Housing | The Guardian

Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

22/05/2017 10:42 PM
Old habits are leading us astray on homelessness | Beth Watts

Old ways of working and the appeal of new and ‘exciting’ responses to homelessness are no replacement for solid evidence

Street homelessness has increased dramatically since 2010. More than 8,000 people slept on the streets of London last year, more than double the number in 2009–10.

Local council counts and estimates indicate an even bigger increase (132%) across England. News of horrifyingly frequent deaths on the streets in London, Glasgow, Belfast and other UK cities is the starkest evidence possible that reversing these trends is essential to safeguard the lives of an extremely vulnerable group of people.

Related: Homelessness at crisis point in all EU countries – except Finland

Related: How Finland solved homelessness | Interview: Juha Kaakinen

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22/05/2017 06:15 PM
Homeless teachers: ‘I wouldn’t talk about it, I was so ashamed’

Three teachers reveal their terror at facing a hostel – or the streets – as the housing crisis hits professionals

Secondary English teacher Tara Diamond discovered she was going to be made homeless a week before Christmas. Without warning, her landlord decided to sell the three-bed house in Bath she’d been renting for £1,000 a month for the past three years. Diamond, a single mother of a teenage daughter and son, quickly found that on her salary of £28,000, she could not afford to rent another home locally.

“My pay has been frozen while rents have rocketed in Bath. I was already spending all my spare time working as a tutor and marking exams just to pay for groceries and avoid getting into debt. Another three-bed place would have cost me £1,300 a month – 80% of my take home pay – leaving my children and me with just £320 a month to live on. Even landlords of two-bed properties were turning me down because I didn’t earn enough.” She needed £4,000 to move home, including the deposit. “I just didn’t have the money.”

Related: Teachers priced out of house market as property prices soar to 11 times earnings

Related: Britain’s housing crisis is a human disaster. Here are 10 ways to solve it

Related: Nearly half of England’s teachers plan to leave in next five years

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22/05/2017 06:55 AM
Strong, stable, achieving children: a slogan to stand behind | Letters
Readers’ thoughts on increasing child poverty and housing problems, the Tory threat to free school lunches, and other issues on which young people are being let down by politicians

Under the last Labour government, there were impressive reductions in child poverty, which are being reversed, with a marked increase in the number of children living in poverty in working households. Health clinicians, teachers, local government and voluntary sector practitioners are trying valiantly to address this against a background of the most profound budgetary challenges resulting from government-imposed austerity.

Some leaders working with children are wondering why we can’t arrive at an agreed percentage of GDP to be spent on children in the way that it is on defence and foreign aid. Civil service, NHS, local government, voluntary and education leaders could work with bodies like the Institute of Fiscal Studies to quantify what is needed and the impact could be evaluated by thinktanks, the National Audit Office and parliament. Improved wellbeing and educational attainment and employment prospects for children – our future adults and workforce – would in time also reduce demand on adult health and social care budgets. To paraphrase a slogan from the Lynton Crosby playbook: strong, stable, achieving children: in the national interest.
Steve Flatley
York

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22/05/2017 04:11 AM
Record 60% of Britons in poverty are in working families – study

In-work poverty disproportionately concentrated in households in private rented housing as rising living costs bite

A record 60% of British people in poverty live in a household where someone is in work, according to researchers, with the risk of falling into financial hardship especially high for families in private rented housing.

Related: The housing poverty trap means work doesn't pay

Related: Private rental sector is the 'new home of poverty' in the UK

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21/05/2017 06:00 PM
Social housing is good. But let’s make it beautiful too | Zoe Williams
The big parties speak only of practicalities. Perhaps they should try focusing on aesthetics for a change

Ostentatious parsimony was the phrase used by Kate Macintosh, the woman responsible for some of the most ambitious local authority housing of the 1960s and 70s, to describe the spending environment for the social architect. Housing ministers would speak with pride of stripping out unnecessary extravagances, such as balconies and windows.

The philosophy went beyond thrift. In social housing, anything above the bare minimum was lavish, and anything lavish was an insult to the public purse. In the 90s, as PFI contracts took hold, the ostentatious parsimony of the state met the carelessness of the investor. How much does a landlord care about liveability – about grace, light, views and carbon emissions?

The promises seem implausible – no one thinks they’ll end up living in one of these homes

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20/05/2017 11:05 AM
Theresa May takes on the older voter. That’s gutsy, but is social care any fairer? | Will Hutton
In an ideal world, an insurance system would pay for care later in life but we must find a way to tax housing wealth

Mrs May, the soon to be crowned Tory prime minister who promises to end Conservatism’s embrace of neoliberalism, is also the woman who will end the 40-year property boom. British house prices are absurdly high in relation to incomes – in national historical terms and in comparison with other countries. Their fall has long been inevitable, but less obvious was what would cause it.

Now we know. A decade of wage stagnation and the coming recession – perhaps depression – occasioned by unnecessarily rupturing our economic ties to Europe will together cap their growth. But it will be the many, many home sales (some estimates suggest around 100,000) to pay back the care bills to the government under Mrs May’s proposed backdoor inheritance or “dementia tax” that will deliver the coup de grace. June 2017 will be when house prices reached real-time highs not to be equalled for decades.

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19/05/2017 06:12 AM
Plenty of reasons for poor people to vote Labour | Letters
Labour’s manifesto should appeal to those on benefits, writes Sheila Spencer; while activists Roy and Jane Darke describe knocking on doors in Oxford

I agree with Ruth Patrick that many people living with poverty say they won’t vote (Society, 17 May). But I disagree strongly with her view that Labour has said little to appeal to people on benefits. Here are just a few examples of what Labour’s manifesto offers them:

• Scrapping the bedroom tax immediately (the draft law was ready before the 2015 general election).

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18/05/2017 10:00 PM
Confessions of a sex trafficker: how Alaska's homeless youth are exploited

Alaska has a disproportionate rate of young homeless people being trafficked for sex. For Heidi Ross, it began with running away from home

Heidi Ross was a senior in high school when she hitchhiked from the Anchorage suburb of Eagle River into the city, leaving a dark childhood behind.

“I didn’t have anywhere to go,” she said of that day, around 20 years ago. “I had the clothes on my back.”

There is a demand for sex and there are sexually vulnerable people who can be swooped up

If you’ve never had somebody take notice of you, say you’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’ll do a lot to hold on to that

Related: 'A tableau of suffering': seaside city of San Diego faces a dark homelessness crisis

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18/05/2017 09:47 AM
Sturgeon and Farron round on Nuttall over housing – video

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s leader, and Tim Farron, Lib Dem leader, criticise Ukip’s Paul Nuttall over his views on housing during Thursday’s ITV leader’s debate. Nuttall says not enough houses are being built in the UK, to which Farron interjects that migrant labour is needed to meet housebuilding targets

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18/05/2017 07:15 AM
Dana Lixenberg wins Deutsche Börse photography prize for shots of LA housing project

Judges praise the ‘cool sobriety’ of the Dutch photographer, who wins £30,000 for her series Imperial Courts

A Dutch photographer who has spent two decades chronicling the lives of residents on a Los Angeles social housing project has won one of international photography’s most prestigious prizes.

Dana Lixenberg was named winner of the 20th Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation prize at a ceremony in London on Thursday evening.

Related: 'Are you FBI?' – how I captured the everyday life of gangland LA

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18/05/2017 06:30 AM
Postwar prefabs were huge progress for many residents | Letter
Reader Norman Bone in praise of postwar prefabricated housing

Your caption to a photo of postwar prefabs (Build your grand design for a humble price, 13 May) refers to “the bad old days of prefab housing”, which is about as far from the truth as it would be possible to get. These imaginative and wonderful dwellings provided an urgently needed solution to the UK’s massive postwar housing shortage and presented a huge improvement in living standards for most of their early residents, many of whom would have lost their homes during the London blitz of 1940/41.

These prefabs were undoubtedly very small, but their kitchens and bathrooms would have been a revelation to people whose previous dwellings would have had shared outside toilets and no running hot water.

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18/05/2017 04:00 AM
Chronicling homelessness: Amazon primes itself to work with shelter

One of the company’s buildings will host Mary’s Place, a Seattle homeless shelter – but not everyone in the US is happy at the prospect of one next door to them

Until last week, the most famous building at the Amazon headquarters in Seattle was probably its giant glass-covered domes, which will house a botanical garden when complete. That may change with the company’s announcement that in three years one of its buildings will host a homeless shelter, Mary’s Place. “Amazon employees and Mary’s Place residents will move in together in early 2020,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.

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17/05/2017 09:14 AM
Tory manifesto: more elderly people will have to pay for own social care

Theresa May unveils ‘difficult but necessary’ measure to pay for elderly care and is expected to retain promise of limiting immigration to ‘tens of thousands’

More elderly people will have to pay for their own social care in the home and lose universal benefits under a new Conservative policy which, Theresa May will say on Thursday, is difficult but necessary to tackle the crisis in funding.

Introducing the party’s election manifesto, the prime minister will say it is the “responsibility of leaders to be straight with people about the challenges ahead” as she unveils a controversial policy that would reduce the value of estates that many people hope to pass on to their children.

Related: Groundhog May: we're all trapped in Theresa's campaign time loop | Marina Hyde

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16/05/2017 10:00 PM
'A tableau of suffering': seaside city of San Diego faces a dark homelessness crisis

The southern California city has a reputation for beaches and beer. But amid a dramatic spike in homelessness, people are coming to terms with a new reality

A “tableau of squalor and suffering” isn’t what comes to mind when people think of San Diego, a town with the motto “America’s finest city” and a reputation for its craft-beer culture and miles of beautiful beaches. But that’s how Dan McSwain, a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, described the city’s homelessness crisis in a piece last year, the first in a series pillorying city leaders for not doing more to address the issue.

Since then the situation has, if anything, worsened.

Related: Living under a tarp next to Facebook HQ: 'I don't want people to see me'

Related: In Hollywood, superheroes and villains delight crowds – and sleep on the streets

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16/05/2017 09:30 AM
Lib Dems unveil 'rent to buy' pledge for first time homeowners

Party’s manifesto contains wealth of offers aimed at enticing young voters back after tuition fees furore, including referendum on final Brexit deal

Tens of thousands of young renters will be offered “rent to buy” deposit-free homes as part of a Liberal Democrat manifesto aimed at enticing a younger generation to back the party.

The announcement is the flagship policy among a number of reforms expected to be announced by the party on Wednesday aimed at attracting younger voters, also those most likely to be receptive to the party’s hard remain message and a promise of a referendum on the final Brexit deal to allow voters to opt to stay in the EU.

Related: Lib Dems promise to scrap mass snooping powers if elected

Related: 10 things you think should be in the Lib Dem manifesto

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16/05/2017 01:00 AM
Jess Phillips tells Owen Jones: 'People talk to me more about Gogglebox than Brexit' – video interview

Owen Jones joins Jess Phillips in her constituency of Birmingham Yardley as she hits the campaign trail for a general election she says nobody seems to want. Phillips says she’s found voters have voiced concerns over immigration and housing but have not been talking to her about Brexit

An extended version of this interview is available on Owen Jones’s YouTube channel

General election 2017 - latest updates

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15/05/2017 11:01 AM
Government threatened with legal action over immigration checks

Campaign group presses home secretary to order full evaluation of ‘right to rent’ immigration status checks by landlords

The government has been threatened with legal action if it presses ahead with the introduction of “right to rent” immigration checks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without a full evaluation of their impact.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has written to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, demanding that she order a full evaluation of the compulsory immigration status checks by landlords on potential tenants that were extended across England in 2016.

Related: Immigration bill: Theresa May defends plans to create 'hostile environment'

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15/05/2017 09:08 AM
Millionaire tells millennials: if you want a house, stop buying avocado toast

Australian real estate mogul Tim Gurner advised young people to solve their housing woes by putting their ‘$22 a pop’ toast toward a deposit instead

An Australian millionaire and real estate mogul has advice for millennials struggling to purchase a home: stop buying avocado toast.

Tim Gurner, a luxury property developer in Melbourne responsible for over $3.8bn in projects, is facing heat for comments he made on 60 Minutes in Australia, implying that young people can’t afford to buy property because they’re wasting money on fancy toast and overpriced coffee.

Tim Gurner believes our housing crisis will be resolved when young Aussies inherit the 'incredible wealth' from the Baby Boomers. #60Mins pic.twitter.com/iET9sus8qW

Related: Stop spending money on avocados? Good idea, I’ll have a house deposit by 2117 | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Related: Avocado hand: why the fruit has become a health hazard

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14/05/2017 06:23 PM
Government migrant crackdown punishes children | Abi Brunswick

Our charity works with migrant families facing destitution and the prospect of their children having to sleep on night buses or in police stations

When the government first introduced its plans to create a “hostile environment” for migrants, the rhetoric was about immigration control, rather than making people homeless. But recent provisions, including making it illegal for landlords to rent properties to undocumented migrants, banning them from opening bank accounts and cracking down on working without the right documentation, have led to just that.

There is a direct conflict between the government’s approach to immigration control and its commitments to safeguarding children’s rights. Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 gives local authorities powers to provide support to families to prevent their children from being taken into care.

Related: How can councils tackle homelessness? Andrew Walker

Related: Asylum limbo: the woman who can't stay in Britain, but can't leave either

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14/05/2017 11:01 AM
Number of school leavers on electoral roll in England falls 25%

‘Voter registration time bomb’ faces young people following introduction of individual registration, campaign group warns

Young people are facing a “voter registration time bomb”, according to analysis by the Electoral Reform Society, whose analysis shows the number of school leavers on the electoral roll has dropped by more than a quarter in three years.

The society, which campaigns on access to democracy, said parties needed to step up their game to register young people, who are more likely to fall off the electoral roll after the introduction of individual electoral registration in 2014.

Renters need a government that will reform the housing market to protect them; we won't get one unless we vote for it

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