Private tenants and members of the campaign group ‘Housing for the 99%’ last week protested outside the National Landlords Association to call for an end to high rents and insecure, poor quality private rented housing.
The issue has received renewed attention following the Prime Minister's suggestion that housing benefit should be abolished for people aged under 25. Critics point out that the bill for housing benefit is so high because there is no cap on private sector rents and insufficient social housing.
Passers-by and staff at the organisation’s offices were met by a crowd, including activists in sleeping bags and cardboard boxes, highlighting how unaffordable rents and cuts to housing benefit are increasingly putting private tenants at risk of homelessness.
“We’re here to highlight a broken housing system, which sees millions of people paying rip-off rents for atrocious housing,” said one of the group, Christine Haigh.
She added, “The housing market is clearly failing everyone apart from greedy landlords. It’s time we invested in good quality public housing that ordinary people can actually afford to live in".
Private rents have increased at twice the rate of wages over the last decade. Yet statistics from the English Housing Survey show how private tenants are more likely to live in poor quality housing than people living in other types of housing. The past decade has seen a 1.3 million increase in the number of households in the private rented sector.
“High rents and vicious cuts to housing benefit are putting thousands of households at risk of poverty and homelessness,” insisted Haigh. “The answer is not to cut support for housing costs for the most vulnerable people in society but to bring in controls on runaway rents to stop us all footing the bill for the gigantic profits demanded by private sector landlords.”