

    Indeed, it’s also up to the councils to define what is a bedroom and what is a therapy room, or whatnot, where that’s relevant.

    UKL>

    You might want to consider what happens to rents in a market with significant imbalances in demand and supply of different types of properties. Substitution, but also price movements. The councils have prevented the price-movements needed to minimise the differences in rents that should be occurring.

    Of course, the headline figures don’t tell anyone anything. In some areas there is complete imbalance, but in others there is not. In general, the areas in the first category tend to be those with a massive oversupply of social housing in general – and again, the problems with the bedroom tax arise because the councils in question are overcharging for essentially valueless properties.

  16. One of the problems with the system is that – presumably either to appeal to the grey vote, or to head off yet more faux outrage – it doesn’t apply to pensioners.

    So my wife’s elderly granny lives in a three bed council house on her own, while families are crammed into bedsits and small flats.

    ukliberty, what ‘misery’? Loads of people in private homes downsize when they get older. The majority, probably.

  17. @SE ‘And we know that they were considered discriminatory re disabled children.’

    One problem is, how do you define a disabled child?

  18. The legal definition involved in the case was a child who cannot share a room because of their disability. Age-wise, that’s up to 16.

    All you needed to do is have the flexibility to incorporate this into any assessment. But assessments cost money. And no branch of government is very good at flexibility.

  19. Loads of people in private homes downsize when they get older. The majority, probably.

    Some tenants can’t downsize even if they want to – as I’ve pointed out twice now, there aren’t enough dwellings. In England, 18 families for every 7 dwellings.

  20. Gosh, UKLiberty, it seems I’ve struck a nerve there.

    I’m terribly sorry that, like so many people, I’m no longer content to be taxed to the hilt to provide subsidised housing for the likes of this chap:

    LBC caller against spare room subsidy because his friends come to stay after parties and don’t want to get taxi home: http://t.co/CIN6dXzmcA

    I know. It’s terrible of me, isn’t it?

  21. it seems I’ve struck a nerve there.

    Not at all – I didn’t take what you said seriously and I thought I’d make a joke of it.

    I don’t have sympathy for people like Paul from Clerkenwell either. But not all the people subject to ‘bedroom tax’ are like that.

  22. UKL>

    “as I’ve pointed out twice now, there aren’t enough dwellings.”

    And as I’ve pointed out, although you ignored it, in areas where there is no supply for people to move to, the ‘bedroom tax’ has no effect.

  23. in areas where there is no supply for people to move to, the ‘bedroom tax’ has no effect.

    Please cite. That doesn’t appeared to be mentioned in the impact assessments or any articles I’ve read.

  24. UKL>

    It’s basic common sense. If there aren’t nearly enough 1-beds to meet demand, and far too many 2-beds, the value of a 2-bed is only going to be marginally higher than that of a 1-bed. Which rather negates the problem of having to pay the difference.

    I spoke to one particularly unfortunate chap up north somewhere who lives in one of the very few inhabited flats in an entire mouldering block. Flats there simply can’t be rented out on the open market because there’s a housing glut in the area. Despite that, the council still charges the same kind of rent they did when people wanted to live there. The difference between two supposedly subsidised rents that he’s being asked to cover is more than the market rent on the flat on its own.

    Oh yes, just to really fuck him, he could move upstairs in the same block to a privately owned (2-bed) flat for far less than the current area limit for housing benefit for a single person, but then he’ll lose his right to a council house. When they knock down the block at some point fairly soon, he won’t be rehoused.

  25. @SE ‘a child who cannot share a room because of their disability’

    Not disagreeing in principle, or getting at you at all, but how do you define that?

    We all know (at least, I think we all know) that these things have proved very elastic over the years.

  26. @ukliberty

    ‘Some tenants can’t downsize even if they want to – as I’ve pointed out twice now, there aren’t enough dwellings. In England, 18 families for every 7 dwellings.’

    There are parts of the country where 2 and 3 bed homes are being sold for £5,000. Move them to one of those.

    In fact, I might buy up five streets, back to back, and create an old folks’ refugee colony for this purpose.

    It might be fantastic to find yourself whisked out of your pokey Bethnal Green flat, where you’re bombarded by the sound of shit music and the smell of stairway piss, to a nice street in Burnley which is full of people of your own age with interests and experiences in common.

    The only point of subsidising housing costs that I accept is to keep a roof over people’s heads.

    We don’t want old folks kipping in shop doorways. But we need to think a bit more creatively about how we avoid that.

    In time, as people realised the free ride is ending, it would correct itself anyway.

    Meanwhile, those suffering (and in some cases they would suffer) are from the generation that largely caused the problem by ,living beyond their means, destroying the family and looking to the state from cradle to grave.

    Tough shit.

  27. In court recently I represented a bloke accused of beating up the second of his two baby mothers. Interesting aside here: youngish though he was, he was also a born again Christian and a member of his local conservative club. Anyhoo. His first baby mother was a bird he kept on ice for when he wanted to make the second baby mother jealous. He didn’t live with the second, though. She kept his spog in one council flat, while he lived in another because, he said, he wanted his own space. Thing is, I’m sure he’s the only one. An outlier.

  28. dave @ 6:20pm*, I don’t follow. Regardless of the rent, the social tenant has to find 15% for one spare bed or 25% for two or more spare beds.

    If the rent is £100,
    1-bed £0 to pay
    2-bed £14 to pay
    3-bed £25 to pay

    How is that “no effect”?

    * Dear Mr Worstall, can we have numbered comments again?

  29. dave @ 6:20pm*, I don’t follow. Regardless of the rent, the social tenant has to find 14% for one spare bed or 25% for two or more spare beds.

    If the rent is £100,
    1-bed £0 to pay
    2-bed £14 to pay
    3-bed £25 to pay

    How is that “no effect”?

    * Dear Mr Worstall, can we have numbered comments again?

  30. UKL>

    The maximum housing benefit payable is reduced by 14% or 25%. The councils still control the rents they actually charge.

    I didn’t quite get it right above, though. I should have added that where the effect is actually to penalise those in two-bed flats, the rent on them should actually be less than 1-bedders if there aren’t enough 1-beds.

  31. My point is, aiui there is always a shortfall of 14% or 25% if there are spare beds, which is why i can’t follow what you’re saying.

    If there is no effect, where is the incentive to move?

  32. UKL>

    There’s no shortfall. The maximum allowable rent will be reduced. That may be more or less than a council chooses to charge for their properties.

    If someone’s rent is already less than 75% of the maximum for the area, it doesn’t matter if they live in a 20-bedroom mansion: they will see no reduction.

    And there’s no effect, and no incentive to move, where there is no large number of misallocated properties.

  33. If the rent is £100 they would be entitled to £100 housing benefit. But they have a spare room and there is now an ‘under occupancy penalty’ of 14% – in effect they have to pay the rent on that spare room, because the housing benefit does not cover it.

    If the council reduces the rent to £85 the tenant still has to pay 14%. It doesn’t matter what the rent is, the tenant has to pay 14%.

    That’s the incentive, that’s the point of it.

    Claimants can choose whether they want to pay the difference to their rent – on average £14 a week – or if they want to move to more appropriately sized accommodation. – gov.uk

    Only there is insufficient appropriately sized accommodation.

  34. If the rent is £100 per week, that’s set by the council. What’s set by the government is the maximum total housing benefit that can be paid in the area. The latter is what the reduction applies to.

    Bear in mind also that this does not take place in isolation; there is always the private market, the rents of which are used to set the maximum payable rent.

  35. Julia M, are you the devil incarnate? Jeez what a nasty, uncaring piece of crap you really are.. (and yes, you did hit a nerve.. several actually)

  36. dave, housing benefit never exceeds rent, it matches or falls short of the rent. The council can’t do something ‘clever’ like reduce the rent to cover that 14% or 25% – the tenant will always have to find that 14% or 25%.

    An estimated 600,000 people will have to find an average of £14 a week – that’s the gov’s figures. So I really don’t know why you insist there will be no effect.

  37. The whole principle is right. That’s why it’s working with private rented tenants. The practise is just about right too bar the outliers, but by definition they are few and should be handled as exceptions. The implementation is where it’s all gone wrong. It should only have been imposed as new tenants started their occupancy. Yes, it would have taken time and shot the argument over the wrong type of houses being occupied, but it would not have caused as much of a stink and given 5-10 years we would be in the state that we are at the moment.

  38. It should only have been imposed as new tenants started their occupancy.

    Great point. Then the potential tenant could say, “OK, I can afford that 15% so I’ll take it” or “I can’t afford that 15% so I will take the single bed”.

  39. UKL>

    The maximum payable rent is not necessarily the same as the rent. It can be more, and often is. It is only that maximum which is being reduced.

  40. But no-one is given housing benefit greater than the rent demanded.

    The government, local councils, Shelter, etc, all talk in terms of a reduction in housing benefit and people having to cover the difference if they want to stay. That’s what this scheme is about!

  41. Those whose council house tenancies predate 2010 are paying 50% of the market rent. Some of them are getting *additional* subsidies via “Housing Benefit”. The coalition wants to limit the second subsidy – because it cannot abolish the first, which is far worse (genuinely poor private tenants are subsidising the likes of Bob Crowe and Frank Field) – to those who actually need the accommodation they are living in, or, as they can’t even do that, reduce the level of waste.
    How terrible! A subsidy to enable people to live in modestly decent accommodation is to be used for that purpose! Shame! Shout from your Brazilian rooftops that this is a breach of human rights!
    Some councils have claimed that rent arrears jumped to 50% of rents due as a result – although the cut in housing benefit only applied to a small slice of rents for a small minority (much less than 10%) of tenants. Do not let the ability to do elementary arithmetic hide the evil of the Coalition! Fight the good fight for the ideals of ILEA! Ignore the massive, almost incredible, improvement in the relative performance of London schools since ILEA was abolished.
    ukliberty has some good points but some dodgy data. While there has been a waiting list for one-bedroom houses/bungalows for sixty years, there is also a large number of families in overcrowded housing. Anyone who two too many bedrooms *cannot* be in a two-bedroom house. No way is there 18 families for 7 dwellings. If you want to say that there are more families in two-bedroom houses who only need one bedroom than there are families in one-bedroom houses/flats who need two bedrooms, please say so. AND then explain why getting some of these to downsize so that people who *need* two bedrooms can have them is so evil. How many are pensioners? I expect a large majority. So there are almost certainly enough families needing the extra accommodation to provide swaps for nearly everyone affected by the abolition of the spare room subsidy. I can get angry with self-satisfied people living comfortably who deny those poor who are sharing bedrooms the chance of adequate accommodation as part of a party-political propaganda campaign.

  42. No way is there 18 families for 7 dwellings. If you want to say that there are more families in two-bedroom houses who only need one bedroom than there are families in one-bedroom houses/flats who need two bedrooms, please say so. AND then explain why getting some of these to downsize so that people who *need* two bedrooms can have them is so evil.

    As I said earlier in the thread, apparently there are some 180,000 families ‘under-occupying’ two bedroom dwellings in England and fewer than 70,000 single-bedroom dwellings they could move to. So, regardless of any other families or dwellings (or any other considerations), there simply aren’t enough single-bedroom dwellings.

    I can get angry with self-satisfied people living comfortably who deny those poor who are sharing bedrooms the chance of adequate accommodation as part of a party-political propaganda campaign.

    Self-satisfied people such as our beloved leaders who shore up the illusion of wealth created by ever rising house prices by not building more social housing? I stand with you.

  43. @ ukliberty
    There are a lot more than 70k single-bedroom houses/flats in London, let alone England. What I suppose that you are trying to say is that only 70k single-bedroom social housing flats/houses that are statutorily overcrowded, while there are 180k two-bedroom houses/flats where only one bedroom is needed (or deemed to be needed). Many (I suspect most) of the latter are occupied by pensioners so are unaffected by the change in Housing Benefit rules. All the fuss about Carers needing a bedroom is a nonsense since that overwhelmingly relates to single pensioners. Secondly those who are not in receipt of Housing Benefit are unaffected by the changes.
    So – just how many occupants of two-bedroom flats *are* affected and *might* face economic pressure to downsize? Is it as many as 70k? I cannot see any references so I have no way of finding out where those numbers came from and what, if anything, they mean.
    You are basing you argument on treating tangerines as grapefruit. And the shortage of one-bedroom flats is *not* relevant to moans that some councils are disregarding the needs of handicapped children when applying the rules.
    “Self-satisfied people such as our beloved leaders who shore up the illusion of wealth created by ever rising house prices by not building more social housing? I stand with you.”
    Totally agree – I should like a lot of people in the stocks for this including every housing minister from 1997 to 2010* and their Permanent Secretaries. Houses built fell short of demand (and even of the number of immigrant households) during that period. House prices rose more in 13 years than in the previous million. But also the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury in the early 1980s – Mrs Thatcher’s sale of council houses was intended to fund new building by councils which would reduce the queue for council houses but the Treasury insisted that it be used to pay down the loans on the money used to build the sold houses without offering any new loans to fund building more: I felt betrayed (not that I personally needed social housing) as vast efforts and political capital had been expended to get this project through Parliament and the major benefit was blocked by a couple of bean-counters.
    *There has been an increase in house-building since 2010 – not enough, but Grant Shapps is helping so doesn’t deserve the stocks.

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