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Richard Silby from Leeds North West branch discusses the housing crisis and how it is going to effect millions of youth across the country. With rents on the rise and housing benefit being attached, despite evidence of an increase in landlord controlling legislation, the need for a fightback is evident

Rich Silby – Leeds North West Branch

It’s not easy being young in ConDem Britain today. With just over two years of this government, not only have we seen unemployment among the youth rocket up to one million (around one in five of 16-24 year olds); we have witnessed the trebling of tuition fees and the removal of EMA for college students. Among a backdrop of job scarcity, ‘work-for-your-dole’ schemes and a lessening of opportunity for the poorest to continue education after leaving school, we now have the recent announcement that Housing Benefit for the under 25s could be abolished altogether!

This comes just a year after the rate of housing allowance able to be claimed has been cut, combined with the expectation that a single person under 35 can only claim at all if it is within shared accommodation. The rationale behind this decision from the Tory led coalition is to tackle ‘dependency’, with a projected saving of around £1.8 billion (just a fraction of the £6 billion Vodafone tax bill which was ‘waived’ alone!). An interview with Tory MP for Wellingborough, Peter Bone, on this issue on BBC Five Live with Stephen Nolan, bore out effectively equating those claiming benefit as an ‘underclass’. This nakedly exposes the real attitude of the Tories – condescension of anybody who may well dare need support from the state.
This policy will effectively consign a solid proportion of people to the streets. The Tories seem to have conveniently brushed over the issue that not every young person has a stable family to go back to in times of crisis. What would a young couple or single parent with children do if one or both of lost their job in these insecure times? Even if they did have supportive family ties, are they seriously suggesting they should move in to an over-crowded house akin to a Victorian era? What about young people fleeing domestic violence in the home or those wishing to escape a jobless town or city? On a personal level, had I not left Hull, I would have had to stay on my mum’s sofa in a small one bedroom council bungalow as I searched for what was left of a desolate employment pool.
Instead of actually building enough affordable houses, creating jobs, offering independence and employment security to young people, we have a government intent on holding back a whole generation. If this is not held in check, an explosion of unfocused aggression will fester; and scenes like the riots of last year will become an ever present reality once again. A co-ordinated national campaign including Youth Fight for Jobs, the trade union movement and other community campaigners must channel this and defeat not only these disastrous policies, but bring down this weak government altogether.