Housing | The Guardian

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

24/03/2017 08:00 PM
Ministers to reverse universal credit policy for homeless families

Households in rollout areas to receive housing benefit after new system found to be incompatible with councils’ obligations

Ministers are to bow to pressure to exclude homeless families from universal credit after it emerged that design flaws in the troubled new benefits system have triggered an explosion in rent arrears, costing council tax payers millions of pounds.

Local authorities in London say rent collection levels for homeless tenants placed in emergency accommodation have collapsed following the introduction of the universal credit digital service last year.

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24/03/2017 07:00 PM
How one council is beating Britain's housing crisis

Fancy a three-bed semi with a garden for £152,000? Or rent at less than £500 per month? Sheffield is showing other local authorities how to build again

In 2015, England’s local authorities built fewer than 3,000 new homes, just a tiny fraction of the estimated 250,000 new homes needed every year to meet demand. But one council has begun building again in volume, in what some see as a model for tackling the housing crisis.

On the outskirts of Sheffield, hundreds of new homes are springing up, built by the council to space standards that have all but disappeared in the private sector. New residents – the majority are 25-35 year olds – say they are impressed by the designs and spaciousness, and enjoy their close proximity to the city.

Related: Why are Britain’s new homes built so badly?

Related: Let the councils build homes again and fix our broken housing market

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23/03/2017 10:00 PM
'I'm very sceptical': residents of China's growing cities discuss life amid change

From Hefei to Honghu, readers across China share their stories about how their cities are changing – and what the county’s rapid urbanisation means for them

When I introduce myself to my American classmates, I insist on stating my native language is Wu-Chinese. That’s true, because my entire family tree has been in the city of Shaoxing for more than a century. Since the day I was born, I was surrounded by Wu-Chinese speakers with Shaoxing’s dialect.

Related: My village didn't even have a traffic light. Now it has 1.4 million people

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23/03/2017 06:55 PM
Gentrification isn't a benign process: it forces people from their homes | Dawn Foster

Few things are more likely to make your latte taste bitter than being confronted with the human reality of gentrification.

Invariably, on leaving King’s Cross station in London every morning, the first person to speak to me is not an editor or colleague, but a complete stranger who explains they’re homeless and would appreciate any change.

It’s rare to see the same person twice: many homeless people sit outside the station whatever the weather. The Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh perhaps sees a different King’s Cross to me, focusing on the joys of private members bars and snooker clubs in this area. As with many places in London, King’s Cross has changed a great deal in the last five years and gentrified considerably. Unsurprisingly, many people have been wary of this, not from fear of progress but from fear of displacement and financial exclusion masquerading as “progress”.

Related: People's homes are not commodities: cities need to rethink housing

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22/03/2017 10:00 PM
The tiny houses where homeless people seek shelter – in pictures

Wooden cabins are increasingly viewed as a quick and cheap solution to homelessness and, with minimal public debate, are mushrooming across the US

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22/03/2017 10:00 PM
Tiny houses: salvation for the homeless or a dead end?

Depending on who you ask, moving homeless people into wooden cabins either rescues them from the streets or paves the way for shantytowns

Othello Village is on a plot of land behind a gas station, surrounded by a chain-link fence. It consists of 28 wooden huts and 12 tents that flap in a bitter Pacific wind. Residents share a shower, toilet and kitchen tent, with food stored in plastic boxes to keep out the rats.

Until recently the cabins lacked heating or electricity, and the children who live there – currently 11 of its 67 inhabitants – had to use flashlights to read their schoolbooks. This is how Seattle, one of the richest cities in the world, flush with cash from Amazon and Microsoft, houses some of its poorest residents.

It’s empowering for the people involved ... As opposed to feeling crushed under the weight of circumstance

Related: Outside in America: learn more about our ongoing homelessness project

You have to put homeless people somewhere. If the shelters can’t take them, where should they be? On the streets?

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22/03/2017 06:12 PM
In Liverpool, 20 Tory cuts have brought a city and its people to breaking point | Frances Ryan

Adding up the impact of slashed benefits and a 58% reduction in central funding, the council says it’s England’s poorest wards that are being hit again and again

In Liverpool, austerity is visible: boarded-up libraries, closed-down day centres and shut nurseries. But, as in countless cities and towns across the UK, the bleakest of its marks are hidden behind closed doors: the young mum skipping meals to pay the rent because of the benefit cap, or the cancer patient kept awake by fear he’ll be found “fit for work”.

Related: Cuts that squeeze the life out of Liverpool | Letters

People living in Liverpool District B lost £807 per household, while Hart council in Hampshire got away with £28

Related: My daughter is not deemed 'disabled enough' to get free parking | Nicky Clark

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22/03/2017 06:01 PM
Brexitland: People can’t find homes. No wonder they were angry | Owen Jones
As he continues his journey around leave-voting areas, Owen Jones sees how right-to-buy fuels anti-migrant myth-peddling and prejudice in east London
Brexitland: ‘Too many foreigners – way, way too many’
Brexitland: Pessimism is toxic in Britain’s coastal towns. But decline isn’t inevitable

“As a local mum, there’s no way you can get on a housing register anymore,” says Fay. It’s a familiar story of what happens when government puts markets ahead of people’s needs.

Mould was growing on the walls of Fay’s ageing home; but she was told her son’s disability was not extreme enough to be classified a priority. The council housing in the east London borough of Barking and Dagenham simply isn’t there: with the failure to replace stock sold under right-to-buy, what remains is reserved for those most in need. And Fay does not qualify.

It's the government’s ideological failure to regulate the private rented sector, not migrants, that should be our focus

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21/03/2017 11:00 PM
Get outta town: startup offers workers $10,000 if they 'delocate' from Silicon Valley

Offer from Zapier comes as high-paid tech workers in Bay Area have complained about the cost of living in a region that suffers from a major housing shortage

A Silicon Valley startup is paying employees $10,000 to leave Silicon Valley.

Zapier, an automation company founded in 2011, has announced that it is offering new recruits a hefty “de-location package” if they’re willing to move away from the Bay Area, an unusual perk that offers yet another sign of the worsening housing crisis in northern California.

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21/03/2017 07:26 PM
How Finland solved homelessness | Interview: Juha Kaakinen

The Nordic country is the only EU state not in the midst of a housing crisis. Juha Kaakinen of the Y-Foundation explains how Housing First works

This week’s report by EU housing organisation Feantsa has found every country in the EU in the midst of a crisis of homelessness and housing exclusion – with one exception: Finland.

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

Related: Lessons from Finland: helping homeless people starts with giving them homes

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21/03/2017 02:30 AM
Homelessness at crisis point in all EU countries – except Finland

Report on ‘alarming evidence’ of rising homelessness singles out UK for criticism while warning that one in 70 Athens residents are homeless

A European housing body has warned that homelessness and exclusion from housing has reached crisis point in the majority of countries in the EU. European Union.

Feantsa, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, has released its second report on housing exclusion in Europe, in conjunction with French housing charity Fondation Abbé Pierre. The report highlights “alarming evidence of rising homelessness” and calls for EU member states to put eliminating homelessness at the core of their social policy agendas.

Related: Lessons from Finland: helping homeless people starts with giving them homes

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19/03/2017 10:09 PM
My ambulance crew is forced to put a plaster over society's failure

Cuts to public services mean we visit people who don’t need medical help and cardiac arrest calls go unanswered

However good the NHS is, it is not a lot of things; it isn’t social care, it isn’t a hotel and it most certainly isn’t a miracle worker. I work as an emergency care assistant on ambulances at the weekend. I can see the amazing things the health service does, but also why it sometimes appears to be falling apart at the seams. The NHS is stretched to breaking point every day. There are a lot of reasons for this and some of them are easy to see.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been called to patients who aren’t really patients at all. They are desperately in need of help, but not medical help. They need social care. Or social housing. They need their basic needs to be met, but not an ambulance crew. It’s just that there is no one else who they can call on a Sunday afternoon when, for example, they are at the end of their tether. When the loneliness hits hard, the prospect of not seeing a friendly face for another week is more than they can bear.

Related: Paramedic: most patients we take into A&E don’t need to be there

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17/03/2017 09:25 PM
I am a legal aid lawyer for people facing eviction - they are the real Daniel Blakes

From the care leaver paying £650 a month to live in a shed to the tenant with one light bulb, I never get used to the stories – and they are increasingly desperate

I’ve been a legal aid lawyer for 28 years and I’ve just had my first shed case. The tenant, a 22-year-old care leaver, had a video on his phone of the place he lived in. The small screen showed the outside of a shed he shared with the rats at the bottom of his landlord’s garden. He was paying £650 per month.

Inside was worse. There was no heating and very basic bathing facilities. He told me the plumbing didn’t work properly and the toilet was frequently blocked. His only cooking appliance was a microwave. It was cold and damp and it was summer. All was fine until he lost his job and his landlord wouldn’t let him claim benefit. How could he – it was a shed.

Related: It's getting harder for us health inspectors to protect you from bad landlords

Related: I want to help you get the right benefits, but your landlord is taking up all my time

Related: I work in a council homeless unit, where not helping people is seen as a good job

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16/03/2017 08:32 PM
UK for sale? Ministers woo world's property developers in Cannes

Government tells housebuilders it wants to help them find sites for thousands of new homes

The housing minister, Gavin Barwell, has told the world’s housebuilders that if they cannot find enough land on which to build new homes they can “come and see me” and he will try to help.

Barwell told developers at the world’s biggest property conference in Cannes on Thursday that he wanted to be “clear and unequivocal” that he was there to help them build hundreds of thousands of new homes to help fix the UK’s housing crisis.

Related: Downplaying Brexit to overseas investors won't help UK housing crisis | Dawn Foster

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16/03/2017 07:02 PM
Has the tech bubble peaked? Signs that the startup boom may be fizzling

Startups are beginning to run out of money and investors are becoming more discerning. How does this compare to the time leading up to the dotcom crash?

If you were looking for an apartment in the Bay Area 18 months ago, realtors recommended you took your checkbook to viewings and were prepared to fork out for the deposit and first month’s rent – that’s $8,000 to $10,000 for a two-bedroom place in San Francisco – on the spot.

“There was no negotiation because there were 10 people behind you saying, ‘We’ll take it’,” said Ron Stern, CEO of housing relocation service Bay Rentals.

Related: Scraping by on six figures? Tech workers feel poor in Silicon Valley's wealth bubble

Related: Think outside the box: San Francisco's horrible, no good, very bad housing

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16/03/2017 06:31 PM
Downplaying Brexit to overseas investors won't help UK housing crisis | Dawn Foster

At luxury property jaunt Mipim, Brits are desperate to keep money flowing into UK housing. But Brexit will still see an exodus of construction workers

It’s that time again: La Croisette in Cannes is thronged with yachts and men in suits barking into their phones on the beach. Mipim, the world’s luxury property conference, has descended on the south of France boasting that the delegates pack away more champagne than the film festival.

Last year, as I traipsed from yacht to yacht battling seasickness and constantly being mistaken for a waitress, the atmosphere was bullish. Then, the prospect of leaving the European Union wasn’t remotely on the cards, and people remained convinced that London’s luxury property boom would last forever. This year, mercifully, I’m in England not France, but those on the ground say they’re battling to make the case for the UK, with cities, local authorities and housing associations trying to convince people to invest in post-Brexit Britain.

Related: At yacht parties in Cannes, councils have been selling our homes from under us | Aditya Chakrabortty

Related: Anger at Cannes property fair where councils rub shoulders with oligarchs

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16/03/2017 10:13 AM
Entire homelessness agency could be eliminated by Trump's budget cuts

Shuttering the agency and cutting funds for low-income housing remind experts of Reagan’s deep spending cuts that ‘ushered in a new age of homelessness’

While much of the attention given to Donald Trump’s budget proposal has focused on dramatic cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency and the state department, amid the many cuts in the plan is the elimination of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (Usich).

Related: How America counts its homeless – and why so many are overlooked

Cutting resources is the wrong approach to ending homelessness

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16/03/2017 05:00 AM
Chronicling homelessness: a behind-the-scenes look at our new project

We bring you the most important stories about US homelessness in our first edition of the Outside in America newsletter

Welcome to our inaugural monthly newsletter. As far as I’m aware, I’m the only homelessness editor at a major US publication. A friend recently told me: “Sadly, you’ll have a lot to write about.” That’s true. But as well as exploring the difficulties faced by those with no permanent home, my goal is also to show how people make the best of their circumstances and the efforts afoot to alleviate homelessness.

Related: Outside in America: learn more about our ongoing homelessness project

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15/03/2017 10:59 PM
City-dwellers are prone to depression – are high-rises to blame?

Residents of high-rise blocks tend to suffer from more stress, mental health difficulties and neurosis

Prof Colin Ellard was walking past the rows of new-build towers that dominate the west of central Toronto when he had a sudden realisation. “I was struck by how dark, sombre and sad these new urban canyons made me feel,” he says.

Ellard, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who studies the impact of places on the brain and body, wanted to know why he felt like that – and if others felt the same.

Related: Can prefab homes solve UK's housing crisis?

Related: London's changing skyline: planned tall buildings 'almost double in two years'

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14/03/2017 10:21 PM
Despite Northern Ireland impasse there is hope on housing | Paddy Gray

Neither major party wants a return to direct rule, so it is likely they will work together to improve housing in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland we are well used to political uncertainty and disagreement. The current impasse is not new.

We have had periods before of the assembly being suspended and direct rule from Westminster being implemented. We also had the same usual sectarian onslaught in the run up to the election calling for votes to keep the “other side” out. But there has been a profound change in the political landscape over the past 10 months since our last election. For the first time since the island was partitioned nearly 100 years ago, unionists do not have a majority and Sinn Féin is now only one seat behind the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), still the largest party, reducing the deficit from 10 at the last election.

Related: The role of social housing in Northern Ireland's divided communities

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