Archive for the ‘housing’ Category

Figures obtained by Politics.co.uk reveal that almost 300 Commonwealth nationals have been evicted from their homes under the government’s controversial ‘right to rent’ rules, raising concerns that members of the Windrush generation could have been affected.

Read the full article here.

Kicked and jumped on in their sleep. That was the appalling experience of two men sleeping rough in Hull city centre. Humberside Police have released CCTV footage of the incident in the hope of identifying the three people responsible. The police appeal comes as new figures, given exclusively to this programme, show a significant increase over the last five years in violent crimes against homeless people.

Watch the full story here.

It’s 9:30am outside the county court and Mary is about to discover her fate. Before the day is done, 169 people will be evicted across Britain. This grandparent, who has been a housing association tenant for 25-years, is about to find out if she will be one of them.

Read the full story here.

This story was commissioned as part of the Bureau’s Local Reporting Fund – a grant that supports the reporting of untold stories across the UK.

Last winter as temperatures plummeted, a homeless man with learning disabilities found his way to a severe weather emergency facility in Northampton. The cold had already taken effect. The man ended up with such severe frostbite that he had eight toes amputated.

Before getting this emergency care he had tried to gain access to a newly set up night shelter in the town, but was only allowed to stay for one night before being turned away because he had rent arrears at former temporary accommodation.

Read the full story here.

For the past year I’ve been working on the issue of evictions in the UK. This piece in the New Statesman should be the first of several on the topic. It looks at the impact of eviction on a single person and her family.

“Iwona is early. She is always early for appointments, including being interviewed by a journalist. This is no easy task. She is a lone parent and a carer to her mother who both has dementia and uses a wheelchair. Iwona works in a supermarket, volunteers at a local food bank, and is studying part time to become a social worker.”

Read the full article here.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

 

 

Back in the good old days, renters had security of tenure (i.e. they couldn’t be kicked out without a good reason). Unfortunately, this meant landlords often turned to intimidation and violence to get higher-paying tenants to move in. Peter Rachman was the most famous example of this, and had this practice named after him – ‘Rachmanism’.

So now that landlords can evict tenants without a reason, you would think none of them would bother to do it illegally. Wrong. I contacted councils in London to see what they were doing to tackle illegal eviction, and associated complaints of landlord harassment of tenants.

“Councils in London are failing to enforce the law in private rented housing. According to Freedom of Information requests sent to all London boroughs, Councils in London have dealt with over 9000 cases of illegal eviction, harassment, and mortgage arrears in the past five years. However, many councils take completely different approaches to the problems. Some do not have staff to deal with the issues.”   Take a look at the full investigation on The Rent Book.