Russian Radio probes destitution of Tory UK housing
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Feb 26 19:45:35 GMT 2014
February 2014, 23:34
Homelessness and foul play at the bottom end of the housing market
New figures show that homelessness in the UK has
leapt by more than a third in the last three
years. And there are problems even for those
formerly homeless tenants who've found
accommodation - theyre renting from private
landlords who often neglect their properties. A
report shows the conditions are unsanitary and a
threat to health. Natasha Moriarty looks into it.
Homelessness is rising in Britain, according to
new figures from the Department for Communities.
The number of rough sleepers has leapt up by 37
percent in the last three years.
And those rough sleepers whove been helped into
accommodation are also struggling theyre
renting from rogue private landlords who neglect their properties.
Cameron's cold comfort promise
Prime Minister David Cameron - who once pledged
that homelessness would end under his watch -
calls rough sleeping a disgrace.
His promise will come as cold comfort to the
swelling ranks left with no other option.
In 2013, almost 2,500 people were sleeping rough in Britain on any one night.
In Nottinghamshire, rough sleeping increased by
nearly 80 percent between 2011 and 2012, to 48 people.
Two years ago, Nottingham County Council then
under Conservative rule cut its Supporting People budget by 65 percent.
Now under Labour rule, the council is proposing
further cuts to homeless services.
Muriel Weisz is chair of the Nottinghamshire
County Councils adult social care and health committee
"Three or four years ago there was an expectation
that councils would find the money to support
people vulnerable to losing their homes from
their basic budget
the finding of money for this area of work is difficult."
In a large investigation, housing charity Shelter
followed 128 former rough sleepers in three
regions of England who are all renting from private landlords.
Their findings show private tenants across the
country are living in Dickensian squalor.
Mould and damp are common almost expected. Many
tenants are living in houses where the surfaces
are wet to the touch. One tenant says water runs
in streams down his walls - straight into his
electrical sockets. Another reported the ceiling
caving in from a leak that was never fixed.
Rodent and insect infestations are widespread.
Tenants report cockroaches, mice and rats.
The problem ranges from seeing one mouse a day -
to frightening infestations that made the property uninhabitable.
Conditions for many tenants are so squalid that
its starting to affect their health.
Over half of the participants reported an
increase in coughs, chest problems and colds as
well as more visits to the GP.
Tenants are the mercy of unresponsive and
aggressive landlords who threaten eviction if they dare to complain.
The report makes for galling reading for the taxpayer.
A shortage of council housing means the majority
of housing benefit claimants now rent privately.
Housing benefit pours straight from the
government into the pockets of landlords whose
properties fall short of the most basic standards of hygiene and safety.
Homeless charities say the prime minister and his
government do not recognise the realities of the private rental market.
The coalition has put unprecedented pressure on
local authority budgets. Councils, shelters and
homelessness prevention schemes across the
country are being forced to strip back their services.
And this process was started in 2009, when the
Labour government removed the ring fence from
Supporting People the group providing housing
support services to Britains most vulnerable people.
High demand, low quality
Liam Preston is Policy Officer at YMCA. "Because
demand is so high, the level of quality is
actually very low," he says. "The private
landlords cant be challenged they can kick you
out and therell be someone to replace you instantly."
Some charities are calling for extra regulation
of private landlords but that could force up rents and restrict choice.
Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has been quick to
point out that the majority of rough sleepers in London are foreign nationals.
More than one in four are from central and eastern European countries.
Mr Hopkins says the best way to improve the
situation is to toughen immigration rules.
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