We need a new generation of first class, energy efficient homes in order to tackle the chronic and still developing housing crisis we have today in Britain, but instead we see the worship and adoration of home ownership as if it was a deity being promoted by a government who told us four years ago that we were all in it together. However, when it comes to housing and what becomes clear when you examine the evidence, is that record numbers of people are either homeless or are facing the prospect of being roofless and locked out of any sort of decent and affordable housing. There has been a 26% rise in homelessness in England alone over the last four years, meaning 112,070 people lack proper shelter. The number of rough sleepers in London alone rose by 75% in the same period to reach 6,437 and that may even be an underestimated figure as many homeless people on the streets hide from the official head counters.
Indeed, we read a great deal about housing in the press, about the fantastic and astonishing rise in the cost of buying a home, in London that means prices racing away from the rest of the country at such speed that an hour-long train journey to work and the office saves workers in the capital an average of £380,000 on the price of a home, but that’s changing as costs outside London start to rise as a consequence, in the country as a whole the cost of buying a home has risen by 10% and that’s not including the additional hidden costs of buying a home such as an upfront fee, which some lenders call an arrangement fee, or the fee charged by a mortgage lender to have a property valued to check it’s worth the mortgage amount, or a single fee charged by the lender when you take out your mortgage to cover set up, then there is insurance cover and fees for searches to the local council to check whether there are any planning or local issues that might affect the property’s value, a solicitor or conveyancer to carry out the legal work involved in buying/selling property, the list of extra costs are endless and really making it more harder for many to get their feet onto the so-called housing ladder.
One of the most pressing social problems facing millions is indeed the lack of affordable housing to buy or to rent and the government has made it much worse with legislation that attacks the very foundations of a civilized social housing provision that meets the real needs of millions, instead they continue to serve the banks and money lenders of capitalism and by doing so build upon Thatchers housing legacy that striped away good solid council housing by the thousands at knocked down and ridiculous giveaway prices. What's left is under constant attack, the tory guillotine still hanging on a loose thread as attacks on tenancies, rents and benefits are threatening council tenants across the whole county. The government have said that the majority of new homes they fund in 2015-18 will have up to 89% market rents, and worse still with the introduction of fixed term tenancies, these reforms have been implemented through the Localism Act and through changes to the regulatory standards framework. For most providers, they took effect from April 2012.
Council housing should be a choice, available to all who need it and especially at times of real need, as an alternative to the fleecing, failing private market. There is something in the words of Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT the construction workers union that I can go along with: “We are crying out for a massive council building programme to end the misery of homelessness and inadequate housing, which is blighting the lives of millions of people. Council housing building creates skilled jobs and any such programme should be linked to the requirement to train apprentices, the workers of the future.”
Focus E15 a way to fight back
For more than six months, a small group of young, homeless mothers have been battling for decent and secure social housing for everyone. The mothers highlight an emerging problem facing thousands across the country: it's getting very hard to find a place to live. It all started when Twenty-nine young single mothers facing eviction from the UK's largest hostel for homeless young people in Newham, East London were told they may be rehoused as far away as Manchester, Birmingham and Hastings as a result of cuts and welfare reforms, which would have potentially been one of the largest displacements of vulnerable people since the coalition's social security reform programme began.
The campaign was triggered after housing support funding for young parents at Focus E15, was cut by Newham council, yes you got it a Labour council, which is not shocking really as its the Labour council who are the most diligent when it comes to implementing the coalition’s cuts. The mothers and mothers-to-be – all under 25, many of them teenagers – were served with eviction notices by the housing association ( which is no longer a housing association that runs the hostel. They are now known as Private Registered Providers in other words they have been privatised, more about that later in the week) They were warned that the scarcity of affordable homes locally means they may have to move to temporary accommodation between 70 and 200 miles away from their home borough, there families, friends and most importantly there support network. However, these young people made a courageous decision, they would fight to stay on the home turf come what may, even if hell was to freeze over.
The young mum’s organised themselves into what has become an effective campaign winning the support of many in the borough, except the the council of course. They have taken to the streets with such vigor and determination and winning a partial but incomplete victory by being housed in private accommodation within the borough, they see this as only a stepping stone to winning the right to full council tenancies.
What these young people have been able to achieve thus far is truly inspiring, not only have they shown us all, a way in which to fight back, and at a time when we need to fight back, but they have pulled together and united other housing and related groups in a unifying show of force. They are clear about one thing and that’s any kind of social cleansing with places like East London being transformed from a diverse mixture of working class communities into the latest place to make money will meet with real resistance, that this is not a campaign about young mothers but this is about the right to council housing for all those that are in need.
Yesterday, they held a march and rally which I attended, It was rather a long march with about 250 people and others joining on route, but you know, there is no easy way around it, to build you have to be seen and heard that’s why these young mum’s and their supporters hold a weekly street stall without failure and I happen to think that these wonderful mothers can teach us all something when it comes to fighting back!