Category Archives: Housing and Homelessness

The Homelessness Epidemic Gets Worse, Highest Number Of Rough Sleepers Since National Count Began

rough-sleeping-graphThe UK’s homelessness epidemic is growing worse as statistics show there are more people sleeping on the streets in our city centres than at any point since national records began in 1998.

Rough sleeping has leapt by over 50% across England since the current Government weren’t elected going from 1,768 people in 2010 to an unprecedented 2,744 in 2014.  Despite Boris’ claim he would end rough sleeping in the capital by 2012, the number of street homeless people in London has almost doubled from 415 to 742 people between 2010 and 2014.

The first national street count was carried out in 1998 when 1,850 people were estimated to be sleeping rough in the UK according to homelessness charity Crisis.  By 2002 it had fallen to 585.  Since then it has more than quadrupled and the rise shows no sign of slowing – rough sleeping in London jumped by 37% in the last year alone.

The Tories have been quick to blame immigrants for the rise, as if no-one ever came to London from overseas and ended up homeless prior to 2010.  In truth the CHAIN figures (pdf), collected by charities and published alongside the government’s estimate, show that rough sleeping has risen in London amongst both UK nationals and those from Central and Eastern Europe who only make up 34% of the total.

Even these figures, which are based on a physical count of people sleeping rough in just one night, only show the tip of the iceberg – not least because there are persistent rumours of police operations clearing the streets of homeless people before the count takes place.  In addition the count does not include people squatting in abandoned buildings, sleeping in locked public parks, living in vehicles or hidden away outside city centres.  The true extent of rough sleeping in England is far higher than these figures suggest – and this is just the most acute form of homelessness.   There are tens of thousands of single homeless people living in hostels or nightshelters who are not recorded in any figures.  There may be as many as 400,000 hidden homeless, staying temporarily with friends and relatives or living in B&Bs.  The number of homeless families is also steadily rising with 60,000 families currently living in temporary accommodation.

Homelessness charities have blamed both soaring housing costs and welfare reforms for the homelessness epidemic.  Chillingly we are not even close to seeing the real impact of the Bedroom Tax, Benefit Cap and slashing of Housing Benefits for those under 35.  Many people are having shortfalls in their benefits made up by ‘Discretionary Housing Payments’ – which can be removed at any time by local authorities.  Others are surviving for now, or haven’t yet fallen into high enough arrears to face eviction.  The Benefit Uprating Bill, which pegs rises in Housing Benefit at 1% no matter how much rents soar, will place further pressure on those struggling to keep a roof over their heads.  The Tories have pledged to remove Housing Benefit from the young completely if they win the next election.  Labour are threatening yet more benefit sanction based forced work schemes – the cause of the ‘massive’ rise in street homelessness in Manchester according to local charities.  Several London Labour MPs want more laws to criminalise squatting.

Mass homelessness is set to be one of the most visible legacies of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.  How bad things are going to get is the only real question left and not one politician, of any main party, seems to give a shit.

You can read the latest Rough Sleeping Statistics at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/homelessness-statistics#rough-sleeping

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This Is Our City Not Theirs, It’s Time To Tell The Rich To Fuck Off

poor-doors-pitchforks

As glass and concrete spindles made of luxury flats climb into the clouds above London below them lives a generation of children who will never be able to afford to live here when they are grown up.

Across the capital families and communities are being fractured as rents soar beyond poverty wages and benefit caps mean eviction and forced relocation for those who fall on hard times.  In central London at night huddled bodies in sleeping bags fill the shop doorways whilst camps of homeless migrants hide beneath bridges and in tunnels after finding out the city’s streets were actually paved with shit.  Social housing estates are being slowly run down, decanted and demolished to make way for the rich and a handful of so-called affordable properties that nobody local can afford.  Gentrification forces up rents and closes down well loved local pubs and markets to be replaced by hipster twats selling over-priced cupcakes or bowls of fucking Coco Pops to each other.

The rich should not just be unwelcome in this environmnent, they should be despised.  None of this has happened by accident.  As property prices rocket out of reach every last fucking brick has become an investment opportunity.  London does not have a housing problem, some of the most expensive properties in the city are empty and unused.  London has a rich people problem.

Yet as the social and cultural heart of the capital is ripped apart, a spectre is haunting London.  A spectre of toff-hating fucking rage.  Recently up to four thousand people marched on City Hall demanding homes, whilst a breakaway groups took to the roads and occupied empty flats on the Aylesbury Estate. Abandoned properties have been occupied throughout the capital from Stratford to Mayfair.  Shadowy American property developers Westbrook Partners were chased out of their ownership of the New Era Estate after threatening to hike rents.  Local groups who face losing their homes have brought construction sites to a standstill with blockades.  Last week bailiffs, the attack dogs of the rich, were pelted with paint bombs at their glitzy annual award ceremony.   And the boisterous Poor Doors demonstrations are back after pampered property developer Taylor McWilliams declared there was nothing he could be arsed to do to end social segregation in the building his company owns.

It is little wonder that the rich want us out of their playground.  Property developers now boast in adverts that there will be no social housing tenants in their luxury new flats.  Poor doors force low income tenants to use a different entrance to their homes than the rich who live in the same buildings.  Even gardens that were promised to low income residents are now to be fenced off and made available for posh cunts only.  David Cameron has threatened a policy which will socially cleanse the poor from the entire South East of England within a week of any Tory election victory.  But we are not fucking going anywhere.

At the recent housing march it was declared that the growing movement for homes is the beginning of the end of London’s housing crisis.  Escalation is now vital on every front.  It’s time to make the rich feel unwelcome.  To let them know that if they leave their luxury buildings empty they will be occupied.  If they force us to use poor doors we will mob their buildings and spoil their dinners.  That from the trust fund Tarquins destroying local communities to the plutocrats, bankers and global super-rich buying houses to keep empty as investments, we will hunt them down and make their lives as uncomfortable as they want to make ours.  There are fucking loads more of us than them.  The rich are here by our consent.  It’s time to tell them to fuck off.

Next Thursday (19th February) the Poor Doors demo will start at 6pm sharp, 1 Commercial Street, E1 and march to the site of the stolen garden at Tower Bridge SE1.  Then on Monday 23rd February Boris Johnson will be the target as housing campaigners flock to City Hall to block his budget.  If you have kids growing up in this city or plan to grow old here then you should be there, at both if you can.  This is our London, not theirs and we need to take it back.

Please help spread the word about both events, for more info on the Poor Doors protest visit Class War’s website and join/share the facebook event page for Block the Budget.

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Evict The Bailiffs!

evict-the-bailiffsvia Focus E15

#EvictTheBailiffs at the British Credit Awards! Weds. Feb. 11, 18:00 SHARP!

Focus E15 invite you to the Brewery (52 Chiswell Street, EC1Y 4SD) for 6pm sharp on Weds. Feb. 11, to welcome those arriving at the 2015 British Credit Awards’ £4,000-per-table black-tie affair, in which bailiffs and debt collectors will be receiving awards for making families homeless.

Since companies like ‘The Sherriff’s Office’ receive nominations by throwing people and their belongings out onto the cold streets of London, we intend to turn the front entrance of the Brewery into a mock eviction site for attendees to experience before an evening of champagne, three-course dinners, and the kudos of their peers.

We encourage anyone concerned with social cleansing and the criminalisation of poverty to bring rubbish bags, boxes, and broken pieces of furniture to scatter across the front entrance of the Brewery as guests arrive to receive awards like ‘Enforcement Team of the Year,’ ‘Third Party Debt Collection Team of the Year’ and ‘Consumer Collections Team of the Year.’

We encourage a peaceful but outraged action, and particularly hope those with first-hand experience of bailiff evictions will come out and share their stories with attendees as they enter the venue.

SPREAD THE WORD! EVICT THE BAILIFFS!

Please join/share the facebook page.

Statement from the Aylesbury Estate Occupation

fightforourcityThe Aylesbury Estate occupiers have issued the statement below.  Visit and please share/tweet their website at: fightfortheaylesbury.wordpress.com

Since the “March for Homes” demo on 31st January, we have re-opened and occupied a part of the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, South London.

We are tenants, squatters, and other people who care about how our city is being grabbed by the rich, by developers and corrupt politicians, socially cleansed and sold off for profit.

The Aylesbury Estate is where Tony Blair made his first speech as Prime Minister in 1997, making empty promises about social housing. Since then, for the past 18 years, Southwark Council and their developer friends have come up with one misguided scheme after another. All with the same result: to dispossess the residents, demolish their homes, and dispose of the land.

In 2001 Aylesbury tenants fought and won a campaign against demolition and voted down the original scheme in a ballot. But now big areas of the estate are emptied and sealed up awaiting the bulldozers, while residents are “decanted” away from the area.

The same bullshit that we have seen on the nearby Heygate estate, and all across London.

No demolition of the Aylesbury.

No yuppy flats.

Homes for all.

We are here to fight for the Aylesbury.

We are here to fight for our city.

We are here to liberate this space and bring it back to life. Come and join us.

PS: Thank you to everyone who has come down to show support, to all our neighbours and to those who have even come from as far away as Hackney bringing tea!

PPS: Come along to our public assembly today at 6.30PM. All neighbours and friendly visitors are warmly invited.

You can find us at 77 – 105 Chartridge, Westmoreland Road, SE17.

For more background info on the Aylesbury Estate and other struggles in
our area check out:
https://southwarknotes.wordpress.com/aylesbury-estate/

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Aylesbury Estate Occupied After Yesterday’s Housing March

aylesbury-bannerUPDATE:  Visit and please share/tweet their website at: fightfortheaylesbury.wordpress.com

A break-away group from yesterday’s housing march has occupied three disused flats on the Aylesbury Estate in South East London and are calling on people for support.

Up to 4000 people braved the shitty weather yesterday to join the largest protest about the desperate shortage of genuinely affordable housing in London that the capital has seen so far.  At the end of the demonstration a boisterous group accompanied by a sound system headed down the Old Kent Road towards the Aylesbury Estate.  Despite a witless and half-hearted police presence the group managed to gain entry to several flats on the estate which are now being occupied with a neighbourhood assembly being called for 3pm today (Sunday).

The Aylesbury Estate is curently being ‘decanted’ as Southwark Council cosy up to property developers who want to build yet more yuppy flats on the site of these formerly working class homes.  Despite soaring homelessness in the capital, several blocks on the estate lie empty whilst developers and politicians work out how they can best line their filthy pockets from the so-called regeneration project.

Yesterday’s demonstration also saw Class War and others briefly occupy the swanky new development on Tower Bridge Road after revisiting the notorious ‘poor doors’ up the road at the luxury 1 Commercial Street.  The group, who are fielding candidates in this year’s general election, are set to re-establish the weekly poor doors protest after negotiations with the toff in charge of the building failed to end the policy of social segregation which forces tenants in the cheap flats to use a different door to the rich.

Two marches from East and South London – each up to 2000 people strong – made their way to City Hall yesterday where demands included rent caps, an end to evictions and a massive increase in social housing.  As housing benefit cuts and soaring rents socially cleanse ever more people from the capital this vital struggle is only just getting started.  But it wil take more than just marching and yesterday’s occupations, alongside the fantastic work of tenant’s groups like the Focus E15 mothers, the New Era Estate and Our West Hendon, points to the way forward.  Everyone deserves a fucking home.  It shouldn’t even need saying.

A Week of Action has been called leading up to the Mayor’s budget on February 23rd when the next large scale protest has been called.

A march for the homeless is also taking place on April 15th.  Please help spread the word about all events.

Above pic via @redrumlisa who will be standing for Class War against Iain Duncan Smith in the general election.

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David Cameron Plots The Social Cleansing Of The South

benefit-cap-banner

A further cut in the Benefit Cap, as pledged by David Cameron yesterday, could lead to the social cleansing of the entire south of England as families on benefits are pushed ever further north by soaring housing costs.

Although touted by the right wing press as an attack on the workshy, this move is aimed squarely at struggling low income families, and almost all them are single mothers.  If these women were looking after one of Iain Duncan Smith’s four children they would be hard working people, toiling for the wealthy on poverty pay and doing the right thing.  But looking after your own kids is no longer considered work and so they are scroungers who should have kept their legs shut as some of the nastiest and most virulent voices now claim.

Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the social security system was that the days when a working class woman was slut-shamed and stigmatised for having children on her own looked to be a distant memory. Benefits meant that single people of either sex could look after their children with some degree of independence and dignity if they found themselves without a wage coming in.  They would be poor as fuck, but they would be housed at least.  This applied whether they were single parents due to choice, relationship break up, bereavement or simply making a youthful mistake – and most people have had an unprotected shag at least once in their lives which is all it takes after all.

The introduction of the Benefit Cap, alongside workfare and sanctions for lone parents, has meant that single mothers are back in the firing line like never before.   Lone parents now face being driven from the very cities they have lived and grown up in due to a succession of brutal housing benefit cuts that will punish their children most acutely of all.  These are not people living in Chelsea mansions as this government pretend, but people living in the last remaining private rented slums that will still accept benefit claimants in places like Croydon, Tottenham or Catford.

The reduction of the benefit cap to £23,000 will mean cities such as Bristol, Bath and Cambridge will also become unaffordable to out of work parents with as few as two children.  For the small number who need a property with more than three bedrooms, then barely anywhere south of Birmingham will be cheap enough.  Councils in the midlands are already warning of pressures to housing and services in the region due to families being relocated from London and the economic cleansing from the first benefit cap has barely even begun.   Should the cap be lowered even further then the trickle of families in poverty arriving in northern towns from the south could becom an avalanche, re-entrenching the North-South divide like never before.

The truth is that benefits have always been capped, but previously this took place at a local level. Benefits for an adult on unemployment benefits are capped at just £72.40 a week plus an additional amount towards housing costs. How much this is depends on where you live. In Islington, where the average rent for a one bedroom flat is estimated to be £415 a week by estate agents Foxtons, Housing Benefit is capped at £255.50 a week for a single adult without kids. That’s why, apart from those in social housing, not many poor people live in Islington anymore. In Barnsley the average weekly rent for a one bedroom flat is £89.30 according to this property website, whilst the Housing Benefit cap for a single adult is £69.23 a week. Lots of poor people live in Barnsley.

It is not the fault of claimants that rents have spiralled out of control.  It is the failure of free market policies that have led to shrinking wages and soaring housing costs.  Greedy landlords and exploitative employers who don’t pay proper wages are behind the growing benefit bill.  And it is in their interests alone to blame struggling single mums and use nasty policies based on nasty prejudices to bully families out of their homes and communities.

Above pic from Haringey Solidarity Campaign.

A march for homes will be taking place in London this Saturday 31st January with meeting points in both East and South London.  Please help spread the word: South London facebook page
East London facebook page

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Fuck Landlords, Fuck Politicians, It’s Time To Take Our City Back From The Rich

right-to-buyIn a world run for people, not private profit, sorting out a place to live would be no big deal. There are already far more empty homes than there are homeless people. They are not even that expensive to build – bricks are cheap. At least not so expensive that building your own home would be a project that takes a lifetime. And that’s how long most of us end up paying for them.

The cost of buying a home is so huge that most of the shrinking few with the incomes to consider it have to take out a 25 year loan at eye-watering interest rates. The rest of us spend much of our working lives making our landlords richer as rents take up an ever higher slice of wages.

Of course this only applies if you are poor, or even just not particularly rich. We may spend our lives grafting and struggling to keep a roof over our heads but if you can afford two roofs, then suddenly the fucked housing market becomes an endless source of free money. Our money.

The antidote to this grotesque exploitation of our most basic human need is socially built, managed and controlled housing at a cost real people can afford. The current system of council and social housing is far from perfect and could be radically improved, but almost anything is better than abandoning millions to slum landlords or homelessness.  That is the choice facing increasing numbers of people as the private housing market soars ever more out of control.

As anyone who’s ever been a private tenant knows, most landlords range from absent and inept to downright criminal and violent. Yet it is them and their bank balances that dictate government policy, not the safety and security of their tenants. That is why in 2013 the Right To Buy bribe, the discount for those wanting to buy their council house, was increased to over £100,000 in London. Since then the number of formerly socially owned houses bought by private individuals has predictably soared – to levels not seen since the height of Labour’s Right To Buy give away. Many of those homes will eventually end up in the hands of private landlords.

Many of these houses are not being replaced by social housing as the government pledged they would be. Last year Inside Housing reported that 80% of councils are struggling to replace houses lost to Right To Buy due to the ‘bureaucratic and inflexible’ nature of the scheme. Which is no doubt exactly what this government hoped for.

Even the tiny amount of social housing that is being built is not council housing in the way most understand it.  Instead the properties are offered on conditional fixed and short term tenancies at so-called affordable rents, set at 80% of those in the private sector and unaffordable for the vast majority.  In London these affordable rents can run to hundreds of pounds a week.  At a time when social housing is needed more desperately than ever it is being quietly eradicated and sold off and none of the main political parties have any real plans to change that.

A city that cannot house its people should be ungovernable.  A string of victories last year, from the New Era Estate, the Class War poor doors campaign and the E15 Focus mums shows that when people fight back they can win.  It’s the chinless fucking idiots living in the glass and concrete penthouses above our heads who should feel insecure in this city, not the people who built it and run it.  Because when it comes right down to it, they need us a lot and we don’t need them at all.

A march for homes will be taking place in London this Saturday 31st January with meeting points in both East and South London.  Campaigners from the E15 Focus group will lead the march from Shoreditch Church, Shoreditch High Street E1 6JN at noon, whilst in South London the assembly point is St Maryʼs Churchyard, Elephant & Castle SE1 6SQ.  Both marches will converge at City Hall by Tower Bridge.  A squatters block will join the march and has been called by the new(ish) Rabble website.   Please help spread the word.

South London facebook page

East London facebook page

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