George Osborne’s Autumn statement was bad news for people who stand no chance of obtaining a mortgage. There was no funding for building homes with ‘social rent’ which offer an alternative to the expensive private rental sector (PRS). Osborne is lining the pockets of the big builders by handing over to them £2.3 billion to subsidise a 20% cut in the price of ‘Starter Homes’.

The abandonment of any support for building ‘social rent’ homes will increase the shortage of genuinely affordable homes for rent as Council homes are sold off and not replaced. This shortage is reflected in the PRS in Swindon. Councillors and Council officers have started to find people renting garages to live in. The fact that such a situation can exist in our supposedly affluent town is shameful. It’s not something you would do if you had an alternative.

At the same time we have begun to find ‘gazumping’ in the PRS. Taking advantage of the shortage of affordable homes to rent some unscrupulous landlords are making would-be tenants compete with each other for a tenancy by offering rent way above the original asking asking price.

Both of these things are reflections of an imbalance in housing in the town. The phenomenal increase in the PRS from less than 6,000 at the time of the 2001 census to over 16,000 today is the result of a shortage of Council housing combined with a growing gulf between house prices and earnings.

Swindon Housing Action Campaign has been launched precisely to highlight the human consequences of this housing crisis and to campaign against exploitative landlords. The government has abandoned to their fate those people who cannot afford a mortgage. In London and other places we have read about ‘beds in sheds’. In Swindon we now have beds in garages. It’s a shameful indictment of a failed housing policy.

Martin Wicks

Swindon Housing Action Campaign

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