More working people in Tyneside than ever before are claiming housing benefit to get by despite being in full-time jobs.
Around 15.5% of households that claim housing welfare are in work and bring home a regular salary, a figure which has doubled since 2008.
The statistics have been described today by the National Housing Federation (NHF) as evidence of an ‘affordability crisis’ in the region’s housing sector.
Monica Burns, the organisation’s regional affairs manager in the North East, said:
“The property market isn’t working and will only get worse for working people, local families and the next generation if we don’t take action.
“Building the right houses in the right places, and improving the ones that are already there is integral to creating stronger communities where people want to stay.”
The NHF’s research shows that the average person in the region spends £482 a month on rent, a quarter of their monthly income.
In Newcastle a monthly private rent averages out at £478, in North Tyneside £528 and in Gateshead £510.
Nationally middle income households of between around £20,000 and £30,000 are making two out of three new claims.
Ms Burns added:
“This is the new phenomenon that working people are claiming housing benefit. This is hard-working and people in respected jobs who still can’t make ends meet.”
The NHF’s report North East Broken Market, Broken Dreams also reveals that despite having the lowest average house price in England at £141,210, the North East also has the lowest salaries, meaning workers in the region are expected to pay six times the average income to eventually own a home.
In the rest of the country people are expected to pay 3.5 times their income to own a home.
The difficulty in getting on the property ladder is felt most acutely in Northumberland where there is the largest gap between the average house prices at £172,640 and the average salary of £23.863.
In Newcastle the average house price is £169,887, in Gateshead it’s £137,823 and in North Tyneside it is £153,768.
The average house price in England is £251,879, and the average salary is £26,520.
While the housing crisis in the South of England is characterised by a shortage of properties, in the North East Ms Burns said housing is far more than ‘a numbers game’.
The NHF would like to see the next Government take action on the North East’s housing situation, which they argue is part of a larger community crisis, where many people are living in poverty and are unable to access secure jobs.
They are backing the Homes for Britain campaign which seeks to pressure politicians into taking housing in the UK seriously by getting them to commit to reversing the housing shortage within a generation.
They also seek to lobby the Government to allow a housing associations to set their own rents and create a national Housing and Infrastructure bank.
Ms Burns said:
“It’s taken us a generation to get into this housing crisis and will take us a generation to get out of it. Successive governments have failed to tackle the country’s major housing challenges and we are calling on the next Government to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation and to publish a long term plan within a year of taking office, detailing how they will do this.”
She said the number of empty homes in the region is often used as a reason not to consider more new builds, but it was essential for the North East to build homes where they were needed – and former pit villages in Northumberland and County Durham were not always the right places.
She said: “Quite often there is not a housing need.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Oct 2014
> A masterful summing-up of the UK today…
Scaremongering and celebrity obsession ensures the true picture of life in the UK remains forever obscured, writes Joyce McMillan
It’s never a good idea to fly into a rage in a public place; but there it was, a provocation so absurd and extreme that fury seemed the only sensible response. It was a magazine cover, lovingly displayed in a shop in central Edinburgh a few weeks ago; on it was a picture of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, with a caption that read, “Not only the woman of the year, but the woman of the century.”
No-one seemed to find this odd, even though the century has barely begun; no-one was objecting, at least in public, to the idea that the perfect role-model for a generation of young women, struggling to earn more than £7.50 an hour, is a woman whose career suggests that the world is your oyster, so long as you can arrange to be born rich, to marry into the royal family, and to devote all your energy to standing around looking silently pretty in weirdly old-fashioned clothes.
And although the bizarre values of the celebrity magazine that published this cover might seem a far cry from the current debate about the UK economy, and the strange “recovery” it is now experiencing, it seems to me increasingly clear that the nation’s tolerance for the economic policies to which it has been subjected since 2008 is somehow bound up with the hallucinatory extremes of celebrity culture that now pervade our national life, inviting people to empathise not with themselves and those around them, but with the rich and famous.
This week in the House of Commons, the Tory benches could be heard roaring with joy at the news that British economic growth has returned to the heady level of 2.4 per cent a year, and that unemployment has dropped to just over 7 per cent. And when Ed Miliband tried to point out that this “recovery” is not much use to an average British earner whose real income is still £1,600 a year lower than it was in 2008, he was literally shouted down, by Tory MPs hysterical with triumph at the news that their beloved financial sector is once again growing by leaps and bounds, promising ever more lavish times for their friends in the City.
Ed Miliband is in the right of the argument, of course, so far as the current round of statistics are concerned. As a TUC report released on Monday made clear, the current increase in economic activity in Britain is mainly confined to London, with unemployment still actually increasing in the north-east and south-west of England. 80 per cent of the new jobs created since 2010 are in sectors where the average worker earns less than the living wage of around £7.95 an hour. Many of those “in work” are on poverty wages, and are being forced to work part-time or on zero hours contracts.
And astonishingly, the government actually includes in its “in work” figure the large number of people – more than a million, since 2010 – who have been forced to work for nothing, either in unpaid internships, or as part of the government’s own workfare scheme.
The truth about Britain, in 2014, is that ours has become a low-wage, low-output, low-productivity economy, with chronic under-employment and little job security, and with economic growth driven only by increasing household debt; indeed it would be interesting to know what proportion of the current upturn is directly related to the recent development of yet another London property bubble, supported by the government’s generous help-to-buy subsidies to those already on the property ladder.
If this is the real story of what’s happening in the British economy, though – a steady corrosion of ordinary workers’ earnings and benefits as a share of the national wealth, all designed to pay for a deficit almost entirely caused by the banking crash of 2008 and the subsequent bailout – it is not a story that most people have ever heard. The controlling narrative, as we all know, is the one about how the financial crash was caused by excessive public spending and an over-generous benefits system; the one about how we were all “living beyond our means” and have to pay the price; the one about how blaming rich bankers for the crash they caused, or expecting them to change their behaviour, is pointless and immature; the one about how migrants and benefit scroungers are the problem, and attacking them will provide a solution.
And it’s not difficult to grasp how this desperately skewed account of reality – actually false at every point – meshes with a television schedule that ranges neatly from Benefits Street to Strictly Come Dancing, offering viewers first a precisely-chosen group of underclass hate-figures, then a sustained orgy of identification with a series of celebrities; it’s a perfect, instinctive symphony of elite ideology, designed to divide ordinary people against themselves, and so to continue to rule.
All of which is elementary stuff, of course, for any boss class facing troubled times; distract the people by hatemongering and scaremongering, provide enough glitzy distractions and royal events, convince them that economic problems are just symptoms of personal moral failure – and hey presto, you can fool most of the people, almost all of the time.
And this time, too the tiny elite who are now trousering an ever-greater share of the world’s wealth have a peculiarly strong advantage, in that there is almost no organised resistance; just the odd protest, a brief and disparate occupy moment, and a steady thrum of dissent from the beleaguered trade union movement, which is about to become the main victim of the fiercely authoritarian Lobbying Bill currently passing through Westminster.
The idea that there is no alternative to George Osborne’s tired 1980’s neoliberalism may be intellectual and historical nonsense, in other words, disproved by the very breath of history, here in Britain and elsewhere.
Yet unless those of us who oppose his world-view begin to unite, to organise, to start arguing out a more truthful and compelling narrative in every workplace and community on the planet, our chances of challenging this new age of extreme inequality will be slim indeed; as slim as Kate Middleton’s tiny waist, and – in the eyes of a bamboozled generation – not nearly so glamorous, so interesting, or so important.
Source – The Scotsman, 23 Jan 2014