Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/798/18131
Housing crisis hell: a worker's view
A London housing worker
Go back far enough and the council was the major landlord in the borough I work in. It built new homes and maintained them as well, with its own direct labour organisation.
Families could get housed by the council and pay reasonable rents. Communities developed together. Not anymore.
Labour and the Tories both agreed to sell off the public housing stock. The promised 'local housing association' is now a shell, with all the major decisions made elsewhere.
Repairs are dealt with, or not as the case may be, by private contractors. So what does that leave us with?
There are thousands of households on the waiting list. And their chances of getting housed are minimal or less.
There are approximately 300-400 new tenancies each year and almost all of these will go to high priority cases.
Unless you have special needs or a bailiff's warrant, forget it. You simply won't get a tenancy.
The pressure on staff is phenomenal. Reactionary pro-cuts politicians whip up myths - 'all the housing is going to Bulgarians and Romanians'.
No it's not, it was sold off under Thatcher's 'right to buy' and never replaced. It's now mortgaged to the banks and they don't have a fair allocations policy.
If Labour politicians were socialists, like the Liverpool councillors in the 1980s, they would find and fight for the resources for a large new building programme. Then families on the waiting list would stand a chance of getting housed.
Instead they are blown along with every populist campaign - giving preference to households in work or those leaving the armed forces does not build one extra property. It just divides the shortage a different way.
'Hard working families' stand as little chance as anyone else. The fastest growth in households coming to us for help now is not down to 'fecklessness'.
It's households being evicted because their landlord thinks they can get a higher rent from someone else. The first Monday of the New Year is usually the worst.
Rather than provide housing, our job has become to lower people's expectations, encourage them to stay in overcrowded accommodation, tell them that temporary accommodation could be miles away or to take substandard properties in the private sector.
I have the utmost respect for my colleagues, but do management? One crime at work is 'feeling sorry for someone'.
This roughly translates as not having been dehumanised and believing that many people have a tough life in this rotten society. If you do, make sure all the paperwork is in order.
There is an election in May so watch the councillors' enquiries pile up. And one question they won't be asking: How many new homes could have been built with all the money paid to the banks?
In The Socialist 12 February 2014:
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