Ayo Fagbemi is one of the Senior Editors at Diss. In this piece Ayo helps us understand the hardships of being homeless and how close it is to you.
Having a home is a basic necessity to a good, happy and healthy life. Speaking to John Doolan on Shoreditch High Street, the ex-homeless man and artist. His vision of a home is “security and a roof to keep over my head to shut and lock out the outside world.” This issue of housing must be tackled in order to change our own futures for the better. No one ever thinks they are going to end up homeless but with soaring rents and house prices it takes a set of unlucky circumstances to take place for it to become something glance at on the street to your reality for some of us. The lack of a home is something I cannot claim to understand. I do know that there is no singular reason as to why people become homeless. A poll in 2013 indicated that 32% of people had experienced some sort of homelessness. We have to question, how big is this problem,really?
3569 slept rough on any night across England last year, double what was reported in 2010.
I spoke to Luca, a University of Nottingham student who took part in a sponsored sleep-out. On his experience he said, “it didn’t feel like sleeping at all” due to “cold, wet and uncomfortable conditions.” This allowed Luca to have an obvious but more poignant realisation of the need of a home, and the basic comforts it provides you.
It takes a first-hand experience to get your attention.
Working in Westminster for David Lammy, MP for Tottenham opened my own eyes to this problem. Many of the cases dealt with by David and his staff involved people living in dire housing situations. Council housing is so stretched and it shocks me that the Conservative government continues in their current course of action to reduce social housing stock by 370,000 by 2020 according to the Chartered Institute for Housing.
David Lammy is a politician who has been very vocal on this issue, stating that local authority waiting lists are over-subscribed and that it is “families with young children who are living in the most desperate and dire circumstances”. As David told the House of Commons during a recent debate on the Conservative Party’s Housing and Planning Bill, Haringey Council are already spending almost £20 million per year on temporary accommodation just to stop children and mothers being on the street… Temporarily, I will stress again – temporarily – rather than looking for a solution to the wider problem.
A report from Dervla Ireland at Souprunners Nottingham, who run 2 weekly soup runs in Nottingham City Centre, states government shocking statistics that ‘3569 slept rough on any night across England last year, double what was reported in 2010.’ That is an increase of 102%. I wonder what has happened since 2010?
This gives evidence to the problem of Conservative rule a, lack of outright care towards those in unfortunate circumstances. These problems come down to one factor; unfortunately solving homelessness is just not profitable.
Neo-liberal politics has failed due to a lack of progression in ideas; no longer have the ideas of council homes and housing associations been fervently moving forward.
This ideological belief in owning your own home runs through Britain in the post-Thatcher era. The struggle to find affordable housing has a huge effect on people’s sense of self. This is an issue of humanity. However, for you so-called economists out there, this problem also causes a strain on our public services. An average A&E visit costs £147, and 4 out of 10 experiencing homelessness have used A&E in the last six months. The total cost of homelessness is £1 billion a year. These funds could be used to get people out of dire situations.
Neo-liberal politics has failed due to a lack of progression in ideas; no longer have the ideas of council homes and housing associations been fervently moving forward. A key theme is the need for more planning, if Apple can be seen to plan IPhone 20 for consumption, why can’t the government plan ahead in order to stop a growing problem.
A group of people see rising house prices as a positive; this individualistic standpoint has played a major role in the housing situation. A simple view is that rising house prices create problems for everyone else and future generations. It is not all about socialist ideals; it comes down to simple market inefficiency, whereby there are too many homes left empty for large parts of the year.
George Osbourne brought in capital gains tax for non-dormants in 2015. And yes, we do need more tax schemes. A new tax of living rent, where any landlord who charges above this gets a tax on their residential income. This would reduce house prices and demand. As house prices fall, those with single occupants or homes with many rooms, the quicker they will move out the better, and the market becomes more efficient.
Mild rent regulation for tenants, to combat landlord power. Proposing longer rent tenures and rent rises to match inflation. The argument that rent controls will remove landlords is futile, as these homes will become cheaper and may even become first time buyer properties. In Germany, landlord regulations such as article 14 of the ‘Basic Law of the Federal Republic’ stating “property comes bound with a duty. It must also be used to serve the public good”, show progressive action. Every five years in a rented property the housing association is contractually obliged to send the decorated in at its own cost. Rent fees cannot be raised more than 20% in three years or above local average rent.
Amina Gichinga, a ‘Take Back the City’ organiser in London, believes sleeping on the streets is a huge failure to be held on the shoulders of our society rather than the homeless themselves. The movement’s People’s Manifesto calls for, ‘more investment in building council housing and rent caps.’ Landlords are able to exploit the market and according to John Biggs, the London Assembly member representing City & East Constituency, the average rent for a 2-bed flat in London will be £2,007 a month by 2020. A policy that came out of the work Amina did with Take back the City was; “being able to repossess flats and homes empty for more than 6 months.” Only then will these vested interests in the London housing take note of the problem of homelessness, when it is shoved in their faces. ‘Take Back the City’ strongly endorses that the average person has a voice for change, but only if they make it heard, if not, “more families will end up homeless and moved out of London if we don’t take action now.”
Sadiq Khan’s scheme ‘Homes for Londoner’s’ affordable housing plans to build homes with a third of average living rent, and homes affordable to first time buyers. Boris Johnson let developers do what they liked, helping the housing market into its investment state. Khan calls to tackle this problem stating that estate regeneration should only take place with full residential support and these areas should not be knocked down. Khan does look towards the future, as the new homes built have to meet a home for a lifetime standard. Sadiq Khan attacks foreign investors who use housing as ‘gold bricks’, the 50-storey skyscraper in South Bank, 60% foreign owned, while 184 out of the 214 have no registered voters.
Labour, under Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, held an economic conference for alternative economic solutions. 100,000 new council homes, national investment bank to boost infrastructure. Council backed mortgages and local powers to regulate rent increases.
Khan had a U-turn on rent freezes which would have saved the average London renter £5,615. Money, which could be used towards a deposit.
The question is how to get these politicians to admit rent needs to come down. Renters often don’t vote, moving from place to place resulting in a problem of unfulfilled self-power and representation. As a voter there is a lack of incentive to register to vote, as it is difficult to create an emotional attachment to an area compared to that of long-term homeowners.
We call for more building of homes, but no one is prepared to sacrifice, especially Greenbelt land. There is a great myth over urban Britain, when in 2.27% of the UK is built on. Cultural identity of green and pleasant fields wants to be preserved by many of the older generation. The older generation unfortunately have more political clout. We need more people to support this cause.
A key spokesperson and outright activist for this cause is BAFTA Breakthrough Brit and VICE journalist Daisy May Hudson who filmed her and her family’s experience being homeless as feature length documentary ‘Half Way.’
Her story gives hope to those in a similar situation and young people in general. Her anger towards house prices is clear, stating “if the price of a chicken had inflated at the same rate of housing, right now we’d be buying our chicken for £57.” She attacks the title of ‘Housing Crisis given by the Great British Media’ claiming it absolves responsibility from politicians and wealthy individuals who are at the root of this problem.
Her call to action is to protest the Housing and Planning Act with “direct action of occupations, squatting, protests – power to the people!” This Housing Planning Act looks to take away public funding from affordable homes for rent toward ‘Starter Homes’, which only the relatively rich can afford.
In reality many renters do not vote as a unit, they will all be from different backgrounds. As voters ourselves we are not thinking about the solutions- only the problem. We need to educate ourselves on the solutions and fight for them. Don’t just support a party or a leader support a policy. If we fail to provide more homes for people, not just our generation will be strongly affected; kids born today will be struggling in 25 years. I am supporting the policies of increased rent regulation for landlords, a new living rent tax and the building of more homes.
If you agree sign the petition!
words by Ayo Fagbemi