Archive for the ‘articles’ Category

New book: The Rent Trap

Posted: November 25, 2015 in articles, housing

Over the past year I’ve been busy working on a jointly-authored book for the newly-incarnated Left Book Club.

The Rent Trap brings together a lot of the work myself and Rosie Walker have been doing on housing as journalists and activists. We interviewed everyone from policy-makers to people living in the worst housing conditions, and many degrees in between. What we are aiming to do is show why we have fallen into a rent trap, and look at some of the things we can do about it. Publication is due in March 2016. To find out more, check out the Left Book Club site.

rent-trap-191x300

Housing immigration checks introduced in the 2014 Immigration Act are set to be ramped up under the Conservatives. This is a short and quick comment piece written up for the Independent in my day-job capacity soon after the announcement was made. Suffice to say I’m not a fan of the policy.

The Government’s new plan to jail “rogue landlords” for renting out homes to undocumented migrants is an extremely unjust measure for everyone involved in the private housing market. As well as harming undocumented people and needlessly punishing those who rent to them, it will only make help fuel discrimination among landlords and letting agents.”

Read the full article here.

The Care Quality Commission found that around only one in six people who used crisis care felt the care they received had worked. This is a piece I wrote up on the back of some research I did in my day job to support the Care Quality Commission review, looking at the experiences of black and minority ethnic people.

“Ramone is in his mid-20s and with his family emigrated to the UK around 10 years ago from eastern Europe. He developed a severe mental illness that requires long-term care, but is not eligible for treatment. This means that when he becomes extremely ill, he is sectioned (usually by the police) and admitted to a mental health unit where he is medicated to a point where he can be released, with no care afterwards. This pattern has repeated itself for six years.”

Read the full piece here.

The rise of housing campaigns in the UK has been amazing. Ten years ago there were a few campaigns, mostly local around protecting council housing from privatisation or demolition. Now there are dozens: private renter groups, anti-gentrification campaigns, anti-eviction campaigns, homelessness campaigns, and radical housing action. The Green European Journal asked me to write something up on housing campaigns in the UK, and it was clear to me that I had to write about the Focus E15 Campaign, which went from a small group of single mothers doing street stalls to a high-profile and active campaign on all aspects of the housing crisis.

Read the full article here

SAMSUNG CSC

.

It often feels we’re moving in the wrong direction on equality. The language of fairness has infiltrated debate, despite it often being used against redistribution and social justice. Anyhow, the Green Party decided last week to create a new Equality and Diversity policy, it’s an interesting process and hopefully one that will generate real debate about what we mean by equality and how are we going to achieve it. I should declare that I signed this motion, so I’m not exactly neutral!

Read the full article at Bright Green.

So this isn’t actually something I did as a freelance, and was part of my day job. It sets out and summarises some of the key race inequality issues that are currently found in private renting.

“Fifty years ago, if you had walked around the streets of London looking for digs you’d have seen signs on flats to rent saying ‘No Blacks, No Irish’. Despite continued cases of direct discrimination, racial discrimination in housing is generally now much more complex, nuanced and subtle.”

Read the full article here.

“Tenants from the New Era estate in Hoxton met last week to start on their campaign to stay in their homes.

All 89 households in the estate are facing eviction since rent hikes were announced by the new owners.”

Read the full article here.

Last April, the ‘Social Fund’ was cut and the remaining money distributed to around 200 Councils. The fund had been used to provide Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants through the Job Centre. As part of an investigation with the Guardian, I looked at what was happening under the new localised system to the number of people applying for help – and the number of them who actually received support. Suffice to say the new scheme has been far from successful.

Read the full article here, and the associated datablog piece here.

As I’ve said before, food banks and food poverty among great affluence are one of the defining features of this recession. In Norwich, a couple of people, Karen and Dale, come in every Tuesday and Saturday from Dereham to give out hot meals they’ve prepared. I put together a short report for BBC Norfolk on their work. The programme is no longer available on Iplayer, but I wrote this short piece a few weeks earlier on a different night:

 

A cold wind was blowing through the town centre. It was already dark, and a coat and jumper weren’t enough to feel warm.

The rush had come and gone. In 5 minutes flat, forty hot meals had been given out by the Peoples’ Picnic – a small group of people who decided to take action on hunger in Norfolk.

Founders Karen and Dale come to Norwich from Dereham every other Tuesday and Saturday night. Starting with sandwiches, they moved onto to giving out hot meals prepared at home and transported by a friend.

From a stall in the old Haymarket Karen, Dale, and a couple of local volunteers dish out casserole, pairs of warm socks, and advice. The idea, explains Dale, is for for “communities to come together to help out those in need”.

There was a youngish man who had just been released from prison. He’d had little help in finding somewhere to move to, and had been crashing with a friend who had some spare rooms. Unfortunately, the friend’s house was full for the next few nights so he would have to spend a few nights outside.

An elderly man came over to talk to me. He was polite, and had a wry sense of humour. I explained that I was a writer and he told me, “You could ask for my autograph, but it would be too expensive.”

A lot of the talk was about a story in the local paper. There had been an inquest into the suicide of a man. Karen and Dale recognised him from the photo – he had been here a few times. Talk moved on to another man, a regular, who had also killed himself.

Karen explained that they see people who are in work. Sanctions, and benefit cuts are the biggest reasons they are seeing people, “The food poverty we have in this country is shocking.”

The Peoples’ Picnic has already see a big increase in elderly people coming to see them over the winter since they started doing hot meals.

As Karen and Dale closed up the stall after nearly an hour of informal counselling, the people moved on to a nearby Salvation Army soup kitchen. Karen added, “It’s about knowing people, because they are actually our friends. That’s how we think of them.”

Find out more about the Peoples’ Picnic.

 

 

In 1999 is was declared that child poverty in the UK could be eliminated by 2020. A binding legal target was set to reduce and ultimately end child poverty. However, now more children in UK rely on food aid than ever before. What happened?

Read the full article here.