Archives For housing crisis

The Truth About Housing Benefit

kamsandhu —  November 11, 2014 — 6 Comments

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

In a climate of unrepentant cuts and increasing poverty, bureaucracy and discrimination for benefit claimants, one group of individuals are seemingly unscathed recipients of growing welfare payments: landlords. In the decade up to 2012/13 housing benefit payments doubled from £12bn to £24bn currently reaching the bloated heights of over £25bn. How has this area of welfare spending remained out of the spotlight in the welfare and claimant bashing trends of the last few years?

Image: capita Software

Image: capita Software

Housing benefits go entirely to landlords or housing associations. Claimants do not gain or cream some profit off the top as many politicians and media would like to insinuate. And according to Danny Dorling, author of ‘All That Is Solid’, the aim of housing benefit always was to line the pockets of landlords:

 

‘None of this new red-tape was the product of a left-wing created bureaucracy. The current housing benefit system was set up by the Conservatives in the 1980’s: they wanted rents to be able to rise freely to encourage private landlords.’

Danny Dorling, All That Is Solid

 

Indeed, the housing crisis we are currently in is one pushed along with intent by the Conservative party.

Thatcher’s sell-off of social housing through ‘Right To Buy’ with no intention of replenishment, increased the number of claimants forced to use private landlords, who are estimated to make £9.2bn from housing benefit this year.

Now with 5 million people on social housing waiting lists, a dwindling social stock, and a lack of guarantees for long-term tenancies, the desperation of tenants are further exploited through poor housing standards for top rates of benefit payments. 

 

“Private landlords are being asked what the rent is and some will take whatever housing benefit will pay. What we are talking about now is the old style Rachmanism, in particular. He was famous in the sixties for being a slum landlord who made huge profits but did absolutely nothing to the private rented accommodation that he owned. And he could chuck people out willy-nilly. What came out of that was all the fair rent campaigns and huge changes to the housing sector.”

Housing Support Officer Speaking To RealFare

 

Housing charity, Shelter, say that bad housing conditions are particularly ‘acute’ in the private rented sector with 40% of tenants in bad housing (‘Bad housing’ is defined by overcrowding or failure to meet the ‘Decent Homes Standard’ – click here for more details). Shelter also cite new powers to ‘discharge their homelessness duty into the private sector’ as a contributing factor to poor housing, accountability and increasing poverty for tenants in the private rented sector. In 2001, 10% of tenants in the private rented sector were living in poverty. In 2011, this had increased to 18%.

In contrast, landlords like Richard Benyon – the UK’s richest MP, receive thousands of pounds a year in housing benefit whilst at the same time, slamming welfare claimants and the ‘something for nothing’ culture. As claimants live in abject poverty, under threats of sanction and villifying in the press, Benyon quietly profits £120,000 in housing benefit in a year.

Or perhaps see the millionaire Kent tycoons Fergus and Judith Wilson, a couple who came out in the press last year to say they had no problem evicting tenants, and wanted to replace benefit claimants with working people in all of their 1,000 homes (yes, 1,000). The couple, as Benyon did, outwardly slammed claimants insisting ‘people should get off their backsides and work.’

Interestingly enough, the couple only became vocal about their supposedly ‘lazy’ tenants when the housing benefit cap was being introduced, and people started falling into arrears (even knowing that many were falling into arrears didn’t stop the couple upping the rent prices regularly either). In other words, when housing benefit would not cover any price they saw fit, suddenly the Wilsons were up in arms about the laziness of benefit claimants. The issue did not bother them when their rent payment was being covered. In the last line of this video, Fergus says ‘Gone are the days when you could rely on housing benefit’ which seems a statement more relevant to his bank balance rather than claimants.

 

 

The Benefit Cap

Whilst the benefit cap is a way of cutting the allowance a tenant may have to pay a landlord, it is a cowardly tactic to avoid interception of housing prices and rents.

We spoke before about Why the government doesn’t want to solve the housing crisis, and essentially this means that government will do all they can to avoid controlling or disturbing house prices, as they benefit Tory voters and provide some growth – even if this growth is only good for 1% of the population and detrimental to the rest.

 

Even in the ‘Help To Buy’ scheme, people are given aid by the government to get on the ladder, but nothing is done to abate the extreme pressures and prices involved. Instead, the government underwrites risk for the bank to sell to someone who has not got enough money. This is neither a long term solution nor a way of dealing with the heart of the problem.

Similarly, the benefit cap combined with moves to pay housing benefits to the claimant and not the landlord, means the government have weaseled their way out of dealing with prices. Simply suggesting that claimants could look for cheaper property while government fuels a housing crisis, record numbers of people are on low pay, poverty is rising and 80% of new jobs are in London, is patronising to say the least.

What the government has done by creating a benefit cap, allowing housing costs to soar, and paying benefits straight to the claimant is dissolve their responsibility in knowing how much that claimant needs for housing and living costs. If a parent is pushed into poverty, skipping meals and so on (of which we hear more and more stories) because the benefit cap leaves them little after paying an extortionate rent, then it just means they are left to suffer alone.

 

“They have brought in the benefit cap and now landlords are putting rent at the top of the benefit cap. So for single homeless people, a majority have very few skills, they are now stuck in a cycle of poverty because they cannot afford to pay £200-250 a week, and these are rooms – these are not studio flats. These are very depressing environments where people wil either relapse or fall into depression. I certainly would.”

Housing Support Officer Speaking To RealFare

 

In crueller intentions still, Danny Dorling explains how the housing benefit cap is not a new thing and its results are not unforeseen:

“The housing benefit cap is not a particularly new scheme when it comes to attempts to move poorer people away from richer areas. A generation ago the Conservative party tried to achieve the same outcome, but more subtly. In 1986 the Conservative controlled Westminster Council decided that the number of council house sales should be accelerated so that ‘a natural and permanent majority could be manufactured in Westminster.’ Some 10,000 council homes were earmarked to be sold privately when the tenants in them either moved on or died. In other words, those tenants were not to be replaced with people from a similar demographic; Westminster was to be gentrified and the political balance shifted by selling homes that were located mainly eight marginal wards. Eventually the policy was found to be illegal, but not until January 1994, long after it had its desired effects.”

 

Last week it was reported that a single mother of five, Titina Nzolamesa, was being made homeless because of the benefits cap. She is looking to the Supreme Court to appeal against the social cleansing of Westminster. While papers and media fill themselves with property adverts and opportunities for new developments, social cleansing is hardly mentioned, but it is happening. The difference between Danny Dorling’s example and now is that social cleansing is happening on a far greater scale, uprooting families not just to a neighbouring borough but to towns and cities across England. These impacts are neither unpredictable nor unknown by our government.

Boris was even pushed to comment that he would not allow a ‘Kosovo-style’ social cleansing to happen as a result of welfare reforms because these effects are so obvious. Nonetheless, his words are empty, no effort has been made to stop this happening.

 

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1) Britain remains ‘deeply elitist’ and portrays a system of social engineering

Extensive new research reveals that Britain remains a ‘deeply elitist’ society with the majority of top level professions and jobs dominated by a small pool of those coming from private education or Oxbridge.

According to the report, conducted by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, Britain’s elite is still “formed on the playing fields of independent schools” and “finished in Oxbridge’s dreaming spires.”

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

 

“The study reveals that the judiciary is the professional group with the most-advantaged educational background – one in seven judges went to just five independent schools: Eton, Westminster, Radley, Charterhouse and St Paul’s School for boys.

The analysis showed that nearly two-thirds of senior armed-forces officers, over half of permanent secretaries and senior diplomats and a third of MPs went to private schools.

Nationally, around 7 per cent of the UK population is independently educated.

Graduates of Oxford and Cambridge universities were also dominant in top jobs, with three-quarters of senior judges attending one of these two universities, along with the majority of the Cabinet.

“Our examination of who gets the top jobs in Britain today found elitism so stark that it could be called ‘social engineering’,” the report says.

It adds that the “sheer scale of the dominance of certain backgrounds” raises questions about whether getting a top job is about ability or knowing the right people.”

 

Read more about this story here.

2) Nearly a million working parents skip meals to pay housing costs

A new YouGov poll, carried out on behalf of Shelter, has revealed that more than one in ten families have skipped meals in order to keep up with rent and housing costs.

Government figures say that people spend an average of 28% of their income on housing costs, and this rises to 40% in the private sector.

“Shelter highlights the story of Katherine and her husband who both have full-time jobs but still struggle to pay their mortgage. “My husband and I don’t have breakfast because we can’t afford it, and we miss evening meals two or three times a month to help with the mortgage”, Katherine said.

“She added: “We’ve really had to cut back on the basics, and I even had to send our daughter to school in an old uniform that I knew was too small; it made me feel horrible. We are already at breaking point, so I honestly don’t know what we’d do if our financial situation got worse; it really frightens me.”

36.7% of the 10,000 families surveyed said they had cut back on food bills to keep up with housing costs, while 12.9% said they had delayed buying new shoes for their children.

Food prices have gone up 12% in the last 7 years, whereas wages have risen only 7.6% in that time.

Read more about this story here.

3) Britain’s social housing estates are ‘nothing short of a national embarrassment’

“Politicians from all parties should pledge to turn around the nation’s most deprived social housing estates within the next decade,” reads the new report from Policy Exchange.

Image: capita Software

Image: capita Software

Years of neglect and ignorance for Britain’s council estates, has left many with entrenched and generational problems including: ” lone parents with low educational attainment and poor parenting skills; child neglect and domestic violence; low levels of employment; and the rise of gang warfare and knife crime. It points to the case of the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham where the terrible living conditions, high unemployment and poor police relations contributed to the 2011 riots.”

The report, ‘The Estate We’re In’, adds that it would be ‘morally inexcusable’ for politicians not to commit to vast improvements to the living standards of those on these neglected estates, and calls for the government to set up an ‘Estates Recovery Board’ and ‘Estates Recovery Team’ to pool funding and find leaders in understanding and tackling the issues that are blighting the most deprived areas.

Read more about this report here.

4) 40% of new council tax levies are unpaid

A new council tax levy put on the poorest households as of last year, has seen 40% non-payment as many struggle to meet the new bill.

The new levy came in as part of benefit cuts in April last year, and an average of £5 a week is owed, but money is so tight in a climate of rising bills and stagnant and insecure pay, that this is not affordable for the worst off.

“The figures, obtained from responses from 140 councils to Freedom of Information requests by the anti-cuts group False Economy, reveal that some of the biggest towns and cities were left chasing millions of pounds from the poor.”

Read more about this story here.

 5) The Joseph Rowntree Foundation releases 33 studies on poverty

As part of their anti-poverty strategy, the JRF have commissioned and released 33 reviews which comment on the effects of different factors and their relation to the increase or decrease of poverty.

The studies have been broken up into five sections which are: The Bigger Picture, Welfare and Work, Money and The Cost of Living, Education, Family and Community and Complex Needs.

You can find the reports here.

 

1) Bills soar 4 times quicker than wages

The cost of living is rising 4 times faster than wages, according to new figures released last week.
The average income after inflation is down more than £1600 under the coalition according to Labour, and talks of recovery are blighted as incomes continue to fall and struggle against rising outgoings.
Inflation slowed last month, according to the coalition, from 1.9% to 1.6%. But the figures used by the Office for National Statistics, which unlike the coalition index, include housing costs, put inflation at 2.5%.
House prices also rose by 10.2% in the last year.
2) People’s March for the NHS gets underway
A 300 mile march across 23 towns and cites ending up at Parliament, in protest against attacks and privatisation of the NHS, has begun.
peoples-march-for-the-nhs
The march was set up by a group of mothers outraged at coalition attacks which have seen the Tory government renege on promises not to privatise the NHS, and not to affect front line services. Instead, contracts have been sold to private companies, some of which have strong ties to the Conservative party and the government have claimed that the NHS requires reform despite it remaining the best health care system in the world according to the Commonwealth Fund.
The march calls on anyone to join in to show their support as the march continues. So get involved. The website reads:

We will serve notice to every politician that voted to destroy our NHS – Join the fight back.

“Support for the NHS is growing day by day. We need our NHS so it’s time to join the thousands already campaigning together to keep it.

3) Government spending watchdog accuses DWP of hiding Universal Credit failings
The public accounts committee has accused the Department for Work and Pensions of deliberately hiding errors and avoiding scrutiny by making up a new category in the rating of the Universal Credit system.
The Major Projects Authority, which oversees all large government projects, put the Universal Credit System at ‘reset’ status in their report in 2013 – a status never used before.
It was not used for any other project either, having been handily crafted only for the Universal Credit system, pulling it out of the usual five-tier rating system used by the MPA, and making the rating obscure as to the scheme’s success, or more likely, failure.
4) Increase in right-to-buy sales sees calls for reform

Right-to-buy sales of council owned properties have increased by a third in the second quarter of the year, with 2,845 properties sold between April and June.

Image: capita Software

Image: capita Software

Some are now calling for drastic reforms and changes to the scheme as housing stock is lost and not replaced at a time when more and more people are needing affordable homes and help with housing.

Schemes offering reductions and discounts on housing deposits and repayments have also been called into question.

“Darren Johnson, Green party member of the London Assembly, said right-to-buy was “a disaster” for London, where 948 council homes were sold to tenants over the quarter.

“He said: “A lot of council homes sold today will be in the hands of private landlords tomorrow. Fewer low-rent homes will drive more low paid people out of inner London. The mayor should lobby for it to be scrapped and for councils to be allowed to borrow to invest in building many more.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Cameron rebuked over comments that ‘migrants take most new jobs’

David Cameron has been rebuked by the statistics watchdog for comments claiming migrants take most new UK jobs.

 

David-Cameron1

Cameron made the comments in an article for the Daily Telegraph, but was quickly challenged by Sir Andrew Dilnot – the chair of the UK Statistics Authority.

“Sir Andrew pointed out that figures from the Office for National Statistics show only that native Britons made up 76% of the increase in the number of people in work over the same period. “These official statistics do not show the number of ‘new jobs’,” he wrote.

“The number of people in employment and the number of jobs in the economy are not the same. One person may have more than one job, and some jobs may be shared by more than one person.”

“From the available official statistics, it is therefore not possible to estimate the number of new jobs, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by UK nations, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by non UK nationals.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Property expert says benefit cap will not save money

George Osbourne’s benefit cap of £26,000 in London, and £23,400 outside London and the South East was part of further cuts of £12bn from the welfare budget.

However, Ajay Jagota insists that this will ‘not save a penny’ and just push up prices elsewhere. Jagota claims that the policy fails to tackle the broken housing market in London and does not encourage people to move away from the capital.

“Mr Jagota said: “If this really was a problem, wouldn’t the streets of the North East be awash with southern jobseekers, migrating North for an easier life? It’s certainly not something I’ve seen much evidence of.”

Read more about this story here.

 

1) Cameron pulls sick PR stunt as he poses for photographs during raid on illegal immigrants

David Cameron attempted to show he was serious about immigration policy as he posed for photos while the Home Office conducted a raid in the house of a suspected illegal immigrant.

Image: Irish Times

Image: Irish Times

In a desperate, and morally empty, show of political oneupmanship to grab at votes, following the rise (in coverage) of UKIP, Cameron certainly demonstrated his indifference to not only illegal immigrants, but any human.

Cameron’s show could, would and has been directed at any of us who are appropriately placed to dehumanise in favour of maintaining power, grabbing at desperate votes or to allow the implementation of damaging, discriminatory policy. Ask the young, ask the unemployed, ask the disabled. And if that doesn’t convince you, take a look at the continuing widening of the wealth gap, the sacred policy that remains on track throughout the austerity drive.

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Not so long ago, the Home Office twitter page began posting photos of raids, where people could be seen being handled and forced into vans by a handful of Officers. Following complaints and outrage at the idea that this was meant to impress the public, the page stopped posting anything. The same disdain and rejection of this imagery should be shown here.

Read more about this story here.

2) University fees could rise over £9000 under new government plans

Well, the Students Assembly Against Austerity did warn us, even in their victorious post on winning the battle against the selling off of student debt. The foreboding that there would still be further attempts to put students into even further debt has come true in less than a week, as the government announce proposals to allow universities to raise fees above £9000 in exchange for taking on the debt of student loans.

Instead of paying the Treasury, students would repay their university once they start earning £21,000 a year. It remains a voluntary proposal, allowing universities to opt in.

“There are fears that only the top ones could afford to take on the risk of having unpaid loans, raising the prospect of a two-tier system. There are also worries that the plan could deter universities from admitting students from poor families and women because their earnings potential would be smaller.”

David Willets, a former Universities Minister, commissioned the proposal insisting that the plans would encourage universities to ensure that students got good careers or would supply help in retraining. But the proposal would require a large number of universities to opt in to make it viable.

The issue is causing tensions within Parliament as Lib Dems fight to keep the matter off the table before the election so as not remind the public that one of the main promises the Lib Dems put forward was the abolition of tuition fees before the last election. Conservatives suffered a blow at the stop of the student loan book sell off and the year up to the General Election is no time for more ‘bad news’ as they play out the pantomime that they have ‘saved our economy’ and Labour want to make this a key issue in a way that not unnoticeably, discredits the other two. Anyone would think they were all about PR and nothing about the people, eh?

Oh and, they scrapped the Youth Contract by the way, the £1bn answer to youth unemployment failed miserably (though we knew this a while ago, despite the attempts of government to sneak out information on late Fridays, because yes, they are that desperate) and Clegg is being used as the scapegoat for this by the Conservatives. Clegg is like the immigrant being made a show of and humiliated and used for the failures of Cameron while Cameron smiles for pictures……Don’t know where that came from….

3) Woman arrested by police after posting photograph of George Osbourne at a prostitute’s flat

Natalie Rowe, the woman famously pictured under the arm of George Osbourne, at a table with cocaine on it has been arrested for posting another photo of the Chancellor on Twitter.

Rowe worked as a prostitute during the time of the photo, which was taken before Osbourne took his role in Parliament.

Image: tompride.wordpress.com

Image: tompride.wordpress.com

Rowe was also arrested last year around the time she published her memoirs in which she recounts wild parties involving the Chancellor, the use of cocaine and the use of her services as a dominatrix called Miss Whiplash.

After posting another photo of Osbourne at her house with another client on Monday 28th July, Rowe was arrested (on 30th July) for abusive behaviour.

“Of course this could all be coincidence.

Or perhaps more proof – if any more were needed – that our police are being used to protect politicians’ reputations rather than catching criminals?”

Tom Pride, Pride’s Purge 30th July

4) Tories may be planning to sell off ALL council housing after election

This post was shared by the People’s Assembly:

“Tories to sell off ALL council housing after election, lets slip Osborne according to an anonymous source who tells us:
“Whilst working for company that had a recent visit from Tory chancellor, George Osborne, a manager told me he had spoken to the minster at length and was told that the next Tory plan for austerity to be implemented after the next election was to sell off all the council house stock. Please spread the word, I strongly feel this information needs to be in the public domain!”

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity

Unfortunately, this is not unbelievable, but remains a gross potential look at what is planned. The government have no desire to solve the housing crisis, as we explained in this article, to the point where they are willing to help progress the crisis. We will keep an eye out for any more info on this.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

There are around 5 million people on social housing waiting lists. 48,000 people are homeless. In 2012/13, house building rates were at their lowest for 100 years. Rents have increased 35% in the last five years and 1 million homes lie empty in the UK. So why is the government not doing anything about the housing crisis?

10414390_10152460730639976_5972111780655865624_n

Image: Focus E15 Mothers Facebook

The ‘bubble’ of growth taking place in the UK is a FIRE bubble – built on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate.

It is not being created by jobs, widespread spending or increase in trade.

The bubble is instead, for it’s meagre count and vast ineffect on a majority of the country, built largely on rich people buying expensive houses in London. It is unsustainable and does not mean growth for anyone but the already well off, as the have-nots are priced out of housing, either as mortgages or rent.

Any growth is not good growth

We are lead to believe that growth is in and of itself ‘good’ but the factors that are making up a sorry blip in change is actually increasing the wealth gap, increasing poverty and driving further division. It is also wildly unstable and cannot be sustained.

Overseas in America, the same thing is happening, and stock brokers who predicted the 2008 crash, including Warren Buffet are preparing for a plummet in prices.

“We are in a gigantic financial asset bubble,” warns Swiss adviser and fund manager Marc Faber. “It could burst any day.”

Moneynews, June 2014

Growth like this is not helping most people. But the government are keen to keep things as they are.

Why?

We are less than 12 months from a General Election, cue the end of ‘tough’ decision announcements and the beginning of blanket rejoice in the late, inadequate and entirely over-estimated change in the economy.

“We are pointing at a patient on a life support machine and claiming that he is physically well and able. Which as far as I know isn’t something that economists do. It’s something that only ATOS do. 

“But that is what we are doing when we call this a recovery.”

Aditya Chakrabortty, May 2014, Novara Media Podcast

The government would like us to believe they have fixed the economy in the lead up to the national election. And ‘fixed,’ it is.

A ‘fixed’ economy – The strangleholds

More than maintaining things as they are, government actions are increasing the effects of the housing crisis. Here’s how:

Low Building Rates

Building rates last year were the lowest for 100 years, and while the speed of building has picked up in 2014, we are running far behind the required need.

Around a quarter of a million new houses are needed every year, and we struggle to meet even half that.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

To add to this, the amount spent on housing benefit has doubled in the last decade to around £24bn as a shortage of council owned property forces social housing tenants to use private landlords who are continuing to push up rent.

Figures released last week, show that 93% of new housing benefit claimants are in work, demonstrating the pressure on wages as rents still soar.

It would be a win-win to create more social housing, giving councils more assets and power to control rents. However, local councils have a tight borrowing cap that should be lifted in favour of creating desperately needed housing as Owen Jones explained in an article for the Independent in 2013:

“Local authorities currently have a tight borrowing cap on them imposed by the Treasury. It urgently needs to be lifted, allowing them to build a new generation of high-quality homes that families can afford to live in. It’s not like borrowing for, say, housing benefit or cutting taxes: it pays for itself as councils gain a new income stream from rents. Indeed, just by falling into line with the borrowing rules of other Western nations, Britain would have an extra £20bn to throw at housing.”

Denial of the cost of living crisis        

Let me repeat an important figure. 93% of NEW housing benefit claimants are in work. The recovery is not happening if an increasing number of people in work cannot afford to live.

During the recession, the government have repeatedly denied the extent of the cost of living crisis, in ways ranging from Michael Gove’s suggestion that food banks are used because poor people don’t know how to manage their money, to the government report to the UN stating welfare reforms were helping the poorest children out of poverty. In fact, it is estimated that 5 million children are being sentenced to a life of poverty as a result of welfare reforms.

Affordability is not affordable

Boris Johnson said the rate of affordability in London is 70-80% of market rent. In a bloated housing crisis, a figure like this which has NOTHING to do with median income, results in affordability meaning little in the way of affordable.

But it does allow politicians to use the term ‘affordable’ in public to look like they are doing something.

This further dilutes argument of the crisis. The meagre minimum affordable housing rates the government promise are not affordable. And they are also, not the minimum, as we saw with the regeneration of the Heygate estate. Southwark council insist on a minimum of 35% affordable housing units in new builds, but when Lend Lease completed the Heygate re-build, their lowest price unit was a one bed flat at £310,000. Instead, they told Southwark Council to build elsewhere:

“None of these 284 homes, currently priced between £350,000 and £1.1m, will be offered at a discount. Instead, Lend Lease has given Southwark £3.5m to spend on social housing elsewhere and will contribute to a new leisure centre.

A report by council officers said Lend Lease baulked at providing social units as this would require a second lobby and lift shaft to separate the two types of resident, adding: “Not doing so would have significant implications on the values of the private residential properties.”

Ian Steadman, November 2013, New Statesman

 

Help To Buy

Could there be a better way to push along a housing crisis than by using the same tactics that lost us all our social housing?

Help to Buy is helping people onto the property ladder in a time of need, but it is temporary and the effect of increased interest rates is yet to be seen as they remain frozen for the time being. But they must go up eventually and now that there is some ‘growth’ that time is coming ever nearer.

Still, ‘Help To Buy’ is conducive to getting a few more votes in the pot before election time from new home owners. But this will do nothing for their children and younger siblings when they want to enter the market.

The Consequences – division, disassociation, displacement

Division

The current maintenance of unsustainable and unstable growth is increasing the wealth gap between rich and poor, increasing rents far quicker than wage increases and as highlighted by Lend Lease themselves, furthering a system of social cleansing which forces out the poor from their areas (as they couldn’t possible share a lift with the new upmarket inhabitants). And the Heygate estate is just one example of the type of cushty sounding ‘regeneration’ taking place all over London and some other parts of the UK.

Image: Lubke.com

Image: Lubke.com

Disassociation

People are becoming disassociated from themselves as a result of the fierce denial by government of the cost of living crisis and the aggressive nature of their ‘scrounger’ rhetoric.

Aditya Chakrabortty noted in his investigation into the housing crisis that people felt they needed to justify or validate themselves for a being in a position that is not their fault, and was tantamount to the strength of the rhetoric which has become part of the public language:

“We met a woman who lives in a flat, one of the old council flats [Wood Berry Downs Estate], and her walls are completely decorated in black mould. She works two jobs, so it was very difficult to pin her down. One of the first things she says upon meeting is “I’m not on Benefits Street. I don’t claim any benefits”…..The pensioner said “I don’t claim any benefits.” She’s on pensions and disabled benefits but that’s it….Turkish guy [we met, said] “I’m not an illegal immigrant. I pay taxes. I work.”

“This regeneration fits into an entire backdrop of these people feeling as though they’ve been dispossessed from their own lives. And not just in terms of their own housing, but in terms of who they are. Who they’re allowed to be when they walk down the street. They MUST either be the victims, or they MUST be the villains. They can’t be anything else.”

Aditya Chakrabortty, May 2014, Novara Media

Another example of this experience is explained in this Vice article about Britain’s Hidden Homeless:

“Homeless people live on the street, beg for small change at cash points and try to flog you a copy of the Big Issue you didn’t want. That’s what I thought before last June, when I became homeless myself, as my family and I got chucked out of our home.

“I don’t fit the stereotype, striding into work every morning with my fur coat, red lipstick and sassitude. I’d also like to think I don’t fit in at the dull, stale hostel I wake up in and walk out of every morning. When I strut into work I’m one person and when I fall asleep in the same bed as my 14-year-old sister every night, I’m an entirely different one. Hidden homelessness is a strange struggle between wanting to seem normal on the outside and dealing with the daily anxieties of living without a home on the inside.”

Daisy May Hudson, May 2014, Vice

As austerity and cuts deepen and extend into the lives and finances of a growing number of people, who may at once have been able to get by or survive, the denial of the cost of living crisis as well as the suggestion that poverty is some personal failure rather than quite rigorous engineering in policy, more people are facing homelessness and poverty that wouldn’t once ‘fit the bill’. As the government continue to deny this crisis is happening and tell us that we are out of the recession, these people increasingly don’t know where to put themselves physically and mentally, and the government are making no provisions to help. The good times are here for political discourse until the election whether you like it or not.

Displacement

Uprooting communities and dispersing them to other places across the UK can be severely damaging to people’s health, particularly when you note that the long-term unemployed, the old and the disabled make up a huge part of these communities. As we saw with the bedroom tax, this is often most costly to the most vulnerable.

Mental health problems will soar as well as increases in isolation and withdrawal. Forcing people already on the fringes of society, to leave the places they know, where their families reside and where they have built a routine and contacts is a dangerous and under-reported problem that continues as we speak.

———————

A fierce maintenance of public face and PR means that the housing crisis is deepening, and will continue to do so at peril, as the unsustainable housing boom gets free reign in the run up to the General Election 2015.

We are now even seeing desperate attempts to suggest that the people desperately in need of homes as a result of this, don’t exist.

New policies to remove people from social housing waiting lists don’t stop them needing homes. And anti-homeless spikes don’t stop people being homeless. But image is greater than need to a government in the run up to the election. Despite how fatal this is for our housing needs.

1) ‘The Sun’s free copy sees backlash and a potential fine, and Ed Miliband apologises for endorsement

‘The Sun’ circulated 22 million free copies of it’s paper last week with the front page headline ‘This Is Our England,’ as a commemorative  World Cup edition.

But it was not a war reception from the public with thousands of people burning the paper, sending it back, or putting up posters to tell Royal Mail not to deliver the tabloid to their address.

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Further, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband posed with the paper as an endorsement, which saw fierce criticism from the public against the tabloid’s history, proprietorship and bias.

Miliband later apologised, though he was the only one. Having said previously, that he would ‘stand up to Murdoch,’ this PR faux pas may have cost him.

Also, the paper forgot to print some legally required details on the paper, which could see them paying up to £50 per copy, or £1.1bn in total for this mistake. It would take 3.5 years for the paper to claw the money back in sales.

Read more about this story here.

 

ATOS fined £30m for Work Capability Assessment errors

In an exclusive report, The Londoner was told that ATOS, the French healthcare company on government contract to supply fit-to-work testing, has been fined £30million for errors in it’s delivery of the assessments.

The company has already announced that they are exiting the contract early, due to huge failures exposed by thousands of people attending theassessments, but details of this pay off were kept secret up until now to avoid further embarrassment for the company.

Read more about this story here.

2) Boris’ water cannons are being phased out in Germany amid safety concerns

The water cannons secured by Boris Johnson, are being phased out in Germany (where Boris is buying them from), amid concerns over their safety.

“The “WaWe 9” vehicle, produced by Ziegler Group and colloquially known as “Mammoth” or “Goliath” among German police, was first, introduced in 1982. It is named after the 9,000 litres it can hold in its tank, which it can spray as far as 65 metres at 18 litres a second – though some reports claim the machines can easily be adjusted to double the water pressure.”

Image: Revolution News

Image: Revolution News

The water cannons are two decades old, and first raised concerns in 1985, when activist Günter Sare died after being stunned and run over by a WaWe 9.

An investigation into Sare’s death revealed several flaws in the design of WaWe 9, which contributed to the death.

Germany is seeking to replace the cannons with newer models, explaining why Boris Johnson was able to bag three of them for around £30,000 each – much cheaper than the £1m it costs for new cannon models.

Kerry-anne Mendoza, author of the brilliant ScriptoniteDaily has begun a crowdfund for a People’s Cannon, which you can donate to here.

Read more about this story here.

3) Focus E15 mothers target abandoned houses in protest for decent homes

The excellent Focus E15 mothers targeted local abandoned housing, covering them in posters and photos which said “This family needs a home, this home needs a family.”

Focus E15 mothers will march on July 5th for decent homes for all.

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All photos from Focus E15 mothers facebook page.

4) Farage could face jail for undeclared donations of £205,000

Action is being considered against UKIP leader Nigel Farage after it was found that donations worth £205,000 were undeclared to the electoral commission, breaking electoral law.

The donations, dating back from 2001, made by party supporter John Longhurst were declared to the European Parliamentary register but Farage failed to tell the British Electoral Commission. Donations should be declared within 30 days.

A UKIP spokesperson said “Mr Farage was surprised to learn that the Electoral Commission thought it should be informed as well, as this did not accord with the professional advice he had received at the time.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Salma Yaqoob confronts Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time

Despite the presence of the Minister for Work and Pensions on BBC Question Time last week, welfare and employment played a small role in the discussion. However, Salma Yaqoob, from Birmingham’s Stop The War campaign, did confront Iain Duncan Smith and the ‘scrounger’ rhetoric he has previously relied on.