Britain’s banks are adding pressure on the most vulnerable in society, forcing landlords to discriminate against those receiving housing benefits. Nationalise the banks and the big landlords!
NatWest branches across the country were forced to close on Saturday 24th November as hundreds of protesters came out to oppose the bank’s policy of open discrimination against those on housing benefit.
A clause in NatWest’s buy-to-let mortgage agreement with landlords prohibits renting to DSS tenants – those receiving housing benefit. A recent case reported on by the Guardian highlights the blatant injustice of this policy.
A vulnerable elderly woman living in Belfast, who had always paid her rent on time, was faced with the prospect of eviction, after her landlord was told by NatWest to evict her in order for additional lending to be secured against the property.
Shelter has commented that such policies could amount to unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. As it stands, however, this open discrimination appears to be perfectly legal.
This case is doubly shocking considering that NatWest is owned by RBS, the bailed-out bank (supposedly) owned by the taxpayer.
Homelessness, health problems, and hardship
Socialist Appeal spoke to members of the London Renters Union (the organisers of the Stratford protest), who told us the following:
“I’m out here protesting because I oppose NatWest’s discriminatory mortgage clause. It’s causing homelessness, and we own NatWest indirectly anyway. It’s outrageous that we don’t have any say in how the bank is run – isn’t that the point of public ownership? I think we should own all the banks in any case, as they should serve ordinary people and the community.” – Anonymous
“Housing is discriminatory and people have serious difficulty applying for benefits. People on benefits have no power; banks and landlords are controlling everything.” – Anonymous
“Part of my job when I worked for Shelter was to advise families, usually single mothers with lots of children, as they had been evicted through section 21 or their accommodation was temporary and/or unsuitable. It was impossible to find anything as landlords were not renting to people on housing benefits.
“We need to highlight this as an issue and pressure banks and organisations like NatWest to change their policies.”
“I think in terms of discrimination, we stamp it out in other sectors. But when it comes to social class and poverty it still exists; it’s almost accepted.” – Hannah
“If you’re a private renter and you’re working class it is very difficult for you to access housing in this sector.”
“There are empty homes in our boroughs; the council has not got many council homes and they aren’t opening out the empty homes. The discrimination banks like NatWest are perpetuating leads to people in temporary accommodation. It’s terrible and means the members in the renters union have really bad quality housing and are living in squalor.” – Amina
“Landlords already don’t need any more of an impetus to treat renters badly, never mind with such policies coming from the bank. This had to end now. Landlords already discriminate against so many different people, such as those from ethnic minorities, but the discrimination against those on housing benefit is even more blatant. And who is it that’s going to be on housing benefit anyway? It’s going to be working class people. This is open and unashamed class discrimination.” – Asif
Others who were present at the protest shared their harrowing experiences of homelessness and mental health problems that came about due to the Universal Credit roll out and benefit cuts.
NatWest shame on you!! People claiming benefits need homes too ??? 1 in 25 people are homeless in Newham but we no that renters claiming benefits face huge difficulties finding housing due to DSS discrimination by landlords and agents #YesDSS #Homes4PeopleNotProfits pic.twitter.com/s0d2Rj6Wqf
— London Renters Union (@LDNRentersUnion) November 24, 2018
Whilst the homeless, and those on DSS and Universal Credit will be hardest hit by such discriminatory policies, the housing crisis is something that affects virtually everyone in society at the moment, and is particularly acute in London.
All across the country renters are subject to extortionate rents, spiralling utility prices, damp, mould, infestations, and indifferent landlords who are only interested in their right to squeeze profits out of ordinary working class people.
Rogue landlords are making millions of pounds each year renting out homes unfit for human habitation – to young and old, able bodied and disabled alike. It is also no surprise that the current government is doing little to alleviate this problem, given that 1-in-5 MPs are landlords, currently making money by renting out properties. This includes the Prime Minister Theresa May herself!
It is not simply enough to pledge a piecemeal amount of new homes each year, which are deemed “affordable” by reference to the already exorbitant market prices; or to simply tax buy-to let-landlords, – most taxes can either be avoided or reduced through the usual financial wizardry anyway.
The entire system is rigged against workers and renters, and each year billions of pounds of public money is placed directly into the pockets of private landlords through the housing benefit system.
We shut it dowwwnnnn @NatWest_Help Stratford this morning ? Great to have support from passing cars and people joining us along the way, speaking truth to power! ?✊? Natwest, drop the clause! #EndDSSDiscrimination #YesDSS #Homes4PeopleNotProfits ? pic.twitter.com/6ClWzme0nV
— Amanda Cave (@aecave) November 24, 2018
People before profit
This state of affairs must come to an end. The concept of profit has no place in housing whatsoever. The Labour Party and trade unions should make this loud and clear in their policies and programme.
The only way to guarantee affordable homes and good living conditions for all is to put an end to buy-to-let racketeering, and to nationalise the big banks, construction companies, and major landlords. And the millions of empty homes being hoarded by parasitic investors should be seized in order to house the vulnerable and the homeless.
Under democratic workers’ control, as part of a socialist economic plan, we could build millions of affordable homes every year for ordinary working-class people. Only then can we put an end to the housing crisis and the scourge of homelessness – both products of a rotten capitalist system that puts profits before human lives.