On Monday staff, volunteers and friends of Z2K (and Romin’s dog Guinness) took part in the London Legal Walk. Billed as (probably) the largest gathering of lawyers and judiciary anywhere in the world, those taking part collect sponsorship to help a range of charities including Z2K. Charities are allowed to fundraise on their own behalf, and we are extremely pleased to have raised £10,632.50 through our Virgin giving page. You can still make donations here:
These letters (one from our chairman) were published in the Guardian today:
Housing policy represents another lack of strategy in the Queen’s speech (Editorial, 10 May). A combination of housing benefit caps, cuts and the rising prices and rents of a home will inflict ever increasing pain on Londoners. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors tells us that house prices are falling everywhere except London, and Rightmove says optimistic sellers in the capital have driven asking prices nationally above their 2008 peak. Rents in London are being driven above the caps by a global free market which sees London property as a triple-A-rated safe haven for spare cash. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, was planning to make more than half a million pounds a year renting out his home in north London.
The coalition, with almost total silence from the opposition, has told Londoners to get on a housing ladder that is more like a moving staircase coming down, until the poorest are shunted off the bottom to who knows where as rents overtake caps. In the 1960s, many families were moved from the East End into new towns with newly built homes. This time there is no planned affordable rented housing to move to, just temporary accommodation, overcrowding and debt. Is anybody listening, does anybody care?
Rev Paul Nicolson
Amelia Gentleman’s special report (10 May) outlines the desperately inadequate living conditions and exploitative landlords to be found in the London borough of Newham in 2012. I have just been re-reading Jack London’s People of the Abyss and have been struck by the frightening similarities in the grim picture he paints of squalid living conditions for the poor of the East End in 1902. He too describes vastly overcrowded, infested houses, with haphazard shacks behind, their roofs strewn with refuse from above. The inhabitants have miserable and precarious lives. The 20th century brought genuine and huge improvements in living conditions for millions, by means of mass access to high-quality sanitation, healthcare, education and social security. I fear that the regressive policies of this government are leading us, 110 years later, to a place where nobody should ever want to go. We should be concerned that the safety net is really starting to unravel. In part, these are some of the unanticipated social consequences of the Olympic project, in a capital city where Boris Johnson’s regime has knowingly presided over a growing housing crisis. The sad predicament of the people Ms Gentleman describes diminishes us all.
Rebecca Knowles Warrington,
There are two stories highlighting the rise in overcrowding and “sheds with beds” in this morning’s Guardian and Independent. These also come hot on the heals of ippr’s report this week explaining why the housing situation in London is such a mess and making some practical suggestions government and the Mayor can take to turn the city around.
We know from our NextDoor project, which helps people effected by cuts to thier benefits, that scores of families are relocating and overcrowding which exacerbates these problems (read Romin Sutherland’s report here), despite some journalists trying to deny this.
Z2K wrote to all the mayoral candidates drawing attention to the suffering of impoverished tenants as a result of the housing benefit caps. Only the Conservative and Labour candidates replied. None of them addressed the issues. The new Mayor will have to address a rampant global free market pouring money into the London property as a triple-A-rated bond investment for the very wealthy. The pace of foreign investment in London property is now reaching catastrophic levels from squeezing impoverished Londoners out of their homes and rents are raised above the caps. Their suffering is result of a global glut of private tax free wealth, around $11.5 trillion in overseas accounts, nations with GDPs in surplus and tyrants ripping off their fellow countrymen treating property as a safe haven in a trouble world. Is the new mayor brave enough to put 99% of Londoners first?
Find copies of the responses below.
Rev Paul Nicolson, Chair,
Zacchaeus 2000 Trust.
Two letters from PHA Members were published in the Guardian this morning:
It would have been good if the secretary of state for work and pensions had “found his bottle sooner”. He has turned private landlords into the rogue elephants in the housing policy room.
Land and property have become cash cows for the wealthy. They jacked up their uncontrolled rents to profit from uncontrolled but secure housing benefit from the 1990s; they are now liberated by the total insecurity of tenants receiving the local housing allowance (LHA) created by a thoughtless parliament in the 2008 crisis. “No welfare claimants here” is appearing in their windows or pinned to their front doors. A housing benefit claimant used to be a secure tenant with the rent paid direct to the landlord, but the coalition insists that the LHA should be paid into the tenant’s often empty, if not non-existent, bank account.
Security of tenure is being smashed by the move of uprating from RPI to CPI. Tenants have to move or are evicted, making way for a better, and more secure, profit from Olympic tourists and then from the high demand for homes in London. Migration is forced, with no planned affordable housing to move on to before the caps axe falls. The coalition is the bull in the china shop of social housing policy. Please sign this petition athttp://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/25438.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Chair, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
It was reassuring to learn from the deputy leader that Southwark council do not intend to export their poorer households but plan to write into their contracts with housing providers that rents should be “genuinely affordable”.
The council may not be aware that four years ago, working with London Citizens, I developed a methodology for establishing a genuinely affordable rent level for any specified household type and location. This assumed an income at the London living wage, subtracted the costs of all defined non-housing necessities priced at lowest local cost and took the residue to be the “affordable rent” level. It worked out at £135 per week for a two adult plus two children household living in Stepney. At a public meeting Boris undertook to work with this definition of affordable. That he has not done so, and that so much “affordable” housing is clearly unaffordable to many is one of the meaner tricks played on the poor and vulnerable in London.
Professor Peter Ambrose
University of Brighton
Letter published in The Independent, 26th April 2012:
The reckless forced migration of tenants out of London, to who knows where, creates costs for the taxpayer and to the wider economy that the Treasury never estimates (“Plans to house London’s poor in Stoke attacked as ‘social cleansing“, 25 April).
Educational under-achievement has been shown to be more likely as a result of the destabilisation of children’s lives. Deliberate overcrowding to make the rent fit the caps is also likely to lead to more aggressive behaviour both in the classroom and on the streets as young people compete for space and lose some elements of parental and kinship control. Children losing local circles of friends and adjusting to new schools also disrupts educational progress.
The housing benefit caps create unmanageable rent arrears. The stress of the parents in debt is known to affect the children. Debt is related to mental illness, which the Centre for Mental Health has shown is the most expensive illness for the NHS, the economy and in human misery.
There are social and economic consequences in the break-up of well-established local three-generational family structures, as was discovered in the mass movement from the East End to the new towns in the early 1960s. That movement was planned and new affordable housing was ready for the tenants.
This time the lack of any coherent housing policy for the past 40 years means the demand for affordable housing far outstrips the supply; no affordable homes were planned for the new homeless. They face a life of impoverished uncertainty of which Parliament should be ashamed.
Stephen Battersby, Chair, Pro-Housing Alliance, Past President, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Peter Archer, Chair, Care & Repair England
Professor Peter Ambrose, University of Brighton
The Rev Paul Nicolson, Chair, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust