Housing | The Guardian

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

26/07/2017 06:15 PM
Legacy, what legacy? Five years on the London Olympic park battle still rages

Family-friendly utopia or part-privatised nightmare? Revitalised wasteland or monument to social cleansing? The story didn’t end once the Games were over

The summer of 2012 was the culmination of a polarising seven years. Swaths of the media, the sporting fraternity and politicians of all stripes celebrated the coming regeneration of the forgotten East End due to the planned Olympic Games. Meanwhile, academics, urbanists and local activists bemoaned the speed at which a patch of east London was transformed, resulting in compulsory purchase orders and displaced businesses.

Running up to the Games, there was a conscious effort to avoid the fiasco of Athens 2004, which left a patch of the city dilapidated before anyone had time to get nostalgic for it. Since then, we’ve been obsessed with “legacy”, as well as sceptical about who that legacy might be for.

What is a pseudo-public space?

The organisers’ rhetoric was it was an industrial wasteland where nobody really lived. ​But that’s not true

Kestrels used to look down from our two tower blocks. They like semi-maintained areas that don't have many people

Related: Revealed: the insidious creep of pseudo-public space in London

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26/07/2017 06:32 AM
Haringey residents not consulted over redevelopment | Letters
Almost all the information given to residents has come from the group protesting against the redevelopment rather than the council, writes Susan Smith. Plus Mick Larkin says he had bad experiences with developer Lendlease in south London

I live on the Northumberland Park Estate and would like to refute Cllr Alan Strickland’s comments on the “regeneration” (Haringey council is doing what residents want, Letters, 21 July). I am a leaseholder and have lived here since 2001. I have not had any meaningful consultation on the plans. Indeed, no one I know has even received any clear information on what the plans are. Almost all of the information given to residents has come from the campaign group protesting against the redevelopment, not from Haringey. There was a survey some time ago which asked very general questions about improvements, but no specifics.

Of course we want our estate improved – who wouldn’t? But that is not the same as wanting it demolished and sold off. As things stand I know it was signed off by the council because I read it in the Guardian. I do not know how this will affect me personally or when I will be expected to move. The rumour is that leaseholders will get market value plus 10%, but who will decide what market value is? A quick look at various websites seems to show that the sales value of ex-council properties in Tottenham is going down. I can only assume this is a result of the plans. How will this affect what we are offered and therefore our ability to choose where we want to live in future? I for one would not want another council lease after this for fear of it happening again.

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25/07/2017 09:46 PM
Homeless people in Oxford threatened with £2,500 fines

City council under fire after legal notices pinned to rough sleepers’ bags left in shop doorways

Homeless people putting their possessions in shop doorways in Oxford have been threatened with fines of up to £2,500.

Legal notices have been pinned on to bags belonging to rough sleepers, warning that they could be prosecuted by Oxford city council for being in breach of antisocial behaviour laws.

Statement regarding the removal of abandoned items from Cornmarket Street last week. pic.twitter.com/NHxKkRomCe

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25/07/2017 07:00 PM
‘Young people can’t get the kind of help I did when I was homeless’ | Dawn Foster

Benefits put a roof over my head when I was 17, says shadow housing minister Melanie Onn. But it’s not so easy now

Melanie Onn, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby and new shadow housing minister, grew up in the town she has represented in parliament since 2015. Onn, who worked in Labour’s compliance unit for 10 years, is friendly and chatty and seems to have a deep and genuine interest in the town. “I was born and raised in Grimsby and moved around a lot within the town when I was younger,” she says. “Some people want to just be an MP, and that’s fine, but I really wanted to represent the town,” she says.

Related: Housing crisis: more than 200,000 homes in England lie empty

Related: Britain’s housing crisis is so serious that it must be tackled now

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25/07/2017 05:00 PM
Ground rents: aristocrats and shell firms among those making millions

Shadowy world of freehold speculators includes landowners with links to David Cameron and companies paying no tax

Aristocratic landowners with connections to the family of former prime minister David Cameron, mysterious Dublin-based shell companies that pay no tax, and groups based in the Channel Islands are among the freehold owners that appear to have made millions from spiralling ground rents.

When Guardian Money attempted to trace the ultimate ownership of the five-bed detached home bought by Jo Darbyshire in Bolton, we uncovered the pass-the-parcel world of freehold speculation.

What are leasehold houses?

Related: Victims of ground rent scandal demand action on existing abuses

Related: Leasehold houses and the ground rent scandal: all you need to know

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25/07/2017 06:56 AM
The Guardian view on leasehold reform: well overdue | Editorial
The big homebuilders have been riding roughshod over planning authorities and housebuyers for decades. They need to brought under control, now

The leasehold exploitation that the Guardian has been campaigning against for several years is to be stopped within weeks. This is welcome news indeed for the future, though not for the hundreds of people who bought new flats and houses, mainly in the north-west of England, without knowing the risk of exploitation from buying only a leasehold rather than a more expensive freehold. Some householders have been left with a home that is all but worthless because the freehold has been sold on to a finance company that is levying huge charges from leaseholders for alterations and improvements, while quoting an absurd price to buy the freehold outright.

Not before time, the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced proposals to make leasehold fairer. Selling houses leasehold will be banned altogether, and the ground rent for new flats sold leasehold will be set at a peppercorn level. These are practical proposals, first put forward by Labour last year. But they do nothing for more than a million people, many of them first-time buyers, who are already trapped in the leasehold nightmare.

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25/07/2017 03:05 AM
Leasehold houses and the ground rent scandal: all you need to know

Campaigners say 100,000 homebuyers in England are trapped in developer contracts with spiralling costs – how did this happen?

Britain has had leasehold homes for hundreds of years, but only in the past few months has the ground rent scandal exploded. Now the government is proposing a complete ban on new houses sold as leasehold, and reducing ground rents to zero.

Related: Homebuyers desperate to know who really owns their freehold

Related: The ground rent scandal that is engulfing new home buyers

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24/07/2017 06:13 PM
Landlords are turfing people out of their homes without reason - and it's completely legal

No fault evictions allow private landlords to turf tenants out without any reason. It’s legal but its use is on the rise and it needs to stop

For every school in England there are five children without a home. The Local Government Association reports that 120,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. The primary cause of this homelessness is the end of a private sector tenancy, ie eviction.

Related: 100 tenants a day lose homes as rising rents and benefit freeze hit

Related: Tenant evicted 'because he wanted hot water'

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24/07/2017 05:19 AM
Housing benefit cuts dent President Emmanuel Macron's popularity

Students and opposition party demand French president withdraw cost-cutting measure as he’s accused of targeting poor

The French president Emmanuel Macron has come under fire for cuts to housing benefits, just as his popularity has dropped in polls.

A row erupted on Monday after the government announced it was going to cut a particular type of housing benefit by five euros a month in a move affecting millions of French people – including many living below the poverty line.

Related: Macron under fire over defence spending, tax cuts and leadership style

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24/07/2017 05:00 AM
Chronicling homelessness: the summer heat takes a brutal toll

With temperatures in some major metropolitan areas pushing upward of 100F, the fundamental physical circumstances of homelessness take on a new urgency

As temperatures tick up across the country – around 100F in Los Angeles, almost 120F in Phoenix – and I find I sometimes have to sit directly in front of a fan in order to get any work done, it’s hard not to think guiltily of those with no such option. We reported recently about a homeless Arizona man who had no shoes and was found crawling across burning asphalt, and a woman who told us it was so hot on the streets, even at night, that she woke every hour to douse her hair with water.

Of all the hardships of homelessness, it is the fundamental physical circumstances – exposure to the elements, the struggle to keep clean, the discomfort of bedding down on concrete – that are often the most piercing. On Skid Row in Los Angeles, there are only nine toilets available to the 1,800 people sleeping on the streets at night. According to the authors of a recent report, this contravenes a UN standard for long term refugee camps, which specifies one toilet for 20 people at the most.

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24/07/2017 12:23 AM
Is London no longer the place to be?

With the number of Londoners leaving the capital at its highest rate in five years, we want to hear from readers leaving or avoiding a move to London altogether

Thirty-somethings are leaving London in droves, with the rate of people leaving the city more than 80% higher than five years ago, according to analysis by property agents Savills. 93,000 Londoners left for places outside the capital between mid-2015 to mid-2016.

But with ever increasing living costs, is a new generation of young people just bypassing London altogether? We want to hear from readers who’ve chosen to start their career outside the capital (or who are thinking about doing so). Why does London not appeal to you? We also want to hear from readers who have recently left London – why does the city no longer hold the appeal it once did.

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23/07/2017 10:30 PM
What I learned about our attitude to homeless people when I was on the streets | Tamsen Courtenay

A London coffee shop caused outrage when it refused to sell food to a good samaritan for a homeless man. But I saw far worse during my time recording their lives

• Tamsen Courtenay is an author

Like many other people, I watched Adrian Pinsent’s video of coffee shop staff at Waterloo station last week refusing to let him buy food for a man with no home and an empty stomach. A member of staff claimed that it was company policy and the rules of the station. The employee was wrong, it turned out – but the incident brought back some vivid memories for me.

I recently spent several months in central London recording 30 homeless people as they chronicled their lives with great candour and humility. Much of what they talked about was their life, now, on the street. No front door key. Few possessions. Little dignity. I collected their stories and called the book Four Feet Under, because they live four feet under the rest of us.

He beat me down the right-hand side of my body and legs so hard that I was deeply bruised for 10 days

Related: 'Spat on and ignored': what I've learned from a month sleeping rough in London

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23/07/2017 06:19 PM
Social housing is being dismantled | David Ireland

Housing associations are beset by cuts, but will survive – the real victims of the crisis are the most vulnerable people in society

In the past seven years there has been a systematic reduction in social housing. Since 2010, the construction rate has dropped by 97%, and projections indicate a loss of 370,000 social homes over the next three years.

This might matter less if the private housing market provided good, affordable homes for people on low incomes. But the opposite is the case. House prices have increased 259% since 1997 compared with a 68% increase in average earnings in the same period, making houses in England and Wales the least affordable they have ever been. The social housing system is effectively being dismantled with not much more than a whimper from those responsible for running it. Why is this?

Related: Decent homes for all… Has the social housing dream died?

Related: Tinkering at the edges won't fix the housing crisis - we need a radical rethink

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22/07/2017 07:44 AM
100 tenants a day lose homes as rising rents and benefit freeze hit

Charities demand action to tackle toll of soaring housing costs, welfare cuts and ‘no fault’ evictions

A record number of renters are being evicted from their homes, with more than 100 tenants a day losing the roof over their head, according to a shocking analysis of the nation’s housing crisis. The spiralling costs of renting a property and a long-running freeze to housing benefit are being blamed for the rising number of evictions among Britain’s growing army of tenants.

More than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015, according to a study by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). It is an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded. The research appears to confirm fears that a mixture of rising costs and falling state support would lead to a rise in people being forced out of their homes. It will raise concerns that even those in work are struggling to pay their rent.

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

The stark figures and harrowing stories show the struggle people on low incomes face in the private rented sector

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21/07/2017 08:09 PM
Evacuated tower block residents refuse to move back over safety fears

Residents of Chalcots estate in Camden, north London, want further assurances about safety in wake of Grenfell tragedy

More than 100 residents evacuated from a north London housing estate in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire are said to be refusing to move back until they receive further assurances about its safety.

Camden council began moving residents back into the Chalcots estate near Swiss Cottage in phases last week after completion of safety works it said were signed off by London fire brigade and other local authorities.

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21/07/2017 06:15 PM
Number of homeless children in temporary accommodation rises 37%

Councils across England are providing temporary housing for around 120,540 children with their families - a net increase of 32,650

Councils across England are housing the equivalent of an extra secondary school of pupils per month as the number of homeless children in temporary accommodation soars, according to local government leaders.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils are providing temporary housing for around 120,540 children with their families - a net increase of 32,650 or 37% since the second quarter of 2014.

Related: Homeless in Britain: ‘I graduated with honours – and ended up on the streets’

Related: Homeless teachers: ‘I wouldn’t talk about it, I was so ashamed’

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21/07/2017 12:00 AM
All the places I’ll never live: a five-bed with mixer taps

I dream of such bathroom comforts as the mixer tap and, if I’m really lucky, underfloor heating

The first room I rented was my university dorm: six paces long, and three across, with a single bed, a desk, washbasin and wardrobe. It felt gigantic. It was bigger than my room at Mum’s, and offered such luxuries as not smashing your face on the wall if you rolled over too energetically, and not having to sit disconcertingly close to guests on the bed in lieu of seating. But it was also the gateway to a new universe.

Here my life was going to change. At that desk I’d lose myself in the literary greats. Far from the prying eyes of the Asian aunties and uncles of my neighbourhood, I would exercise poor judgment, near daily.

Related: All the places I'll never live: a castle

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20/07/2017 06:03 PM
Councillors fear abuse – Grenfell residents are used to it

Kensington and Chelsea borough provides an extreme example of what happens when inequality is entrenched by council decisions

On Wednesday evening, I attended the first open council meeting of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) since the Grenfell Tower fire. The last meeting barred the public and, initially, the press until a court order demanded we be let in – then the meeting was adjourned due to our presence. On Wednesday, locals queued outside but were told there was limited space so most would be able to watch only by videolink. The journalists were patted down by security guards and had our bags searched before being allowed into the chamber.

Related: Grenfell fire survivors heckle Kensington and Chelsea council leader

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20/07/2017 05:00 PM
The real cost of regeneration

When private developers move in, the first eviction is accountability – then tenants’ complaints procedures and safety. Zoe Williams reveals the truth about for-profit council estates

By 2004, Myatts Field North in Lambeth, south London, was a byword for what goes wrong on a housing estate. It had been poorly maintained; the interiors were shabby. Garages had become hazardous and were out of bounds; shared spaces were desolate and only teenagers and children used them, “engaged in nothing very positive”, according to a council report at the time. (There’s a book to be written about what a teenager would have to engage in to be found “positive” by someone from the council – writing code? Singing gospel? – but some other time.) So when Lambeth proposed a regeneration, demolishing and rebuilding 305 homes, refurbishing 172, residents voted in favour by a modest majority.

It took years to iron out the financing, but work began on the £150m regeneration in 2012. Since then, residents of the refurbished units have complained of bad design, faulty wiring, floods and power outages, damp, and poor workmanship. Fire hazards have been flagged but not investigated, belongings ruined and compensation not delivered, or delivered inadequately after incomprehensible delays. Safety and complaints procedures have been lamentable, helplines unresponsive, emergency helplines not always working. Some of the estate’s right-to-buy owners – theoretically the big winners in Margaret Thatcher’s great vision for social housing – have spent years trying to rearrange their mortgages for flats in the new development. One homeowner, working two jobs to service punishing new interest rates, dropped dead of a heart attack.

Related: The truth about gentrification: regeneration or con trick?

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20/07/2017 06:00 AM
Australia's social housing stock one-sixth empty with 195,000 people on waitlist

Change in social housing demand being driven by singles and couples for whom most properties are too large

One-sixth of Australia’s social housing stock was left partially empty last year, while 195,000 people languished on waiting lists, new data show.

The data, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, suggests Australia’s social housing stock is ill-suited to meet the changing demographic of tenants.

Related: Government urged to prioritise housing affordability for low-income Australians

Related: Rental affordability at crisis point for low-income families before the budget | Greg Jericho

Related: 'It's public housing or my car': Longriver and the caravan park residents facing homelessness

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