Category Archives: Housing and Homelessness

Take Action Against Soaring Homelessness: Support The March For The Homeless On April 15th

march-for-homelessSupport the March for the Homeless.  April 15 2015, Whitehall SW1, 6pm.

On last Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show Iain Duncan Smith said that homelessness had not risen since he implemented savage Housing Benefit cuts like the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap.  Even for a politician this was a breath-taking lie.

Every possible measure of homelessness has risen since the current Government weren’t elected.  The number of homeless families has soared by 27% and charities say the problem is far greater than even this, attacking the figures as no longer reliable.  The number of people sleeping on the streets has leapt by 50% and is now at the highest ever recorded level.  It is shocking that a Secretary of State can so openly attempt to deceive the public and astonishing that a highly experienced poltical interviewer like Marrs would let him get away with it.

According to a recent report produced by charities working on the front line, Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are driving the rise in homelessness.  Perhaps of most concern is that just one in ten  local authority homelessness managers who were surveyed for the report believed that the impacts of benefits cuts had largely ‘run their course’.  Most believed things are set to get worse over the next two years.  Soaring rents, shrinking benefits and the threat of further cuts to come could yet create a homelessness crisis on a scale rarely if ever seen before in the UK.

On Wednesday April 15th a March for the Homeless will take place in Ireland, Scotland, England, Canada and the USA.  In London a mass rally will be held in Whitehall from 6pm with music, speakers, a free shop, street kitchen  and more.  Please help spread the word, for more info visit: http://streetskitchen.co.uk/?p=2072

For news of what’s happening in other cities join the facebook page or visit their website.  Campaigners are using the hashtags #NoMoreDeathsOnOurStreets and #March4Homeless

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Government Statistics No Longer Reliable Say Charities As Homelessness Epidemic Gets Even Worse

cause-of-homelessness

How private sector evictions are driving homelessness. AST stands for Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Graph from Crisis.

Figures showing that statutory homelessness has soared in England by 27% since this government weren’t elected do not even scratch the surface of the desperate homelessness epidemic.

53,250 families were accepted as homeless in 2014, up from 41,780 five years earlier and the latest official homelessness statistics uncover some stark facts about those without a home.  There are now twice the number of families living in B&Bs than in 2010 and the number who have been there over six weeks has leapt by an appalling 500%.  This is a practice which had almost died out, but as demand for temporary housing has risen over the the last five years there are no longer enough hostels, refuges and other forms of emergency accommodation for the growing numbers of homeless families.

These statistics come after last month’s rough sleeping estimate which showed that there are now more people sleeping on the streets than since official records began.  But neither of these sets of government approved figures come close to telling us the true extent of the homelessness crisis.

In February the Homelessness Monitor report was relased.  This is an annual study commissed by charities which looks at the impact of government policies on homelessness.  It makes for horrifying reading.

Changes introduced in the way homelessness is managed by local authorities mean that many councils are now using ‘informal’ measures to help homeless families which are not included in official statistics.  According to homelessness charities this means that “the bottom line is that we can no longer rely on these figures to show national trends”.

The report points out that “there were some 280,000 ‘local authority homelessness case actions’ in 2013/14, 9% up on the previous year”.  In other words many cases of homelessness were swept under the carpet with families often fobbed off into precarious private sector accommodation.  And of course as word gets round that all the council will do is send you off to your local slum landlord if you approach them for housing assistance then less people are likely to ask for help.

The majority of homeless people are not included in any figures, anywhere.  Local authorities are only duty bound to help people judged to be what is known as in ‘priority need’.  That means people with children, those over pensionable age, or people with serious health conditions or disabilities.  If you are single, under 65 and not seriously ill then you will be left to fend for yourself.  Should you end up on the streets then you may eventually get picked up by a charity outreach worker and offered a place in a nightshelter or hostel.  But turn up at the council saying you have nowhere to go that night and most will do little more than shrug their shoulders.

There are around 40,000 single people in Engalnd who are living in hostels or nightshelters –  sometimes in dormitory style accommodation.  They are not recorded in any formal homelessness statistics.  Nobody knows how many people are living in squats, vehicles, campsites or in unregistered providers of temporary housing like grotty B&Bs and backpacker hostels.  Then there is the largest group of homeless people by far, the hidden homeless sleeping on a friend’s sofa or in over-crowded family accommodation.  The Homelessness Monitor says that an astonishing 2.23 million households contain what they call ‘concealed’ single people in addition to a hidden 265,000 couples or lone parents.

Whilst the true scale of homelessness in England can only be guessed at there is one thing that is certain.  Every form of homelessness that is formally recorded is rising sharply, from the (widely believed to be fixed) count of how many people are on the street to the number of homeless families approaching councils for help.  Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are directly responsible according to homelessness charities, with benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax and the benefit cap identified as doing the most damage.

David Cameron has pledged to introduce a further benefit cap within weeks of being re-elected whilst both parties appear to favour regional benefit caps.  The truth is that benefits have always been capped, currently at £72.40 a week for single unemployed people. What Cameron really wants are caps on Housing Benefit, the government subsidy paid out to landlords which swallows up the largest part of the UK’s benefit’s bill.  The result will be more evictions as people are unable to  pay their rent whilst more landlords will decide, possibly illegally, not to accept any tenants on benefits at all.  As the graph above shows, it is private sector evictions that are driving rising homelessness.

Both parties are committed to so-called affordable rents which barely anyone can afford.  In the capital affordable rents on even a modest property can cost more than the total someone would receive working full time on the London Living Wage.  Affordable housing means housing for middle class people not the working class.  Real council house provision at social rents is being quietly eradicated.  Labour have not said they will reverse Right To Buy policies.  The Tories say they will extend the great council house sell off to housing association properties.

It is as tragic as it is shocking that so many people should be without a home in one of the richest countries in the world.  That not one politician of any main party takes this seriously is the real scandal however.  You will barely hear a word about homelessness in the run up to the election.  MPs are far more interested in lining the pockets of landlords and property developers than helping homeless people.  Many of them are landlords themselves.  Almost all have lived such pampered lives that the only time they are likely to set foot in a homelessness hostel or housing office is to have their fucking photo taken standing next to some poor people.  They think homeless people are the people you step over when you come out of the opera.  

That is why soaring homelessness, which destroys lives, does not even register with the politicians paid and elected to represent us.  It will never happen to them so they couldn’t give a fuck.

Support the March for the Homeless on April 15th in London, Glasgow, Hull, Newcastle, Manchester, Huddersfield, Norwich, throughout Ireland and across the world.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Council House Building At Record Low In Midst Of Housing Crisis

LA-completions

It doesn’t have to be like this. Graph from Shelter showing the collapse of council housing in the UK.

The number of council houses made available for social rent in England fell to its lowest figure yet in 2013/14 and was outstripped by the number sold off through the Right To Buy scheme.

Just 10,920 new homes with genuinely affordable rents were created during the last year, whilst 11,261 were purchased through Right To Buy according to figures from the DCLG.  This is the first time more houses were sold through the scheme than were built since 2005/06.  It is the lowest ever recorded number of new council houses and has fallen from 38,950 in 2010/11.

In addition 19,740 laughably called affordable homes were created, with rents usually set at 80% of the local private sector market – meaning they could run to hundreds of pounds a week in some parts of the UK.  These homes do often not offer lifetime tenancies, but instead are fixed term and come with a range of conditions attached, including workfare in some cases.  They are not social housing in the way most people understand it, and they are absolutely not what is needed in the midst of a record homelessness epidemic.

Even if you add all the new homes on ‘affordable’ rents and the small number created for ‘social rent’ then only just over 30,000 new homes were made available in 2013/14 – a fall of around 25% since 2010/11 and the second lowest figure in six years.

Elsewhere the news is equally bleak.  In the most recent quarter the number of new houses being built by Housing Associations fell by 27%, and is down by almost two thirds from a year ago.  Housebuilding overall fell by 10% from the previous quarter and is down 9% since this time last year.

Everybody knows that what is needed to solve the housing crisis is more council houses.  Everyone knows that Right To Buy has been a disaster.  Neither of the main parties plans to do anything about either, and Labour’s record on building socially rented homes was equally atrocious if not worse.  The only people who benefit from the current shambles are property developers and landlords.  And  that’s who both the political parties are writing their housing policies for.  The only thing more broken than the UK’s fucked housing market is the rotten and corrupt so-called democracy at Westminster.

Support the March for the Homeless on April 15th in London, Glasgow, Hull, Newcastle, Manchester, Huddersfield, Norwich, throughout Ireland and across the world.

The figure on social and affordable house-building can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-affordable-housing-supply

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Support The Sweets Way Occupation, Let’s Take Our Cities Back

How the fuck is a child supposed to understand why they don’t have a home? These are kids who see their parents going out to work long hours for shit wages, or battling illness, or struggling to find work. They see a parent who loves them, cares for them, feeds them – who does all the things that a parent is supposed to do – and yet that is not enough. The most basic form of human security, even survival, is now fast becoming something only the affluent can afford in many parts of the UK.

Almost every day seems to bring another story of low income families being forced from their homes to make way for luxury flats, as property developers turn the ground we walk on into a chance for them to increase their millions. And if anyone complains than the rich simply call on the machinery of the state – coppers, courts and bailiffs – to enforce their so-called property rights with unfeeling violence. Kids have no reference point for this kind of behaviour. They are taught to share and look after each other. There could hardly be a worse preparation for the realities of cut-throat capitalism.

Not one of the main political parties gives a shit about the desperate shortage of genuinely affordable housing. Most MPs care far more about their own property portfolios than they do about their homeless constituents. None of them have ever had to explain to their children why they have to move far away from their schools, friends and families, only to be placed in yet more temporary housing, sometimes in a different city, to await their next forced relocation.

The video above tells the story of children currently being socially cleansed from their homes on the Sweets Way estate in Barnet (ht @IzzyKoksal). These are not families that were living in luxury central London homes. Barnet is a suburb, so far from the centre of London that the aristocratic local MP Theresa Villiers used our money to help her buy a second home nearer Parliament.   This was a quiet and modest estate where people had lived for over five years. Now they face eviction, with some offered temporary properties as far away as Birmingham and others abandoned by the council completely.

One of the empty flats on the estate was occupied over the weekend as the tenants mount a fightback against this demolition of both their homes and their lives. Similar struggles are emerging across London and they are winning. We are only powerless when we play by their rules. Occupations and collective action, legal or otherwise, are the only tools we have. Fuck the law, fuck the bailiffs and fuck the rich they serve. This is our city. Let’s take it back.

For more info on the Sweets Way tenants visit Barnet Housing Action’s website or follow them on twitter @SweetsWayN20

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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.