Friday, 21 August 2009

The tragic future of housing

It seems as if I'm having a run on housing today; it's not deliberately intended only I keep finding disturbing items of information that come to my attention like this sad and very tragic report that I've lifted from Housing Today magazine; which underlines my concerns about the future of housing :

An inquest into the death of a housing association tenant who killed himself after losing a legal battle against rent increases has recorded a suicide verdict.The inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court heard yesterday that Malcolm Neil Hill, 56, from Cadishead, Salford, emailed a suicide note to government solicitors before hanging himself on the weekend of 18 April 2009.

Assistant deputy coroner Peter Watson recorded a verdict of suicide. He said: ‘I have no doubt that Mr Hill was a man of principle who would fight for what was right.’
‘He felt the whole system was against him… I am just sorry I have had to lose my brother to this.’

Mr Hill had started court proceedings against City West Housing Trust, and Salford MP and then communities secretary Hazel Blears, to prevent the housing association increasing his weekly rent by £5.
As a disabled pensioner, Mr Hill could not afford this new figure, which was a condition of a stock transfer between Salford City Council and CWHT.
On 11 March 2009, he applied for an injunction against CWHT and Ms Blears requiring the rent increases to be approved by a court. He chose to represent himself.
However, on 16 April, the case was thrown out of court on the grounds that it was inappropriate. Neera Gajjar, the solicitor whose team had handled the case, told the inquest Mr Hill should have contested the decision via judicial review rather than through an injunction. The three-month deadline for judicial review applications had passed.
He was also unable to bring the case against the secretary of state because she had no jurisdiction over rents.
The government’s legal team had already written to Mr Hill warning him he could face paying their legal costs if he did not amend his application. Ms Gajjar said Mr Hill had refused to do so twice. These costs were initially estimated at around £2,947.
Two days after the hearing, Mr Hill emailed the solicitors saying: ‘By the time you receive this, I will be dead, having committed suicide. I hope you feel very proud of yourselves.
‘Before you send another poor old person a bill for £3,000, please think of the consequences.’
When the lawyers discovered the email, they alerted the Greater Manchester Police. Officers from the force found Mr Hill dead at his property on 21 April.
After the hearing, Mr Hill’s brother Terence told Inside Housing: ‘He was a champion, and the big issue he had as a champion was the fact that he was in a housing association where he had got a fixed income of a pension, and he could not afford the extra increase in rent.
‘He felt the whole system was against him. He represented himself at all levels in the courts. I am just sorry I have had to lose my brother to this.’

1 comment:

Chris H said...

So bloody sad. The control of rents in social housing, both council and arms length organisations should be a tool that the government can use to stop us going back down the credit spiral. Using dwellings as investments has been the biggest driver towards the mess we're in now.

I'd implement a social effect policy for any organisation looking to increase profitability by increasing rents or cutting services. The market has to be held to account in some way.

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