If you were to ask me what is the most crucial issue that involves me and some other councillors the answer is simple –HOUSING and the housing crisis here in Thanet and nationally.
We are told that what has been described as ‘the perfect storm’ is approaching that will make the current situation look like no more than a training exercise if the Housing Bill passes through parliament.
What is happening? Well, you may have seen more people camping out in Broadstairs and other Thanet towns with their sleeping bags and bin bags of possessions. They have nowhere else to go.
Visit Gateway Plus any day of the week and you will a stream of desperate people often with children in tow seeking help with housing and often, whilst the staff do their best, there is nothing the excellent staff can do for them except maybe offer them their train fares north or maybe they will accept the only temporary accommodation probably in Rochester or Folkestone or in one of the two hotels used in Cliftonville. I have been dealing with a family that will have to uproot their children and move away leaving schools, jobs and family behind just to get somewhere affordable to live.
You have a job here and children in school? Do you move away or take something that means you and the family are in one room in Cliftonville with no cooking facilities or laundry facilities so you wash the children’s school uniform in the bathroom basin? You live on cheap takeaways and may even have to buy drinking water.
You are single, no dependents? Sorry, we can’t help you as the government tells us you don’t warrant any help.
Housing associations are selling off houses to fund their new developments. Councils will be told to sell off their premier properties to fund the extended right to buy schemes.
Social engineering or good business? Ask the people I deal with and the answer will be clear. Why are single people with complex issues being told there is nothing that can be done for them? Why do allow this situation? Simply, because the law allows it and we have no funds to help or social housing available to offer. GAP may be able to offer you a meal or some clean clothes or advice but they cannot house you. You can have free chiropody as your feet are most important when you spend your days walking.
Forget Manston/Stone Hill Park or any other local controversy. This is the most serious issue we face here.
Last week there was a tent city in Trinity Square gardens, Margate, by the Korean War memorial. People evicted through the ‘no fault’ evictions allowed are in various locations round Thanet, discreetly camping in our parks and church yards hoping not to get moved on. With the better weather at least they won’t freeze.
I have been to county court to try to stop families being evicted but judges have to follow the law and allow landlords to claim back their property. Some families with a Section 21 notice would rather not to go to court to fight an eviction because they lack the confidence to argue their own case and they can’t afford a lawyer. Their landlord probably can so they win.
What are we doing about this situation? Are you prepared to campaign on the housing crisis and put pressure on our MPs to act? Any other suggestions let me know and perhaps we can find a solution that doesn’t mean we simply walk by on the other side.