Housing | The Guardian

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

18/01/2018 07:40 AM
New York City homeless shelter faces resistance from 'Billionaires’ Row'

Plan to house 150 homeless people near a 75-storey skyscraper provokes wealth of opposition from affluent residents nearby

A plan by New York mayor Bill de Blasio to house the city’s rising homeless population is facing opposition over a shelter that backs on to a super-luxury residential skyscraper on “Billionaires’ Row”.

According to the city’s department of homeless services, the former Park Savoy Hotel at 158 W 58th St in midtown Manhattan will house 150 homeless people. It is scheduled to open in March, and backs on to One57, a 75-storey skyscraper on 57th Street.

Related: Twelve charged for defying California city's ban on feeding homeless

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18/01/2018 07:12 AM
Taxpayers face £4m bill as landlord refuses to make tower block safe

Slough council poised to take over freehold of property and pay for safety work as current owner refuses to foot bill

A landlord who is refusing to pay an estimated £4m bill to make safe a block of flats built with Grenfell-style cladding is likely to be bailed out by the taxpayer.

Robert Steinhouse, a London-based director of 91 companies, is the ultimate owner of the freehold of Nova House in Slough, a complex of 68 privately owned apartments which has flammable cladding and substandard internal fire safety.

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18/01/2018 05:13 AM
Planning rules to be strengthened in UK to protect music venues

Property developers to be responsible for soundproofing when building near to venues

A campaign to stop grassroots music venues being threatened with closure when housing is built nearby has won support from ministers, who said developers must be responsible for soundproofing new-build properties.

Sajid Javid, the housing secretary, said he would work with the music industry to improve planning policy. The comments followed a campaign backed by Sir Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason.

Related: The slow death of music venues in cities

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18/01/2018 04:06 AM
Grenfell councillors face no confidence vote over housing failings

Kensington and Chelsea council members accused of being unfit to manage borough’s homes

Councillors in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) are facing a vote of no confidence over the way they are managing housing in the borough after the Grenfell Tower fire.

At a meeting of the council’s Grenfell recovery scrutiny committee on Thursday night, Joe Delaney – a local campaigner and coopted member of the committee – will propose a vote on the conduct of another council committee that has overseen the management of housing stock since the tenants’ management organisation handed back responsibility last month, saying it could not meet expected standards.

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18/01/2018 01:14 AM
Gypsies and Travellers in UK face housing crisis, charities warn

Shortage of authorised sites leads to reported rise in unofficial encampments

The UK is in the midst of a “housing crisis” among its nomadic communities, charities have warned, due to a shortage of authorised sites for Gypsies and Travellers to set up on.

The crisis has led to a reported rise in Gypsies and Travellers setting up unauthorised encampments in car parks and on playing fields, often enraging locals. In turn, local authorities, police and MPs across the country have called for increased eviction powers to move people on when they settle their caravans.

Related: 'It's like we don't exist': London's Gypsies stand up to be counted

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17/01/2018 07:32 PM
I've fought hard to make homes fit for habitation. Here's why | Karen Buck

A pensioner suffering hypothermia because of a cold home, is just one example of why we need support for the bill on 19 January

If you’re an MP, most weeks bring new examples of why we need a fitness for habitation bill. Only last week, an elderly lady told me about her two spells in hospital for hypothermia after taping up the windows in her council flat to keep out the cold didn’t work. Another family had to close off two rooms, living and sleeping in their living room because it was dangerously cold.

A couple with young children showed me around their private flat where a shower and toilet were just plywood cubicles in the kitchen. Black mould coated the walls of another badly converted basement flat. I’ve walked into a property where the damp was so bad it hit you like a punch in the chest, and listened to a young mum, frantic about the health of her children. They had been born premature and were already dealing with breathing difficulties.

Related: The habitable homes bill could transform lives. MPs must back it

Related: The Tory landlord MPs who don't care if rented homes aren't fit to live in

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17/01/2018 07:30 PM
'It's like we don't exist': London's Gypsies stand up to be counted

New efforts to map Gypsies and Travellers are an attempt to break ‘the last prejudice we allow in this country’

“Our children haven’t got a chance of getting a pitch. They haven’t got a chance at being able to live their culture,” says Marian Mahoney, an Irish Traveller and grandmother. Mahoney had lived on the same site on Eleanor Street in Tower Hamlets for 37 years until she and her family were cleared out to make room for Crossrail three years ago.

They were moved, along with 19 other families, to a different site in the same area – a rarity in London today, where provision for Gypsies and Travellers has dwindled since legal protections for their sites were removed in 1994. Accessing appropriate housing in the capital is compounded by a fundamental problem: no one knows quite how many of them there are.

In places like London, where there aren’t any vacant pitches, it’s really impossible to lead that kind of lifestyle

Related: Blowing in the wind: why do so many cities have poor east ends?

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17/01/2018 12:01 PM
Turning offices into homes threatens affordability – study

LGA estimates more than 7,500 affordable homes lost in England due to conversions that do not go through planning system

More than half of all new homes in some areas have been created by allowing developers to convert offices without building any affordable homes, an impact study of the policy has revealed.

Since 2015, 30,575 housing units in England have been converted from offices to flats without having to go through the planning system, in a bid by ministers to boost housing supply. It means there has been a potential loss of more than 7,500 affordable homes, according to the study by the Local Government Association.

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17/01/2018 09:32 AM
May to set timetable to reveal foreign owners of UK property

Pressure from Tory peers leads PM to promise draft legislation on register of beneficial owners by summer

Theresa May will set out a timetable to break the secrecy surrounding the foreign ownership of British property worth billions after facing a House of Lords defeat at the hands of two Conservative peers.

Lord Faulks, a former Tory justice minister, and Lord Hodgson have been calling on the government to establish a register exposing the beneficial owners of overseas companies and legal entities, and want it done within 12 months.

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17/01/2018 06:22 AM
Residents of tower with Grenfell-style cladding told they must foot £2m bill

Owner of Citiscape complex in Croydon has denied responsibility to pay for work, with leaseholders left facing a bill of £31,300 per flat

“Terrified” residents of a housing complex clad in similar flammable panels to Grenfell tower are facing a bill of £2m to make their homes safe after the building’s owner said it was not its responsibility to pay.

The freehold is owned by a company owned by the family trust of the multi-millionaire property mogul Vincent Tchenguiz, and its property agent has told residents that work recladding the Citiscape complex in Croydon will begin “once full funds are in place”.

Related: Grenfell inquiry cuts ties with KPMG following complaints

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17/01/2018 06:02 AM
Outsourcing and the Carillion collapse – Politics Weekly podcast

Anushka Asthana is joined by Andrew Adonis, Polly Toynbee, John Crace and Laura Parker to discuss the collapse of Carillion and the changes to Labour’s national executive committee. Plus James Murray, the deputy mayor of London, on getting to grips with the city’s housing crisis

The collapse of Carillion, one of Britain’s biggest outsourcing firms, has left thousands at risk of unemployment, roads and hospitals partially built and a pension fund half empty.

At the weekend, the company was said to be too big to fail. By Monday, it was in liquidation. So what does it say about public-private partnerships? And where does the blame lie?

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17/01/2018 04:34 AM
Should you give homeless people money? Absolutely | Tamsen Courtenay
Gloucester city council’s poster implies they are not worth our compassion. This is a travesty of human decency

Have the Tory members of Gloucester city council been busy reading George Orwell’s 1984 in their book club recently?

It seems someone has read the bit at the back where Orwell describes how the political language, Newspeak – with its restricted grammar and limited vocabulary – is designed to distort how people think and control public attitudes. Posters were put up in Gloucester showing someone wearing a hoodie, under the headline of “Are you really helping homeless people?”, suggesting that people sleeping rough are not homeless, but “in accommodation, receiving support and benefits”. This sinister use of Newspeak tells the upstanding citizenry to stop feeling bad about not helping those in need, under the pretence of educating and informing. It even offered a subtle sense of justification that – weirdly – help isn’t really help at all. That’s not Newspeak, it’s doublespeak. Orwell was writing about a totalitarian state. We should be worried.

Related: What's behind the quiet rise of homelessness in the countryside?

Related: Homelessness is now the public face of this Tory era | Polly Toynbee

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16/01/2018 07:30 PM
Why are growing numbers of mothers and babies stuck in B&Bs?

A Guardian investigation reveals that thousands of under-fives are being squeezed into temporary housing with nowhere to safely play or crawl

Agne speaks calmly, but the longer she talks, the more obvious it becomes that she is quietly frantic. For nearly two months, she and her 11-month-old daughter have been living in a bed and breakfast, squeezed into just a bedroom and bathroom. There’s no kitchen and no fridge, only a kettle; the little girl has been eating a lot of food from jars and pouches. The furniture is limited to a double bed, a small table and a TV on the wall. The bathroom is grimy and there are mouse droppings on the floor. Agne keeps her daughter, who is eager to practise her crawling, on the bed at all times. Elsewhere in the property, other residents fight, drink and smoke cannabis.

“I keep my phone next to me in bed, in case I need to call 999,” she says. “I feel terrible. I’m just happy that my daughter’s so small and she can’t remember these things. That’s the hardest thing for me as a mother: that I can’t provide her a home.”

Related: Number of homeless children in temporary accommodation rises 37%

Related: We know how to solve homelessness. So why aren't we doing it? | Dawn Foster

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16/01/2018 12:00 PM
The habitable homes bill could transform lives. MPs must back it

This Friday, parliament must not pass up the opportunity to give tenants a fighting chance against rogue landlords

This coming Friday, 19 January, a bill is to be debated in parliament that could hugely improve the lives of many people in England.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill would give private and social tenants the ability to take landlords to court if their home is unsafe. Over a million homes are thought to pose a serious threat to the health or safety of the people living there. This classification, also known as a “category 1 hazard”, covers 795,000 private tenancies – one in six of the privately rented homes in the country.

Related: Rogue landlords enjoy an easy ride as councils fail to prosecute

Related: The Tory landlord MPs who don't care if rented homes aren't fit to live in

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15/01/2018 06:00 PM
The Victorian slums are back – and housing developers are to blame again | David Olusoga

The housebuilding of the 19th century paved the way for slum tenancies. As inequality rises, miserable living conditions have returned

Same place, different time. It was in the early 1990s that I first walked down Falkner Street in Liverpool. Twenty-five years later and I’ve been back to make the BBC Two series A House Through Time, which tells the story of a single house and the generations of people for whom it was home.

Thinking back to the 1990s, when I was a student in Liverpool, I struggle to remember ever taking much notice of the city’s grand Victorian houses. Part of what made them unremarkable was that they were where many of us students lived and partied. It was only when friends studying in other cities came to visit, and were astonished by the grandeur of the houses local students called home, that we were reminded that these elegant terraces had been built for an altogether better class of occupant.

Related: Slave trader’s home, slum, des res: the stories of one house raise restless ghosts

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15/01/2018 11:03 AM
Twelve charged for defying California city's ban on feeding homeless

A California city has brought charges against 12 people who defied a ban on feeding homeless people at a neighborhood park, as officials try to rein in a hepatitis A outbreak that has killed 20 people and prompted mass vaccinations and the bleaching of streets.

Related: California city confiscates toilets from homeless residents – forcing them to use buckets

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15/01/2018 07:27 AM
Congolese government in rent arrears for London embassy

Owners of building on Great Portland Street reveal rent issue during successful legal action to remove human rights activists

The Congolese government is facing legal action for failing to pay rent on its embassy in London, it has emerged.

The step taken by the owners of the property on Great Portland Street was revealed in a court case against a group of squatters who have been occupying part of the building.

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15/01/2018 03:26 AM
Tory council criticised for 'demonising' rough sleepers in posters

Campaign by Gloucester city council suggesting people who beg on street may not be homeless is termed ‘shameful’

A Conservative city council has been criticised for “demonising” rough sleepers by suggesting they may not be homeless and discouraging people from giving them money.

The Tories take blunt cruelty to new heights!

New #Tory strategy for dealing with #homelessness: demonise vulnerable people!

The people of Gloucester will be disgusted by this. #NotInOurName #ToriesOut pic.twitter.com/NSpd5kObVN

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15/01/2018 12:00 AM
What I learned about capitalism from running a stall on Portobello market

Bargains were snatched from the shoppers who needed them in order to make bigger profits from people with fatter wallets. It was the trickle-up effect at work – much like our system now

I once had a stall in the Portobello Road market, when it still had a cheap, rubbishy end where you could find thrilling bargains. My stall was at this fascinating, vibrant end, between a book stall and a bric-a-brac stall, on a pavement forecourt facing the public lavatories.

Every Saturday, the bookseller, who also sold cinema ephemera, would leave me in charge and go down to the swanky part of the market, which was crammed with tourists. There he would find his own stock, which dealers had snapped up from his stall early in the morning, to sell at a staggering profit on their own stalls, 10 minutes’ walk away.

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14/01/2018 07:53 PM
Two sides to every story | Made in Stoke-on-Trent

Homelessness hit the news in Stoke-on-Trent when an attempt by the council to tackle rough sleeping went wrong, causing public anger. Meet some of the people who are sleeping on the streets, and those offering help

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