Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1016/28187
Homelessness, Universal Credit misery, high rents, cramped flats, isolated estates...end the housing crisis now!
Connor Rosoman, Brighton Socialist Party
Housing in Britain is in crisis. Bailiffs were called to a house in Hove on 26 October after the tenant - struggling to get by on Universal Credit - fell into rent arrears. I joined a local tenants' union which held a picket outside the house to prevent the evictions.
Many tenants find themselves unable to live alone due to skyrocketing rent prices. Under new 'co-living' schemes in big cities, up to several hundred tenants are packed into massive apartment buildings with shared bathrooms, kitchens and other such facilities. Bedrooms are cramped, leaving people with little space to themselves.
The spread of small, overcrowded housing can have negative effects on physical and mental health, and such 'co-living' spaces are another step in this direction.
At the same time, many of those who can afford their own homes find themselves living on new housing developments built on the edges of towns without local facilities and with poor transport links.
This means many working-class families are forced to drive to reach, schools, doctors and shops. As a result of the increased traffic, families spend hours in the car just to reach essential services. Instead of these poorly designed neighbourhoods, we need quality, affordable housing and decent public transport.
Meanwhile some have nowhere to live at all. Homelessness has seen a dramatic increase, with an estimated 4,751 people sleeping on the streets last year. This is a 15% increase since 2016 alone.
But councils have tried to sweep the problem under the rug - forcing rough sleepers out of the cities by using Public Service Protection Orders (PSPOs). Many homeless people have been denied legal aid in challenging councils that have used PSPOs in an attempt to criminalise homelessness.
Universal Credit has driven many people into rent arrears and - alongside precarious contracts and poverty wages - thousands of people in work cannot afford a home. We need to fight back against low pay, benefit cuts, rent hikes and poor-quality housing.
The Socialist Party campaigns for rent controls and we raise the demand that local councils fight back by using their extensive reserves and borrowing powers to set no-cuts, needs-based budgets.
With the Tories having lifted restrictions on borrowing to fund council house building, there is absolutely no excuse for Labour councils not to act. They should begin a massive programme of council-house building to provide all people with high-quality, affordable places to live.
This means building a mass campaign and demanding the funding needed from the government. Jeremy Corbyn should pledge now that any council which took such a road would see its funds restored on day one of a Labour government.
Them & Us
- Monthly rents at one 'co-living' apartment block in Wembley, London start at £1,450 for a studio and £1,590 for a one-bedroom flat. They go up to £2,200 for a two-bed and £3,000 for a three-bed.
- A report by 'Transport for New Homes' has found that the scramble to build new homes is producing houses next to bypasses and link roads which are too far out of town for people to walk or cycle there, and which lack good local buses. At Great Western Park near Didcot in Oxfordshire, residents climb over a fence to get where they need to go because footpaths with neighbouring areas are so poor. At Castle Mead in Wiltshire, people wanting to use the shops, community centre or pub have to use an underpass after dark - or brave the lorries on a by-pass without a footpath. And at Prior's Hall Park near Corby in Northamptonshire, developers trumpeted the estate's closeness to the M1 for the commute to London - but seven years since the first section was completed, there's no shop or café on site.
- A Guardian investigation has found that a growing number of vulnerable homeless people are being fined, given criminal convictions and even imprisoned for begging and rough sleeping. Over 50 local authorities have Public Service Protection Orders in place prohibiting begging and 'loitering'.
- The number of families being moved out of London by councils has increased dramatically, rising by almost 50% in the first half of 2018. Councils have sent homeless households as far away as Glasgow, Newcastle and Cardiff in the last year. More than 1,200 households were sent out of the capital in the first six months of this year - a 46% rise in the number of out-of-London placements.
- Around 80% of people moved on to Universal Credit are in arrears before receiving the payment, which takes up to eight weeks to come through, meaning increasing numbers are finding it impossible to pay the rent - fuelling the homelessness crisis.
In The Socialist 31 October 2018:
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