A photo of Lucy Pegg and Chris Jarvis with a banner reading "Yes to DSS"

Anyone who has lived in Oxford will know that housing is one of the biggest problems our city faces. Oxford doesn’t have enough social housing, private rent is sky high and for most buying a home here is little more than an impossible dream. We are the least affordable city to live in in the UK and residents feel the burden of this every day.

So imagine how much it would sting to be told – after finding a private rental property you can actually afford – that the landlord doesn’t want you because you receive housing benefit or Universal Credit. Even though refusing to rent to someone on benefits, known as DSS discrimination, has been illegal since a landmark court ruling in July 2020.

For many people this is the reality they face any time they need to move home. A 2020 YouGov survey found that 63% of landlords refuse to rent to those on benefits or say they would prefer not to. This is cruel and unacceptable behaviour. That’s why I’m so proud that this week Oxford City Councillors unanimously supported a cross-party motion pledging to stamp out DSS discrimination in our city.

Notably, the City Council motion was the result of a campaign by community union ACORN Oxford, who have been holding lettings agents who enable DSS discrimination to account. The motion was proposed by Labour Councillor Imogen Thomas and seconded by leader of the Oxford City Council Green group, Chris Jarvis. Both Councillors are members of ACORN and the motion was passionately supported by myself and other Labour councillors, who are also ACORN members with firsthand experience of renting in Oxford. The motion will ensure the city’s cabinet explicitly prohibits discrimination against welfare recipients as part of its landlord accreditation scheme, ensures the city’s welfare reform team proactively acts upon reported cases of discrimination and that a formal tenants’ forum is consulted on housing decisions.

DSS discrimination is a demeaning exploitation of the incredible imbalance of power between landlords and tenants. And, with the Covid-19 pandemic meaning that thousands of new people are receiving benefits, it’s a problem that’s only going to get bigger. This is yet another example of the Tory Government allowing the least fortunate to be exploited so that the ruling class can keep their investments safe. I’m thrilled that Oxford City Council has stood in solidarity with renters and welfare recipients and I hope other local authorities join us in doing so.

PS. We hope you enjoyed this article. Bright Green has got big plans for the future to publish many more articles like this. You can help make that happen. Please donate to Bright Green now.