London, England-In yet another outrageous piece of social engineering from our coalition government, pensioners will be encouraged to downsize to smaller properties allowing local councils to rent their homes out as council houses and manage the tenancy.
Local authorities will ‘help’ older people move from their homes into ‘more suitable accommodation’. Grant Schapps, the Housing Minister, who is a conservative member of parliament claims the scheme will solve a so-called ‘housing crisis’ as well as creating a system that will ‘permit access to various sources of wealth’ that are currently not being used to pay for care.
Read that as the elderly will have to raid their pension pots and hand over the equity in their homes - which they have spent a lifetime paying for – in order to put themselves into a care system which is notoriously unfit for purpose.
Despite having paid taxes all their lives, pensioners will be forced to run down their wealth while those that have squandered their money or lived off the state will get free care. The idea is to create more stocks of ‘affordable housing’ for younger families. This is a euphemism for subsidized houses for families that have deadbeat dads, single mothers with a battery of children from different fathers and other assorted welfare dependent cases that need ‘help’.
The thinking behind this initiative was provided from a report, ‘Hoarding of Housing’ undertaken by a newly created charity, The Intergenerational Foundation (IF), a left leaning, research-based think-tank which ‘promotes fairness between generations’ as they state on their website. The report makes for depressing reading as its clearly aggressive stance toward older people who they consider to be ‘rattling around in big houses’ while younger families are being squeezed into smaller flats and under-sized houses. IF claims it is not urging the government to ‘round on older generations and turf them out of their homes’ but they have busily calculated that 25 million bedrooms are standing empty and that 51.5% of those aged over 65 have two or more bedrooms that they don’t need. Says who? Are we getting to a stage where we need to justify how you use the rooms in your own house that you have bought and paid for?
Pensioners’ watchdog groups are outraged, and rightly so. This is a pernicious attack on law abiding, hard working people who are making personal choices as to where and how they want to live and have become the target of progressive idealists. In a bid to completely destroy the middle class, IF propose exempting the over 60’s on stamp duty (the tax we pay on purchases of assets) when they acquire a smaller property, or raise property taxes to ‘reflect the social cost of occupying housing’, in other words make it so expensive to run a house larger than one bedroom, that only the very rich would be able to remain in their own homes.
Interestingly just at this moment we have the leftist Minister Vince Cable proposing a property tax on houses over £1million. For many many Britons their homes represent their sole wealth.
This scheme would in effect displace those that have worked hard for what they have, into smaller and cheaper housing, while raising the living standard of welfare cases by moving them into homes that the previous owners worked hard to achieve. Other than the über rich, all classes would be abolished - just as Marx intended.
The case of Mrs Saindi is one that sums up the howling insanity of our current welfare system. This single mother of seven, who fled Afghanistan several years ago, cost the local council £170,000 in benefits, of which £150,000 went to a private landlord so Mrs Saindi could live in a 7 bedroom house, worth about £1.2million. When this outrage broke in the press a few years ago, it was found that due to the vagaries of the Local Housing Allowance system that taxpayers were in fact paying too much for this property. To add insult to injury, it was alleged she had an undeclared bank account into which she received a secret income of around £16,000 per annum. When this story broke, the family allowed the press into their home, allowing the public sight of the trappings of a very comfortable lifestyle – an enormous plasma TV, Nintendo, Playstation 3, top of the range mobile phones and two laptops to name just a few items. Her 20-year-old son had no job and did not want to move from the house because it had a driveway for his car—the one he used to drive to the pub so he could shoot pool.
Since the public outcry following this case, the Local Housing allowance has been dropped to a maximum of £19,200 per annum that a council can pay to a private landlord. Then there are food and health benefits on top of this.
But the welfare state is nowhere near being tackled. Last week the House of Lords voted down (similar to the senate voting on a house bill) the government’s bill for a benefits cap of £26,000 per annum. This is the net equivalent of someone earning £35,000 per annum, significantly above the national average wage of £26000. It seems the House of Lords wants to pander to the likes of a young Asian single mother of two, who was paraded on the BBC asking- ‘why should I be asked to give up a good standard of living, to move to a smaller place where I don’t know anyone?’ Why indeed, when Benefits Britain will make sure your every need and heart’s desire is catered for. In fact why stop at housing and child benefits? Why not pay for a celebrity chef to conjure up tasty meals delivered straight to her door? Would that be going too far? Surely not! We are only about £1 trillion in debt; there must be more elasticity in the welfare honey pot.
If you want to malinger and live off the state, the UK is the place to do it. In the past 8 years immigration has increased by 1.75 million, the legacy of the last Labour government’s social engineering immigration policy now appearing in the official figures. While there is not a hard correlation between immigrants and the 1.46 million people claiming unemployment benefit, but the figures do, however, suggest that a country can only afford a certain level of immigration before the welfare system starts to break down. On top of this we have the chaos of amnesty to asylum seekers. Last summer 161,000 failed asylum seekers were granted the right to stay and claim benefits in the UK. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Some 450,000 cases were found abandoned in boxes by the previous Labour government. It’s anyone’s guess how many are out in the black economy, operating outside the law and tax regime.
And unfortunately the chaos doesn’t stop there. The EU Human Rights Act forbids us to deport even convicted terrorists should it be claimed that they “may face torture” in the country we want to deport them to, as famously shown last month when Abu Qatada, Europe’s alleged right-hand man for Bin Laden, was granted stay in the UK by the High Court in order to escape torture in his native Jordan, where he has been convicted of bomb plots and terrorism. He has been detained in the UK since 2002, raking up huge costs for both his detention and his legal defence—all courtesy of the UK taxpayer.
The government today has announced plans to curb immigration from hundreds down to tens of thousands before the next election in three years time. We are being told only the brightest and the best will be allowed entry. The likes of ‘top range professionals, senior executives, entrepreneurs and exceptional scientific and artistic talent’ will be the only ones to grace our doorstep. Well phew—presumably they will be able to afford their own housing then so we can leave our older folks to decide where they want to live? I am not holding my breath on this one.
Governments are notoriously bad at managing any economic or administrative function. The mishandling of the Local Housing Allowance alone proves that. If they are so keen on more bedrooms, why not try to get their hands on the 900,000 plus empty houses with a further 300,000 flats over businesses that have different tax bands that means they don’t show up on empty house stats?
The answer is that councils already have the majority of them on the books due to another little failed socialist scheme call Pathfinder. The idea was for councils to forcibly acquire cramped flats and houses with front doors which open directly onto the street, and to gentrify them with front gardens and modernized accommodation. Billions was spent on emptying and demolishing housing, and in the typical inefficient fashion, only few new ones were built, the result being a large stock of council owned housing that fails the minimum legal standards for human habitation.
These houses should be sold, developed privately either by individuals or developers who will figure out what ‘affordable’ means via the free market.
Socialism has been the greatest failure of modern Europe, the UK included. Post war prosperity has afforded an indulgence of thinking where perceived kindness has in fact fostered a dependence on the state that has undermined human dignity. Where is the dignity of a woman with seven children who takes money from hard working people so that her kids can have phones and game consoles while the able bodied 20-year-old son shoots pool?
Bureaucratic mentality is unable to find clear and sensible solutions to problems that it itself has created. They target homes built up by free choice and hard work to alleviate the pressures of a housing demand brought about by the breakdown of the family which the benefit system encourages and the growth in population fueled by immigration. In a time of deepening recession, can civil unrest be far away?
Anna Grayson—Morley is a London based freelance journalist. Early career was as an Account Director with Grey Advertising in London and Brussels as well as contributing editorial services to Conde Nast Publications. She has written for the Montreal Gazette, The Toronto Star and The Canada Post.
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