Russian Radio probes destitution of Tory UK housing

Tony Gosling tony at
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 - they’re 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 who’ve been helped into 
accommodation are also struggling – they’re 
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 Council’s 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."

'Dickensian' squalor
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.

Health problems
Conditions for many tenants are so squalid that 
it’s 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 Britain’s 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 can’t be challenged – they can kick you 
out and there’ll 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.

Natasha Moriarty
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