1000s of homeless families in insecure temporary accommodation treated like reusable rubbish sent to the council “recycling centres” to be sorted and processed, or,all too frequently, discarded. 

31 May 2019

THE STATE IS CARELESSNESS ABOUT THE HEALTH & WELLBEING OF LOW-INCOME RENTERS AND THOSE IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION

The good health and wellbeing of all UK citizens in or out of work must now become a national priority

The flammable cladding on the Grenfell Tower is only one example of the State’s carelessness about the health and wellbeing of low-income renters.  The plight of the tenants impacted by the Grenfell tragedy, many now housed in temporary accommodation for two years, is part of the much wider emergency in London. 

There is now an ever-growing population of homeless families and individuals. Families are in totally insecure temporary accommodation and individuals are often sofa-surfing or, worse still, on the streets. Their situation is like that of reusable rubbish sent to the councils' recycling centre to be sorted and processed, or, all too frequently, discarded.  

The following letter from Taxpayers Against Poverty was published in The Guardian in February 2019:

"At one end of the UK’s crazy housing market, Persimmon and other national and international property developers are encouraged by government policy to grab British land for huge private gain (£66k profit on every home. How HYPERLINK "https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/26/persimmon-profits-help-to-buy-scheme" a HYPERLINK "https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/26/persimmon-profits-help-to-buy-scheme" builder made £1bn, 27 February). At the other end, there are no policies whatsoever in place at Government or local-authority level to provide truly affordable homes for rent for the 79,880 homeless families in temporary accommodation. Their number rose by 65% from 2010, while, from 2013, Persimmon’s profits tripled.

The condition of the temporary homes is often a disgrace. People can be forced to move several times, over 10 years of homelessness, sometimes via a hostel, while landlords default on their mortgage or take their profit from a speculative buy-to-let. Forced moves disrupt the education of more than 120,000 children. These low-income families are at the mercy of landlords, who can evict without reason, and of councils, which can compel them to accept an offer of permanent housing in a private tenancy at rents they cannot afford. It is more of a housing emergency than a housing crisis"  

In the six months from June to December 2018, the number of homeless families in England rose from 79,880 to 82,310, and the number of homeless children by 500 to 123,230 – an increase since 2010, in percentage terms, from 65% to 71%. In the same period, the number of homeless families in London increased from 54,540 to 56,560 and there was an increase from 68% to 69% of the total number of families in temporary accommodation in England.  

Source: House of Commons Library. 

According to Trust for London, there are 3,986 homeless families in temporary accommodation in Enfield and 4,400 in Haringey. Both local authorities have very little council property left, so nowhere to house many of them except out of London or in the private sector. That could mean those families being moved from a council rent of £90 a week for two-bed accommodation to a private-sector rent of £300 a week. 

CASE HISTORIES

To emphasise the unreasonable hardship inflicted, here follow two case histories of homeless families in temporary accommodation:   ​

Case History 1 

In this family, the mother is employed and the father self-employed. They have two young children. They have been compelled by the council and private landlords to move house several times over the years. 

First, the property they were renting was repossessed by the landlord’s mortgage company two months after they moved in. Thereafter, they had a short-hold tenancy for eight years, but, having enjoyed some stability, were then arbitrarily evicted. They next moved into a flat – into the kitchen of which the upstairs tenant’s toilet subsequently leaked. After an eight-hour wait to be seen by officials in the Housing Office, they were then moved into a hostel, sharing the space with addicted single homeless adults. They have now been moved into a council estate that is due to be demolished. 

They have none of the security of tenure needed by all families because, until a new Bill is passed by Parliament that will end faultless evictions, landlords can evict without reason and with no notice, using a Section 21 or Section 8 notice. Low-income families like this one are therefore not only at their mercy, but also at the mercy of council officials, who have the right to force them from temporary council accommodation into permanent private accommodation they simply cannot afford. 

The government proposes to amend Section 8 and to require landlords to give their reasons for eviction in court. That will only be an improvement if tenants can appoint a housing lawyer to defend them. Such lawyers are in short supply, not to mention costly, and access to legal aid has been shredded.  

​Case History 2​

​This family of five receives social-security payments, but for only three of them. The father and a son aged five are entitled to benefits, but the mother does not have a British passport, so is not. They were unaware that the Government has limited child-benefit payments to two children when their third was born, so he, too, now aged eight months, is also without  income. 

Their eldest child, aged nine, ​is severely sight-impaired, has cerebral palsy on his right side, and has developmental delay and sensory issues. His father has a file full of medical evidence. It has satisfied the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that his severe disablement justifies making his Disabled Living Allowance permanent. However, the local authority has refused to guarantee that, in due course, it will move them out of temporary council accommodation into a permanent home in the catchment area of his school, even though such security in education is vital for a disabled child. The inadequate payments they receive have been shredded by central government since 2010. Forcing them into the private rented sector is therefore wholly unreasonable – the rents there are prohibitive for a family of five with the income of only three. 

The injustice of the council tax. 

We hope the IFS Deaton Review of inequality, the Mayor of London's, Independent Housing Panel and The Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Housing, Church and Community will ensure their agendas include consideration of the deep inequality between UK renters and landlords or land owners.(Why we are troubled by elitist inequality review) Unlike other countries' our renters, of homes or small businesses, pay the landlords' property tax, which we call council tax or business rates. But renters get none of the vast increases in the value of land that have been given unearned and untaxed to landlords and land owners since the "big bang" of the 1980s. It would be a significant move towards equality if a small percent of the annual increase in the value of land was paid by its owners to local or national government leading to the abolition of council tax, business rates, stamp duty and, if international experience of land value capture is shared in the UK, a reduction of taxes on income.  

 

PN 30/5/2019


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