Fair Rents & Decent Homes
Both council and housing association rents are becoming unaffordable to people on low incomes, so Leeds Tenants Federation is launching a campaign for Fair Rents & Decent Homes.
Research commissioned by seven Leeds Housing Associations shows that the lowest paid social housing tenants are forking out between 40% and 70% of their income on rents.
Meanwhile, Leeds council tenants are paying about a quarter of their rent straight to the government and never see the benefit in repairs or better services.
Council and housing association rents have been increasing steadily over the last few years as part of a Government rent convergence strategy. Rents still vary enormously, even for similar properties, and the Government wants to bring them all into line by 2016.
But there is a fear that social housing is becoming unaffordable as rents keep going up faster than earnings. This is a real worry because social housing in Leeds provides the only affordable housing in the city. Both private rented accommodation and home ownership are now out of reach of most working people.
The new research shows that while council rents are still affordable for most households, the bottom 10% of earners could be paying between 42-53% of their weekly income in rent. For the lowest waged housing association tenants, between 39-70% of their weekly income could go on rent.
For single households at the bottom end of the wage scale, there is beginning to be a real issue of affordability in the social housing sector. Both council and housing association homes are becoming unaffordable to those on the bottom 10% of earnings.
High rents mean that social housing tenants are forced into the poverty trap. If they depend on housing benefit to pay their rent, they may be unable to afford to keep their home, once they get a job. There is a real danger that soon the only way someone can afford a council or housing association home is by being on benefit.
Stop Moonlight Robbery!
Campaign against the theft of council tenants rents!
For council tenants the situation is worse because their rents are used to subsidise other councils. Each year Leeds council tenants pay about £1000 in ‘negative subsidy’ – money that goes straight to government to be redistributed. But about a quarter of this money does not get spent on repairs or maintenance. Instead the government adds it to general taxation to spend on other projects. So council tenants get taxed twice!
This stealth tax is called 'Moonlight Robbery' and we are part of a national campaign against it.
It’s an old myth that council housing is subsidised by the Government. That’s not true at all. In fact, most council housing gets no government subsidies at all. Council tenants pay all the costs of their housing service and then some more! They pay so much extra that next year council housing in the UK stands to make a £194 million surplus!
What happens to this money? Some of it goes to subsidise councils who still need government support for their housing; mostly the London boroughs. The rest of council tenants rents goes straight into the government’s coffers, and government spends it on anything they want. So council tenants subsidise the government and other tax payers!
Council tenants in Leeds are set to pay £66 million back to the government in stealth tax this year. Some of that comes back to tenants through the Major Repairs Allowance. But that still leaves council tenants paying £8 million more than they should.
It is only the extra cash brought in by Leeds ALMOs that stops the government draining off all the money out of our rent account. And when all our council homes are brought up to a decent standard, we will be left facing a huge Negative Subsidy bill. Unless Negative Subsidy is scrapped, it will be very hard for the Council to continue to manage and maintain tenants homes. A Government working party is looking at ways of changing the way council housing is financed. Leeds Tenants Federation is taking part in this review and we are campaigning for an end to this double whammy. We have joined the Moonlight Robbery Campaign, a national tenants campaign to stop this stealth tax. The links to the right will take you to a briefing from the Moonlight Robbery campaign and an invoice to send to Government to reclaim your lost rent! Join this campaign!
Please see the links to the right for more information. Leeds Tenants Federation is also serving on a government task group that is reviewing the workings of the Housing Revenue Account, the system of funding council housing. We are using our position on this top board to press for an end to Moonlight Robbery.
Rents should be set at a level that working people can afford so that social housing is really affordable to all. Tenants should know what they are paying for and should see a clear link between rent and services. They shouldn’t be taxed twice or forced to go on benefits just to keep a roof over their heads.
Join Leeds Tenants Federation’s campaign for fair rents and decent homes.
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