Category Archives: Housing and Homelessness

How Eric Pickles Acted To Protect The Empty Penthouses Of The Global Super Rich

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Join Class War, 1pm, 14th June, Berkeley Square outside the London property developer’s forum.

Imagine if there was a law that prevented the rich from leaving luxury properties empty as investments.  Even better, imagine if this law ensured that if a home was left vacant for over six months then local authorities could take over the management of the property and use it as part of their own housing stock to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people.  That would be a good fucking law, and that’s a rare thing.  And it is a law that the Labour Party accidentally introduced, although their target was not the rich, but squatters and those they claimed were involved in anti-social behaviour.

Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) came into effect in 2006 to tackles the problem of empty homes which the government said were “magnets for vandals, drug users, squatters and even arsonists”.  They operated exactly as described above, with powers for councils to take over vacant properties and rent them out to those waiting for permanent housing.  Of course this being Tony Blair’s Labour Party the new powers were awash with bureacracy and caveats to protect the rich.  Second homes were to be sadly exempt from the legislation, as were many other empty properties such as holiday homes.  Councils would have to make legthy application to a tribunal and property owners were given wide-ranging rights of appeal.  This didn’t stop the right wing press going into meltdown over the legislation with The Sunday Times declaring Britain had become a communist country.

In the end just 43 EDMOs were issued between 2006 and 2010.  The great expropriation had not happened and the rich continued to horde land and housing as much as ever.  This didn’t stop Eric Pickles rushing to change the laws within months of the Tory’s stealing power in 2010.

Pickles, who was Communities Secretary at the time, announced in early 2011 that he was bringing to an end these ‘heavy handed’ rules.  This news was barely reported at the time.  Now EDMOs can only be issued if a property has been empty for over two years, and more importantly only when local councils can prove the property is being used for anti-social purposes.  Pickles said he did this to protect civil liberties.

There seems little doubt that EDMOs could have been issued against rich investors who buy up luxury properties and leave them empty – a phenomena that is now extending to other cities besides London.  It would have been difficult, and might not have worked – oligarchs have good lawyers – but it would have been worth a try for an imaginative local authority facing growing homelessness.  But now that option has been shut down, to protect the civil liberties of the global super rich who see the booming housing market in the South East as nothing more than an exclusive casino where they always get to win.  And so the number of empty homes in London is now back on the rise despite a desperate housing crisis and record numbers sleeping on the streets.  That’s what this government calls freedom.

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Shocking New Figures Reveal The Collapse Of Social House-Building In London

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London’s housing crisis is set to escalate even further as figures show the construction of new socially rented homes in the capital is collapsing.

Statistics from the Department of Communities and Local Government reveal that the number of new socially-rented homes that began to be constructed in the city fell below 5000 in the most recent year for the first time in over a decade.  There were just 4,790 new social home-build starts in 2015/16 compared to 7,860 in 2010/11.  London’s population soared by around half a million in that period.

The figures for the most recent quarter are especially troubling, recording just 660 new starts in the latest period, a fall from over 2000 in the first quarter of 2015/16.

As alarming as these statistics are, they only tell half the story.  Many of these new homes will be ‘affordable’ rather than priced at social rents.  This means that rents could be as high as 80% of those in the local private sector, whilst they may also be let on fixed five years tenancies.  Some local authorities are now prioritising these homes for what they call ‘key workers’ – meaning teachers, coppers and social workers.  This is not social housing in a form that anyone would recognise.

Astonishingly London borough’s are also selling off social housing stock leading to a loss of 4000 homes in 2014/15, many due to Right To Buy.  The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham flogged 418 social houses between 2010 and 2015 and replaced them with just 170 new homes.  Construction did not begin on one single socially rented home in this borough in 2015/16, and the same applies to Kingston Upon Thames, Harrow and the City of London.

Homelessness is soaring in the capital with the number of people sleeping on the streets at record levels.  Appallingly the number of empty homes has also hit a seven year high, no doubt due to luxury flats being built as investments and then left unused.  And what are our elected officials doing about this crisis?  If they were doing fuck all that would be bad enough.  The truth is most of them, Labour or Tory, are making things worse.

Next week will see Labour councillors joining the the Tory Housing Minister Brandon Lewis to suck up to property developers and estate agents at the London Real Estate Forum.  The event is backed by the new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and is being held in Mayfair – the multi-millionaire’s ghetto where the rich live in total isolation of the chaos they are creating in the lives of many Londoners.  They will not be there to discuss growing homelessness, soaring rents or the demise of social housing.  Instead they will be discussing how to further lines their pockets from the carnage.  Every fucking vulture in the world has their eyes on London’s last remaining social housing estates.  Deals will be done, the right people paid off, and our communities will be smashed up even further.  It is vital that these parasites are opposed.

A day of protest against the event is emerging beginning with a morning demonstration outside at 8.30am.  Then at 1pm Class War are calling for revenge with a mass noise protest outside the forum in Berkeley Square.  If you want your kid to have somewhere to live when they grow up then be there.  If you would like to be able to retire in the city you have lived in all your life be there.  If you are worried your council home is under threat or are sick of paying eye-watering rents to private landlords, be there.  If you just hate fucking toffs, be there.  Advance to Mayfair.  Bring the fucking noise.  Spread the word – June 14, 1pm Berkeley Square.

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Social Cleansing In London Is All Too Real, To Deny It Is Irresponsible

social-housingSome things need nippng in the bud.  So here’s a long and probably quite boring explanation of why Dave Hill’s recent claims in the Guardian that social cleansing is not taking place in London are a load of bollocks.

Hill based his recent piece on research carried out by the New Policy Institute think tank which examined the number of moves made by housing benefits claimants both within the capital and from London to other parts of the UK.  It found that the number of London claimants who moved house has changed little between 2010 and 2015.  As such the report’s authors conclude that housing benefit cuts have not caused the social cleansing of the city that many feared.

This led the Hill to declare that we should forget about social cleansing and instead focus on the poverty that has been caused by housing benefit cuts, saying that households had not been forced out of London but were staying put and making up rent shortfalls themselves.  To some extent this is true, many Londoners are now living in desperate poverty due to soaring rents and benefit cuts.  But to dismiss social cleansing, on the basis of this report, is a big mistake.

The first significant error in this research is that it examined all of those on housing benefit, not just those in the private sector.  Almost 70% of London housing benefit claimants are in social housing and unlikely to be subject to the benefit cap due to much lower rents.*  This means that large chunks of their data could be meaningless when analysing the impact of cuts on private sector tenants – and they don’t know which chunks.

There are many reasons why tenants might not move in such a brutal housing market.  With the number of London landlords who will accept those claiming housing benefits growing ever smaller, the sensible thing to do if you have found somewhere is to stay put.  Some social housing tenants may be hoping to buy eventually –  especially now that right-to-buy is being extended to Housing Association properties.  This could impact on the number of social housing transfers to outside the capital.  These factors would both offset any exodus due to benefit cuts.  But these assumptions, like the conclusions of the report, are speculation.

A further error in the research is that it treated claimants as one never-changing mass rather than examining flows on and off benefits.  This means that if someone comes off housing benefits as a result of moving to a cheaper area they will not be included in the figures. The report fails to show whether the number of private sector Housing Benefit claimants is falling or rising in any given area.  This leaves the question of whether people moving are being replaced by someone in similar economic circumstances.  You would expect this if the number of poor people was not decreasing overall as the researchers claim and you can find out by looking at the Housing Benefit caseload statistics.  They tell a very different story to the one told by the New Policy Institute.

The social cleansing of London did not begin when the Tory government first stole power in 2010.  Gentrification had already hollowed out much of inner London with both rents and house prices soaring even in once largely working class areas such as Hackney and Lambeth.  In more prosperous boroughs the eradication of the poor was almost complete except for those in social housing.  There were just 7,790 private sector Housing Benefit claimants in the City of Westminster in 2010 – and Westminster is big, with a population almost as large as Hull and with areas which would not have been described even as middle class a couple of decades ago.

According to the most recent figures, the number of Housing Benefit claimants in Westminster now stands at 5,001, a drop of over a third since 2010.  This trend is repeated throughout inner London – both the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Islington have also lost around a third of private sector housing benefit claimants. In Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham and Southwark the number has dropped by around 20%, whilst Lewisham, Lambeth, Wandsworth and Tower Hamlets have all seen over 10% of private sector housing benefit claimants disappear.  In the largely uninhabited City of London there were 100 private sector housing benefit claimants in 2010 and now there is only 20.  The only inner London borough during the period to see a rise in this claimant group was Newham, by far the poorest and the least central borough.  In total there are over 11,000 less private sector housing benefit claimants in inner London since 2010, and there weren’t many to start with.  In many ways the Benefit Cap was simply a mopping up exercise, driving out the hangers-on that gentrification hadn’t yet managed to displace.

Despite plummeting number of private rented sector claimants in inner London the reverse is taking place further afield.  Almost every outer London borough saw a rise in the number of private sector Housing Benefit claimants between 2010 and 2016, with only Waltham Forest, Merton and Richmond seeing a fall – and the last two are both posh.  The main reason for this is soaring rents and a huge rise in the number of people in work who are claiming Housing Benefit.  The overall number of Greater London Housing Benefit claimants, including social tenants, is higher now than in 2010 despite falling unemployment.  The overall number of inner London claimants has fallen however.

The trend is plain to see. The richer and more central a borough is, then the more likely it will have seen a drop in the number of private sector housing benefit claimants.  In outer boroughs the opposite is happening.  London’s poor are being displaced to the margins

In some boroughs, such as Westminster, the process of social cleansing is near complete for almost all those without social housing.  And for those clinging on the situation is chilling. Westminster spent around £3 million on Discretionary Housing Payments in 2014/15 specifically to mitigate the impact of the Benefit Cap.  Assuming an average award of £50 a week – and this is a guess, there are no available figures – that’s enough to pay for over 1,000 of Westminster’s dwindling private sector claimants to remain in their homes.  These are emergency payments, which can be withdrawn at any time, and will eventually stop.  These households have simply been given a stay of execution.

In addition to this Westminster has 2,435 households who are homeless and in temporary accommodation.  Around half of this number have been relocated outside the borough.  Those still in Westminster will be in some form of private accomodation, whether that’s a hostel, B&B or in a temporary placement with a private landlord.  They are also likely to be claiming Housing Benefit.  So of Westminster’s 5000 private sector Housng Benefit claimants up to a quarter could be homeless, and possibly another fifth are receiving Discretionary Housing Payments which will eventually be stopped.

The Benefit Cap is just one, very small part of what is driving social cleansing.  London’s failure to build enough social housing is also displacing the poor from the capital.  Despite a population increase across Greater London of almost half a million between 2010 and 2014, the number of new social houses was just 7,455.  Housing stock estimates from the Department of Communities and Local Government show that Islington, Camden, Kensington & Chelsea, Wesminster and the City of London have all seen a reduction in the number of socially rented homes since 2010.  As numerous campaigners around the capital will tell you, they are now coming for the housing estates as well.

It seems astonishing that there would be those who refute that London’s poor are being gradually forced out of the city when the evidence is so visible.  Take a walk round Hackney and you will see streets that have been not just socially, but also ethnically cleansed.  This is not to undermine the sufffering of those still living in the capital who have been forced into poverty and  destitution.  That is part of social cleansing too, as the poor are sliced out of civic, economic and social life, even if they manage to cling onto their homes.  Those that are left become as invisible as the departed.  With further benefit cuts on the way and the near eradication of social housing it is irresponsible, and just plain inaccurate to deny what is taking place.

*this post was corrected on 28/5/16 due to previously saying social housing tenants are exempt from the Benefit Cap.  This was a daft mistake, they are not exempt, but due to much lower rents in social housing then very few claimants are affected.  H/T  @nearlylegal who pointed it out.

Above pic from Turbulent London

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As Homelessness Soars Number Of Empty Homes In London Hits Seven Year High

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London doesn’t have a housing problem it has a rich people problem.  Despite soaring homelessness in the capital, figures recently released by the government show that the number of homes left empty in the city has risen for the first time since 2009.

There are currently 59,881 empty homes in London.  That is enough to house everybody currently living in emergency temporary accommodation in the city  – and everyone sleeping on the streets.  20,000 of these properties have been empty over two years.  These are not second homes, properties which are rented out or homes used for holidays.  They are empty, abandoned in some cases, or more often deliberately left vacant as investment opportunities.

It is this that is likely to be the reason the number of empty homes is rising in the capital but falling everywhere else in the UK.  Luxury penthouses built not for living in, just for making money out of.  These cunts are so rich they can’t even be bothered to rent out the properties they own – they just sit back and profit as house prices soar.  Or at least they did.  The party may soon be over with central London house prices now starting to fall.

This is the legacy of Boris Johnson.  A capital city remade as a grotesque monument to capital.  The real people of London forced out, or condemned to a life on the margins whilst billionaires built their own corporate Disneyland.  A sterile landscape of glass and steel now dominates the city whilst once beautifully chaotic streets are overrun with chain stores and wacky trust fund businesses selling bowls of cereal for a fucking fiver.  There is no place for human life in this city at all.  It is just a place that money lives now.

An army of security guards stalk the privatised city streets handing out fines to kids playing football or folk enjoying a quiet beer in the park.  Racist cops ruthlessly shut down working class culture wherever they find it, even banning clubs from playing music they don’t like.  Uniformed filth carrying machine guns glare at people on the public transport system.  Occassionally they shoot someone.  The message is stark and clear.  This is not our city anymore, this is a giant bank where the crooks of the world can store their wealth.  And so we must be constantly policed, always watched in case we present a threat to the pampered lifestyles of the wealthy minority.

According to charities the number of people who slept rough on the streets of London this winter rose by 15% in just one year to 2,561.  Beneath the glitzy facade poverty stalks the city. Bodies huddle in shop doorways whilst champagne glasses clink in restaurants where a meal costs more than a week’s wages.  Children go hungry in grotty hostels beneath empty shyscrapers where the flats cost millions of pounds yet no-one lives there.  This is what Boris has created.  A ghost-town in sky that has shut out the city’s light.

Quietly though, everywhere, people are organising.  Thousands of people whose homes are under threat grow more militant everyday.  Students are on rent strike across the capital.  Towards the end of the 2011 riots a mob headed towards Notting Hill and Sloane Square, smashing up designer shops and attacking restaurants.  Unlicenced and boisterous street parties are shaking the newly gentrified enclaves that once belonged to the working class.  Tenants facing eviction are barricading themselves in their homes.

Direct action, disruption and outright defiance are the weapons of choice, not petitions, or voting, or boring marches.  Everyone knows now who is too blame and where they live.  A reckoning is surely coming.  Be ready.

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Sell! Sell! Sell! Join The Fuck Parade And Let’s Burst The London Housing Bubble

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London is currently a giant building site.  Wherever you go new developments, in identikit glass and steel, snake up towards the skies, blotting the light, and the life, out of the capital.

Nobody normal can afford to live in these so-called luxury apartments – so-called because they are being built on the cheap as quickly as possible.  You wouldn’t know that from the price however – even modest flats in the poshest postcodes can cost a million pounds or more.  According to the Financial Times there are around 50,000 properties planned or under construction in this price range as every last brick in the city is turned into an investment opportunity.  The losses to the capital’s history and culture are incalcuable.  The end of Tin Pan Alley, once the heart of London’s music industry.  The destruction of Soho’s gay scene.  Half of Camden Market flogged off to a dodgy developer to build high price flats.  London’s skyline damaged beyind repair.  And, most tragically of all, the mass social cleansing of every working class area of London. Pubs, markets, community centres and libraries all gone to make way for the global super rich.  If you are on a low or even moderate income, and stuck in the cut-throat private sector, then you’ve probably left already.  If you are in social housing, hold tight, they are coming for the council estates as well.

But there are signs that the feeding frenzy is coming to an end.  There may well be 50,000 high value properties on the way, but as the FT also points out, just 3,900 homes costing more than £1m were sold in central London in 2014.  The villains at Foxton’s have recently announced falling profits whilst financial experts are warning openly of a crash.  And the Office for National Statistics recently revised how house price statistics are calculated which resulted in a shock fall in London’s prices between January and February this year.

Now is the time to send a message to every pampered hipster, spiv banker, property developer and global billionaire that we do not want you in our fucking city.  Let’s crash their party and their market.  Rage against horrifying inequality in the capital grows ever fiercer and it is the rich who are becoming the targets.  There have always been consequences when the decadence of the upper classes becomes too visible or obscene, and there is an obscenity taking place in London right now.  It’s time to make them feel unwelcome.  To let them be the frightened ones for a change.  To take the class war to their fucking front doors just like they have done to us.  The battle of the capital is just getting started.  Don’t be late.

The fourth London Fuck Parade will take place on May 1st.  This boisterous anti-gentrification street party made headlines around the world last time.  The parade starts at One Commercial Street, Aldgate East, London E1 7PT at 6pm.  For the latest news visit the website at: https://fuckparade.wordpress.com/

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The Devil Really Is In The Detail: Homelessness Services and Women’s Refuges Face Wipe Out

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George Osborne’s luxury home. Paid for by the tax payer.

A vicious cut buried in this year’s budget document makes a mockery of George Osborne’s pledge of more money for homelessness charities.

The Budget Red Book confirms that from 2017 additional funding in the housing benefit system for homeless people’s hostels and women’s refuges will be scrapped completely from April 2017.  Payments to cover rents in the supported housing sector will be reduced to the Local Housing Allowance rate for that area – which can be less than £50 a week for those under 35 in some parts of the UK.

This is the culmination of a long-running row which began way back in 2012 when bungling toff Lord Fraud announced moves which would lead to the closure of every homelessness shelter and refuge in the UK.  The DWP soon backtracked on these plans and the homelessness industry slipped into collective denial until last year when it was re-announced that supported housing rents will be capped from 2016.

After unanimous protests from homelessness and domestic violence charities the government appeared to back down again, putting back the change for one year and announcing a review of funding for supported housing.  Today George Osborne pre-empted that review and –  with a sneaky bribe which will no doubt go to the largest and most obedient homelessness charities – has condemned huge numbers of the poorest and most marginalised people to street homelessness.

Funding supported housing through the benefits system allowed those providing that housing to use their own expertise and experience in helping to rebuild often shattered lives.  Now they will be expected to go cap in hand to the government, and funding will be directed at those organisations prepared to kow-tow to government policies, such as workfare, benefit sanctions, deportations and compulsory happiness lessons.

The budget documents ominously confirm that there will still be a review of the supported housing sector before the cut takes place.  We’ve just seen what these look like after the recent consultation into disability benefits.  Almost every response from disabled people and charities was completely ignored and the government did as they chose – which was cut vital disability benefits for over 600,000 people.

The entire homelessness sector, along with women’s refuges, young people’s hostels and the wide range of other supported housing is now on death row.  Homelessness charities have long faced criticism for not fighting for homeless people and instead pursuing petty obsessions about the price of strong lager, beggars  or trying to close down soup runs.  Now they are fighting for their own futures.  It will take more than petitions, whining and cosy meetings with ministers as the so-called big players negotiate their own survival, to save the homelessness industry.  It will mean homelessness organisations getting out on the streets with homeless people, tenants, benefit claimants and all those facing housing insecurity,  It may mean forgoing charitable status to fight this government – hardly a controversial arrangement, neither Amnesty or Greenpeace are charities.  And most of all it will mean a confrontational, disruptive and ferocious movement to drive this current crop of Tory toffs into the fucking sea.  Then we can have their houses.

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Numbers Sleeping On The Streets Soar By Almost A Third In Just One Year

rough-sleeping2015The number of people sleeping on the streets has soared by 30% in just one year figures from the Department of Community and Local Government reveal today.

A total of 3,569 people were found to be sleeping rough in Autumn 2015 –  the highest number since records began for the second year running.  The shocking figures come after five years of cuts to vital housing benefits combined with vicious welfare reforms that have left many destitute due to punitive benefit sanctions.  The number of people forced onto the streets because they cannot find a home has more than doubled since reforms began in 2010.

Tory politicians have brushed off the problem of rough sleeping claiming they are all just immigrants from Eastern Europe nnd so don’t matter.  Figures produced by charities show that only a third of rough sleepers come from the recently admitted EU countries however and that street homelessness is rising amongst all nationalities.

Today’s figures are just a snapshot and are taken from a combination of street counts – where outreach workers go out and physically record the number of people they see bedding down – and estimates by local authorities in areas where the problem is not so acute.  Homelessness industry insiders have long warned that the problem is woefully under-estimated and even raised fears that police usher people away from common street sleeping sites before counts are due to take place.  Today’s figures are horrifying enough but the sad truth is they only tell half the story.

The response from the government towards the growing homelessness epidemic has been more cuts with another benefit cap on the way likely to put 120,000 homes at risk.  This, combined with freezes on Housing Benefit rises despite soaring rents and the willful destruction of social housing in the UK, mean that street homelessness is a problem likely to become much worse.

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