We were taught at school to detest the early 19th century reformer Owen Chadwick and his “Doctrine of lesser eligibility”. What this meant was that it should be less eligible – desirable – to be on benefit than off it. Chadwick’s plans led to the cruelties of the workhouse system – though cruelty was not Chadwick’s intention.
Nadira and I have to move from our small Shepherds Bush flat, with a baby on the way and my children often visiting. I don’t want to buy in a still falling market, so I was looking to rent again. More space means moving further out, so we were looking at a nice house at Ealing Common.
The house had three bedrooms and was for rent at £2,300 per month. The rental market is also falling – not plummeting like the purchase market, but floating gently downwards. So we offered £2,100 and agreement seemed very close.
Then Ealing Council stepped in and offered the owner £2,700 per month to take it for social housing.
Obviously I admit to some personal frustration, but it is plain in this case (and I don’t know how many houses Ealing Council are taking) that the government intervention is radically distorting the market, to the detriment of private renters.
Chadwick’s doctrine of lesser eligibility was abused to harrass the poor. But we have an opposite doctrine at work here. If you are on state benefits you can get a level of housing that self-reliant working people are priced out of. That seems wrong too.
I await the howls of left wing rage!