Monday, 28 December 2015

Demonstrate On January 5th, Against The Housing and Planning Bill

On January 5th, Architects for Social Housing (ASH) and many others will demonstrate against the Housing and Planning Bill which will pave the way for further mass demolition of social housing.

Pushed by Greg Clark – Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, the bill will extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing association homes, oblige local powers to sell ‘high-value housing’ and phase out secure tenancies for council tenants. Acting both as tool of division between housing association tenants and legal groundwork for the mass privatisation of council housing, the Housing and Planning Bill is worrying and malicious in equal measure.

Oddly and sinisterly, the Bill will apply planning permission for the regeneration of social housing as ‘brownfield land’ – a category usually reserved for post-industrial wasteland. Council estates with communities within them will be reclassified as wasteland. A dramatic increase in the already heightened drive to destroy social housing will unsurprisingly follow. Architects for Social Housing write:

Rather than alleviating the housing ‘crisis’, either by building genuinely affordable homes or by increasing provision of social housing, the Bill seeks to use that crisis for political and financial ends. On the one hand, it forces local housing authorities to implement Conservative housing policy, and on the other it takes planning power away from those authorities. Both these hands, the one compelling, the other taking, are wielded by what, if the Bill is passed, will be new and punitive powers of the Secretary of State, not only against the people who rely on social housing for a home, but also against the councils and housing associations that provide them.

There is absolutely nothing in the Bill for the provision of social housing. Instead, it introduces legislation by which existing social housing is to be either sold into private ownership or demolished to make way for new developments. The Bill’s model of home building is driven by state subsidised incentives for private investors that will increase, rather than check, existing speculation on the property market. Under the tattered banner of austerity, the Housing and Planning Bill is in reality legislation for the social cleansing of London in particular, and more generally for the further dismantling of the welfare state by this Conservative government.

An unapologetic act of class warfare, the Housing and Planning Bill will push social housing tenants further into precarity. Although a demonstration in central London will not be enough, it will hopefully provide a spark to again reinvigorate the drive for housing security and resistance. The Carpenters, Guinness and Aylesbury estate occupations catalysed the reclamation of social housing. The Housing and Planning Bill will mean this reclamation continues or we lose our social housing altogether.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Then the question arises – where will we live?

If the Housing and Planning Bill is designed – as we know it is – not to provide affordable housing but to remove the obligation to build it;

If the Bill is designed not to build homes for the people who need them but to subsidise private investment in housing with public money;

If the Bill is designed not to help renters onto the property ladder but to lose more homes for social rent under the Right to Buy;

If the Bill is designed to sell off ‘high value’ council homes to the rich and not replace them for the poor;

If the Bill is designed not to free up social housing for those who need it but to raise existing rents to market rates for people who cannot afford them;

If the Bill is designed to demolish existing housing estates under the cloak of regeneration and replace them with starter homes for the rich;

If the Bill is designed to end secure tenancies, not in order to reflect social mobility but to free up property for private sale or demolition;

If the Bill is designed not to alleviate the housing ‘crisis’ but to end social housing in this country, and in doing so drive hundreds of thousands of people into an even further inflated private rental market, temporary accommodation and homelessness;

Then the question arises – where will we live?

Where will the poor live?

Where will those with disabilities live?

Where will the elderly and the vulnerable live?

Where will those on low incomes live?

Where will those on zero-hour contracts live?

Where will the key workers live?

Where will the nurses and firemen and teachers live?

Where will the cleaners and carers live?

Where will the workers live?

Where will the double-income families on the minimum wage live?

Where will the students and unemployed youth live?

Where will those refused housing benefit live?

Where will the single mothers live?

Where will the women and children escaping domestic abuse live?

Where will the unemployed live?

Where will those on sickness benefits live?

Where will those who depend on the support of their community to survive live?

Where will those who need care live?

Where will those now in temporary accommodation live?

Where will the people evicted from their homes live?

Where will the communities whose estates have been demolished live?

Where will the homeless live?

Where will those who cannot afford private rents live?

Where will those who cannot afford a mortgage live?

Where will those whose parents can’t put a deposit on a home live?

Where will those who weren’t born into privilege and security and wealth live?

Where will the working classes live?

Where will the people of Britain live?

To answer this question, we should consider the Housing and Planning Bill, not in isolation but in relation to the other legislation passed by this government:

To the cuts to housing, unemployment and disability benefits;

To the attacks on the trades unions, workers’ rights and working tax credits;

To the introduction of compulsory labour for the unemployed;

To the privatisation of our National Health Service, railways, mail, banks, schools, prisons, police force and other publicly owned assets;

To the selling off of our public land, industries and services to private investors;
To the dismantling of the welfare state and its replacement with state sanctioned powers in the service of private corporations;

To the removal of our human rights and civil liberties in the name of protecting our freedom.

If we consider this wave of legislation, then the answer to the question of where we will live must also consider the possibility that everything in the Housing and Planning Bill points to the conclusion that we will end up living in the workhouse.

It is the possibility of this answer that we should consider carefully when confronting the consequences of this Bill and what we must do to oppose it.

Simon Elmer - Architects for Social Housing

Thursday, 10 December 2015

No More Deaths On Our Streets - Homelessness Kills

I have taken the liberty to cut and paste the following article from a report about a rough sleeper, in Glasgow, a single homeless man for whom 'tragedy' and very much like a thief who came in the middle of the night and stole without reservation his whole life.

His tragedy was that of being unable to put a roof over his head, which led to his premature death, a death that could have been prevented given the existence of political will that is very much missing in what some will have us believe to be a civilised and humane society.

The truth is we are in a great many respects far from being civilised and humane when you chew on some of these hard statistics.

From the records of deaths in England between 2001-2009, 1,731 were identified as having been homeless people. Of these 90% were male and 10% female whereas the gender split of deaths of the adult general population is 48% male and 52% female.  

Nearly a third of the deaths of homeless people identified from the records were in the London region.

Homeless people are more likely to die young, with an average age of death of 47 years old and even lower for homeless women at 43, compared to 77 for the general population, 74 for men and 80 for women. It is important to note that this is not life expectancy; it is the average age of death of those who die on the streets or while resident in homeless accommodation.

Man found dead in Glasgow city centre lane was sleeping rough (Glasgow Evening Times 9/12/2015)

POLICE have identified a man who was found dead in a city centre lane
The 41-year-old was discovered by horrified office workers in Wellington Lane, near to West Campbell Street, yesterday morning.

He is believed to have been sleeping rough in the lane.

An investigation was launched and officers sealed off the lane at around 6.30am.

Forensic specialists are due to carry out a post-mortem examination in a bid to establish the cause of death.

Police said the death was not being treated as "suspicious" but a full investigation was under way.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "Police were called to a report of a man lying unconscious in Wellington Lane, in Glasgow city centre, at around 6.30am.

"Officers attended and the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The death is not being treated as suspicious and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal."

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