Whilst former Downing Street advisor to Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, and former Director of Strategy and Planning for the Labour Party Greg Beales now Director of Communications, Policy & Campaigns at the homelessness charity Shelter is busy pontificating and condemning Landlords and agents for turning away tenants on ‘housing benefit’. Perhaps he and the other Landlord/Tenant reformers should give pause and reflect on who is really to blame for the current situation.
First, the previous Labour government did nothing to help by stopping direct payments to Landlords leading to a substantial increase in unpaid rent and evictions.
Then we have the ludicrously inept system laughingly referred to as Universal Credit, lumping together a locally administered benefit, Local Housing Allowance, with a number of benefits controlled by the DWP. Leading to delays in payment of reportedly up to 16 weeks. It seems that Government is of the opinion that everyone else should suffer the financial problems caused by poor management and they should not bear any responsibility but carry on their own merry way without consequence. We then have the Banks and other Financial institutions actively stopping Buy to Let landlords from taking on ‘housing benefit’ tenants. So just why is Greg Beales and his ilk so keen to blame everything on Landlords and Agents, the words soft targets springs to mind, and why does he think so many landlords are selling up.
It may just be that overly zealous campaigners like Shelter are more to blame by persisting in the myth of Rogue Landlords and Tenants that can do no wrong. Personally, I could name bad instances on both sides, but all recent legislation seems to be aiming to destroy the Private Rented Sector, in favour of some Utopian Homes For All system that has never existed. The Social Housing sector is under increasing pressure in no small part because of the legislation pushed through by advocates like Shelter.
Like it or not the PRS has fulfilled a vital role in plugging the gap to provide housing between those that buy and those that can get rented Social Housing, but to blame the lack of availability of housing to tenants in receipt of Benefit on Landlords and Agents alone is not just unrealistic, it ignores the effects of ill-conceived legislation over the last couple of decades and the rise of the Banks having more and more control how we can use our own money.