They know full well how it’s going to be received, even by their own readers, mind you:
Housing is an emotive subject because most people are struggling to pay rent, or a mortgage, making life-altering decisions about where to live based on how much they can afford to spend – so making the case for the state to be subsidising large chunks of rent for other people to live in London does not instantly elicit sympathy.
If you're in any doubt about this, just glance below to read the comments that inevitably follow pieces on this theme.Yes, this is all about the effect on low-income families of the benefit cap, which numerous charities and pressure groups fear will remove their client base from comfortable walking distance from their cosy London offices…
So let’s have a look at the examples quoted, shall we?
Rana and Mina (who, like most people interviewed for this piece, asked for their real names not to be printed in case any suggestion that they might be complaining rebounds on them in the council's housing office) are living in this bed and breakfast, as a direct result of changes to the housing benefit system.
The precise thinking of Mina's previous landlord is not clear, but she was charging £500 a week for the two-bedroom flat in St John's Wood in north London, paid for by housing benefit, when a new housing benefit cap was introduced, which would have reduced the maximum payment available to Mina to £290. Rather than waiting for her tenant to fall into arrears, the landlord gave her notice to leave earlier this year.Ah. See, according to the ‘Guardian’, this was a dreadful miscalculation by the ConDems when they put the benefit cap in place:
The coalition's introduction of a housing allowance cap was based on the theory that by capping the amount available to housing benefit recipients, landlords would drop their rents and renegotiate lower contracts with tenants.
But because the rental market in the capital remains so buoyant, what appears to have happened instead is that families like Mina's have been evicted and made homeless.Mmm, yes, expecting the landlords to take a loss on the chin was rather daft, come to think of it.
So, how did Mina wind up in this situation where she required benefits?
A refugee from Iran who has lived in London for many years, Mina used to work in a cafe but now has arthritis in both knees; she walks with difficulty and does not work. There was nowhere else she could afford to move to in the vicinity of her daughter's school…Ah. Ok. Stop right there. People have to live according to their means.
And the ‘Guardian’ is quite right when they assume that all those others living within their means aren't going to be too happy. Even Mina herself sort of gets it. She just thinks she should be exempt.
Mina understands that the government has to save money, but wonders if they need to target people like her, who have long-term roots in the area. "I've had the same GP for 20 years, the same hospital. All my daughter's friends are here. Are we meant to change all these things? " she asks.
"Suddenly they've changed all the rules. They are playing with people. They are messing around with people's lives. It's a lot of stress for a single mother."Guess what? Recessions are ‘a lot of stress’ for everyone. And yes, you are meant to change all those things if they will no longer support you – haven’t you already changed Iran for the UK when things became untenable? So swapping one part of the UK for another should be a breeze!
They desperately try to find a more ‘worthy’ example. They fail. Miserably:
This housing crisis affects people who are working, as well as those who are not. Helena Carroll, who works in accounts, spent two nights in a bed and breakfast in west London last month with her seven-year-old daughter…
She was evicted from her flat in Hammersmith in August, probably also the victim of the incoming benefit cap. She works 25 hours a week, earning around £800 a month, and paid part of her own rent, but is unable to afford to live in the part of London where she grew up, and where her daughter has always lived, without state support.Ah, but see, she only paid ‘part of her own rent’. Those paying ALL of their own rent are quite entitled to think ‘Hey! Hang on a minute here…’
And she can’t live in the part of London where she grew up without state support? So what? I can’t live in Mayfair without state support, so where’s my flat, then?
Got anything else, ‘Guardian’?
Meanwhile Abdul has been living in a string of bed and breakfasts with his wife and 18-month-old son since June 11, when they were evicted from their home in Maida Vale, north London, where he has lived for 11 years since he arrived as a refugee from Syria.*throws PC out of the window*
Last one. Make it good!
Grace, a mental health nurse, has been living in a room with her 16-year-old son, in a white stucco-fronted hotel in west London for five months…She became homeless when she and her son were thrown out of the flat they were sharing with friends. Her son is at school nearby, but as a newly-qualified nurse earning a salary of £21,000, Grace, who moved from Nigeria over a decade ago, is unable to afford to rent in this part of central London, where she wants to be so that her son can stay in the school where he has begun his A-levels, and so she can easily travel to the hospital where she often works nights and early morning shifts.Ah, so, we’re back to the Mina situation. With the added fillip that she’s a public sector worker. You know, I'm not sure that’ll be the argument-swayer that you fondly imagine it to be…
Romin Sutherland of the NextDoor project, a charity helping people affected by housing benefit cuts believes the system of benefits will not be fairer and argues that capping the housing benefit "is driving a huge rise in homelessness, which is itself costing the taxpayer many millions. And this doesn't account for the longer term costs of uprooting established communities and dumping them without support in unfamiliar areas that are unable to provide for their needs.
"Instead of capping housing benefit, perhaps the government should be focusing on providing low-cost housing that gives back to the taxpayer over generations, rather than squandering our money on exorbitant rents," he says.The comments, as you can imagine, soon descend into a screaming rabble demanding rent controls, more council housing, higher benefits, the immediate execution of the Housing Minister (in fact, all the Tory cabinet), government-mandated social mixing for areas, you name it.
And no-one, not one that I can see, seems to have asked the question; If these are the people that the ‘Guardian’ chooses as the most sympathetic, what must the rest be like?