Home Class Politics But Why Should Poor People Live In The Median House?

But Why Should Poor People Live In The Median House?

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That we’re going to have some manner of welfare state is obvious. No one actually does want poor people croaking on the doorstep – unsightly as well as insanitary. The argument is therefore not over whether but how and how generous?

There’s a good argument for the universal basic income in that utility is always personal. This means that for any given amount of money taken off the richer total societal utility is maximised by giving that, as cash, to the poor. Because this means the poor can go off and maximise their personal utility by spending said cash as they wish.

We can think of exceptions to this, the mentally deranged might not quite understand how to best deploy their resources so we have to do a certain amount of it for them – so much on rent, so much on food and so on. There’s a useful corollary to this which is that the more you insist that the poor must have their health care directly provided, not bought from cash, the more their housing must be directly provided, not bought from their cash, the more you are insisting that the poor are mentally deranged and unable to determine, cohesively, what does maximise their own utility.

One useful dividing line between Lady Muck type liberals handing out the favours and classical liberals trying to actually improve society is exactly this. Us classicals agree that there are those who simply cannot cope but we don’t regard simple poverty as being the signifier.

OK, cool. But then there’s that problem of how generous should such a system be?

Almost half a million low-income tenants who are claiming universal credit – many of whom were forced to apply for the benefit during the pandemic – are struggling to pay rent because it only covers the cheapest third of rents in each part of the country.

Low income people get aid to pay the rent. OK, seems fair enough. Sure, we want to bring down said rents and we’re doing that by loosening planning permission so more houses get built. But the base idea of poor peeps getting aid with the rent seems fine even if it’s just an interim thing.

Generation Rent called on the government to …(…)… ensure that the housing element of universal credit covers median rents in each part of the country.

Erm, why? Why would we want to insist that the poor gain access to the average level of housing? We can all see the point of poor people gaining aid to be able to have any housing. Or even housing of a sufficient even if base standard. But why should they – OK, for some of us around here, we – get everyone else to pay for the average housing experience?

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Bit of a problem with the UBI though. The justification for taking my money for the poor is that we can’t let people suffer – sleeping in the rain, going hungry, etc. But if you just give them cash and some of them blow it on booze, drugs, gambling, entertainment, etc. they’re back sleeping in the rain & I don’t get my money back.

  2. Exactly, Esteban.

    Take a few minutes to watch ‘Can’t pay? We’ll take it away’ on Channel 5, for clear examples of where the government has given money to the poor to pay their rent and the poor have spent it as you say. It’s all very well saying people should be responsible for themselves but not while the evidence shows otherwise and it ends up costing US more.

  3. If you pay for everyone to get median housing then suddenly median moves upward until everyone is provided his own tropical island, exactly the same as everyone else. That is how math works…

  4. Almost half a million low-income tenants who are claiming universal credit – many of whom were forced to apply for the benefit during the pandemic – are struggling to pay rent because it only covers the cheapest third of rents in each part of the country.

    This was actually worse up until Rishi Sunak’s COVID-19 reforms, because the maximum amount of rent paid was in reality (after fiscal drag and other factors) was that welfare tenents were limited to the bottom 18% of the market. Here in Perth, Scotland that equated to about £324 a month. Guess how many bedsits and one bedroom flats you saw advertised at that price? Pretty much zero, since the market price for a bedsit or one-bed flat in Perth was around £400 a month. That £76 a month deficit between the UC Rental paid and the actual cost of housing had to be paid by the tenant out of whatever other income was available.

    I agree with Tim that providing sufficient welfare to cover the median housing requirement is overly generous, but welfare rental costs should reflect the reality of local housing costs, not some bureaucratic model which ends up pushing the poor further over the edge.

  5. Obviously the level of welfare rent payments depends on the number of recipients. If half the population are poor enough to require welfare, then by definition the median rental must be covered. Given that there is inevitable a lot of poor people, it’s not appropriate to judge the level of welfare payments based on comparisons to the population as a whole.

    In fact, it’s more complicated than it usually seems. If someone is likely to need support for a short period, it may be cheaper to pay them more to stay where they are rather than incur the expenses of moving to a cheaper region – especially if in th elonger term that means they get a job that pays a higher salary such that thet end up paying a lot more in tax than was paid to them.

    • Okay, so say we move anyone who is long term sick or unemployed to the lowest available rental area (Blackpool, Hull, etc.), sure we may have reduced the cost of welfare, but we’ve also effectively penalised those places with additional burdens when they were already struggling anyway, in addition, by forcing people to move away from friends, relatives, doctors and other support networks we’ve also made their lives a lot more challenging.

      It might make sense to relocate the asylum seekers and other economic migrants out of expensive cities like London first, since what social housing is available never seems to go to the local residents, but some economic migrant or asylum seeker since their needs are curiously defined as being greater than the indigent locals who’ve paid into the system their whole lives.

  6. Same thing happening a few days ago, a (female) do-gooding politio complaining that “the problem with food vouchers is we can’t stop them spending them on food they shouldn’t be eating”.

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