On August 19th ‘arms length’ housing association Bolton at Home (BH) announced a ‘no homelessness’ policy to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax on BH tenants. This would seem like a tenant-supporting move, but when John Dunn, assistant director of housing services at BH, spent 7 paragraphs in the Guardian bemoaning the ‘no eviction’ policies some housing associations (HA) have adopted –in effect arguing for the necessity of evictions- it becomes clear that the reasoning underpinning the ‘no homelessness’ policy are wholly economic.
According to BH’s ‘no homelessness’ policy, if a tenant is evicted over the bedroom tax they’re given the option of moving into “another” property. The tenant is given one re-housing offer only and if they turn it down they can basically fuck off somewhere else.
With 11,000 tenants in Bolton chasing 91 one-bedroom properties, it leaves the policy vacuous. With a shortage of properties to ‘downsize’ to, BH’s only option would be to shift tenants into the private rented sector. And this, it seems, is what BH intend to do:
“We will use some of the empty properties generated by turnover in our stock to re-house affected tenants, as well as making use of private-sector leasehold properties.”
“…would work with the private rented sector and Bolton Council to bring in suitable accommodation where possible.”
According to BH, though, it all depends on what kind of tenant you are. The narrative that BH concocts is that they are protecting the tenant from homelessness and simultaneously other tenants who would be indirectly hit “if rent is not collected.” But, like all state-aligned institutions, BH tries to bring tenants into conflict with each other by dividing them into good/deserving and bad/undeserving:
“’No eviction’ policies do not differentiate between those who can't pay and those who won't pay. It is unfair on those who go on struggling to pay the bedroom tax if others choose not to.”
Dunn does not mention the possibility that tenants who “won’t pay” might also be struggling and can’t pay, preferring to use them as scapegoats for the failure of housing associations to act in genuine solidarity with all tenants.
Bolton News reported in august that:
“They [Bolton at Home] said the policy will not apply if tenants are evicted for arrears that are the result of other factors, such as deliberate non-payment.”
While Dunn has-a-go at folk for focusing on the ‘morality’ of the bedroom tax, he uses his own courtroom tactics to moralise over the decisions made by BH tenants, and principally how those pesky tenants, unable to afford the fucking rent and can’t/won’t pay, are damaging the “service standards”, “credit” and “capital improvement projects” of Bolton at Home. Well, whoopee-fucking-do!
Meanwhile, Dunn shows whose side he’s really on with this mucky little outburst:
“A ‘no eviction’ policy also sets a precedent for landlords. How can they then argue that they are right to evict in cases where arrears are caused by other factors, such as government cuts to tax credits, welfare benefits, increases in non-dependant deductions, and so on?”
The chances are if you’re struggling with the bedroom tax then you’re probably, -whether you can’t or won’t pay- struggling with rent full stop, especially if you’re being threatened with eviction by your HA. So, what difference does it make if you come under the ‘no homelessness’ policy, or not, if you’re going to get shunted into private-rented property anyways? Fuck all.
By slapping the politically loaded term ‘homelessness’ on a mirage-of-a-policy BH merely, and most likely briefly, score some brownie points with the Boltonian electorate and council. If they were truly acting in the interests of their tenants, then they would have adopted a no-evictions policy that protects all tenants from reform and crisis. Instead, they’ve chosen to divide the Bolton at Home tenant community and concentrate on protecting their more important capital assets: bricks and mortar.