When Will This Crisis End?
On Friday I spent two hours with a young mother of two sons facing eviction because her landlord wants to sell the home she has lived in for a number of years. She has been a good tenant and has raised her family there through good times and bad but now she faces an uncertain future.
Her ‘crime’ is to be poor, dependent on benefits so letting agencies won’t help her because she can’t pay the full rent and housing benefit only covers so much of the amount the landlord demands. Ok, there is discretionary housing payment but that is a finite resource that may plug part of the gap but not all.
Don’t forget also, letting agents need a rent guarantor, the person who pays up if you default/run away/run up arrears. Those of us who had children at university or college will probably have been guarantors for our children’s rent but it’s a long way from guaranteeing £650 or more per month.
So,what about social housing designed for those who cannot afford to buy, you ask? That would be one solution if there were any available. Social housing is like hen’s teeth and if you bid on a property in the band to which you have been allocated, you can be sure you will be one of hundreds all trying to get a home to call ‘home’. It is made worse by housing associations now being able to sell off void properties on the open market. In my ward Orbit has for some time been selling properties thereby reducing the available social housing stock by, I estimate, up to 20 units.
What of my young mother, then? Well, she had been bidding for a social housing unit for months without success and the date for her eviction draws near so if she cannot find something her goods go into store and she and her family go into temporary accommodation, the ‘bed without the breakfast’.
Is this acceptable in one of the richest countries in the world? Families put up in ‘bed without anything not even breakfast’ because we are so short of affordable homes. In the ward 12 units have planning permission but if the Tory government gets its way, most will be sold soon as they will be classed as ‘premier properties’. Two steps forward, three back.