Housing

I hate having to explain the housing crisis to women who feel life couldn’t get worse by Anonymous

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I hate having to explain the housing crisis to women who feel life couldn’t get worse

I wish it were easier to help the domestic violence survivors at my refuge to find social housing or access counselling services

Sisters Uncut in the streets over cuts to Domestic Violence Services
The worst part of my job is telling those who have escaped abusive relationships that the council can’t house them. Photograph: Jasna Buncic/Demotix/Corbis
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The #Tory policy that encourages people to work less hard or lose their home

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March for Homes on Tower Bridge
Tenants, housing campaigners and trade union activists march in London in January to demand solutions to the city’s housing crisis. Photograph: Mark Kerrison/Demotix/Corbis

One such hardworking person is Gary, a man I met recently, who lives in central London in a housing association flat that his parents, and grandparents, lived in before him.

Gary has worked for decades in a nearby business. His pay has never been exorbitant, but Gary’s persistence and loyalty to the same company for decades means that, including workplace benefits, his income just broaches £40,000. So, as a reward for being exactly the kind of “hardworking person” Osborne praises, Gary and his wife are facing a hike in their rent under the “pay to stay” clause in the housing bill – which will allow social landlords to charge tenants market rents if they earn above £40,000 in London or £30,000 elsewhere.

The flat has been extensively adapted for Gary’s wife, who has multiple sclerosis and severe mobility difficulties. As well as his day job, Gary cares for his wife – saving the state a huge sum. Now, with a looming rent hike that will make their flat unaffordable, they’re considering the prospect of being forced to leave a home that’s been in their family for generations, and move away from Gary’s job.

Looking in estate agents’ windows in the local area, Gary tells me flats range from £750 to £2,000 per week – simply unaffordable for a couple earning the equivalent of £20,000 each. As with the bedroom tax, housing professionals and anyone with an ounce of common sense who has considered the policy for more than two seconds have warned that it is both unfair and unworkable. The cost of chasing supplemental rent, and the fact that HMRC will be passing tenants’ details on to housing associations, have caused understandable worry throughout the sector. Tenants are worried about eviction and data security, and landlords are baffled at the amount of admin and guesswork they’re expected to wade through.

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From classonline.org.uk: What does the proposed deal on right to buy mean for social housing?

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What does the proposed deal on right to buy mean for social housing?

Housing Minister Greg Clarke has made housing associations an offer they can’t refuse: they have to ‘voluntarily’ agree to ‘right to buy’ in exchange for which they escape the fate of nationalisation followed by privatisation.  The deadline for this acquiescence is next Friday, just six working days from Clarke’s announcement.  No time for consulting tenants and communities, and actually not enough time for boards to consider the full implications but indications are that they will accept the deal which was brokered by their trade body, the National Housing Federation.

The government gets an extension of right to buy without a battle in Parliament.  It is not clear if other moves the housing associations have lobbied for such as freedom to choose their own rent will be granted.
But how did a Conservative government come to be threatening nationalisation?  The immediate cause was the policy of extending ‘right to buy’ to officially independent organisations.  This triggered a review of the status of housing associations and their debts.  By Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Cameron was referring to associations as part of the public sector.  That would mean that their outstanding debt of £60 billion would be added to the PSBR.  The ‘most obvious’ solution according to the Policy Exchange think tank was to nationalise the housing association sector and then sell it off.

The National Housing Federation will claim this as a triumph because it preserves the independence of associations.  But it is at the price of collaborating in dismantling social housing.  What right do housing association boards have to agree to sell off assets accumulated over the years by public investment?  Housing developments given permission by local authorities on the basis that they were socially balanced with an agreed percentage of social rent will be transformed; are associations going to consult on that?

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From http://classonline.org.uk/

When is a house not a home? When it’s a tax-efficient financial instrument

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When is a house not a home? When it’s a tax-efficient financial instrument

In London, a quarter of a million families wait for a council flat, while blocks such as One Hyde Park are treated as international assets, not somewhere to live

What is a house for? Two opposing answers to that question are battling it out in London right now. The first is pedestrian, traditional: it says that a house is fundamentally a home. The other is newer and far more sophisticated: it argues that a London house is now an international asset, to be bought, sold or held by speculators from across the world.

One Hyde Park is the glass and steel embodiment of the second argument. London’s most expensive block, where flats go for up to £140m apiece, it juts out of Knightsbridge. Qatari money paid for its building. Russians, Kazakhs, and Ukrainians have bought apartments there – although how many of them live there is up for debate. A 2011 investigation by our sister paper the Observer revealed that only nine of the 62 homes then sold in the block were registered for council tax – and five of those were paying the half-price reduced levy for second homes. The following year, journalists at the Guardian found that 80% of the residences had been bought by offshore firms based in the British Virgin Islands.

Some might look at One Hyde Park and see a temple to wealth, an enclave of the super-rich. They’re partly right – but the building is also a state of the art financial instrument, bought tax-efficiently by some of the world’s biggest holders of flight capital. Allow me to say this very gently, so as not to give the Guardian’s lawyers palpitations, but not all the money invested in that building may have been earned in the sense normally understood by earthlings such as you and me.

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Manchester Evening News Special report: Shock rise in Manchester homelessness as charities demand urgent action

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Special report: Shock rise in Manchester homelessness as charities demand urgent action

Housing groups believe at least 80 people are now sleeping rough in Manchester after six-fold rise in numbers – we speak to people about their struggles against

Homeless protests outside Manchester's Central Library
Homeless protests outside Manchester’s Central Library

Homelessness charities believe there are over 80 people sleeping rough in Manchester, most of them in the city centre.

Last year’s estimate showed a SIX-fold increase in street homelessness since 2010.

Meanwhile the city’s best-known homeless charity is seeing a 22pc rise in people coming in for help and advice – albeit not all of them rough sleepers – since this time last year.

The only guide to rough sleeping numbers comes from the council’s annual count, which is carried out by combing every street in the city centre – plus hotspots elsewhere in Manchester – on one night every year.

In November, that figure was 43 – up from just seven in 2010.

However homeless charities believe the real number is twice that.

Amanda Croome, chief executive of Manchester ‘s flagship Booth Centre, said the key factor is the trend, rather than the exact figure.

“The count is a snapshot,” she said.

“What we always reckon is that the real figure is probably twice the count figure, because we will only ever find about 50pc of people.

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Landlords pocketing £5.6bn in rent on unsafe housing – Citizens Advice

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Charity says 16% of privately rented housing is unsafe compared with 6% in the social rented market

Inner city poverty
Citizens Advice finds £1.3bn in housing benefit going to rogue landlords. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/Guardian

Rogue landlords are earning £5.6bn in rent on unsafe homes that put tenants in danger, including £1.3bn in housing benefit, according to a report from Citizens Advice.

The charity said 740,000 households in England were living in privately rented homes that presented a severe threat to their health, including 510,000 families with children.

The homes all have category one hazards, which include dangers such as a risk of falls or excessive cold.

Citizens Advice’s analysis of official housing data showed 180,000 of the households affected included a disabled person.

It said 16% of privately rented homes were unsafe, far higher than the 6% in the social rented market. One in 10 posed a risk of a dangerous fall, 8% had serious damp and 6% were excessively cold.

Despite living in homes that failed to reach basic legal standards, these private tenants paid an average of £157 a week in rent.

The charity said in the past year more than 80,000 people had approached it for help with a problem with a privately rented home. It cited several cases of tenants with homes in very poor condition who had contacted their landlords for help but been refused.

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More than 50,000 families have been uprooted and silently shipped out of London, leaked official documents have revealed.

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More than 50,000 families have been uprooted and silently shipped out of London, leaked official documents have revealed.

An investigation by i, the sister paper of i100.co.uk, uncovered the true scale of the “social cleansing” taking place across the capital.

Problems arise when families cannot afford homes in their local area and are relocated by councils into other boroughs, creating a domino effect across London and beyond.

The unprecedented number of families being cut off from their relatives and support networks in this way coincides with the coalition government’s introduction of the benefit cap and the so-called bedroom tax.

These charts show the true extent of the issue:

homeless placement

homeless placement

homeless placement

Campbell Robb, the chief executive of the homeless charity Shelter, commented:

It’s shocking to see in black and white the sheer volume of homeless families being uprooted and sent miles away from their local area.

It’s the housing shortage that has created this crisis, and the only way to escape it for good is for the next government to build the affordable homes we so desperately need.

A spokesman for London Councils said:

Boroughs aim to keep households as near as possible to their home borough where reasonably practicable. However, they are facing huge challenges in finding affordable temporary accommodation in the capital in the context of a very pressured property market and shortage of housing in London.