Housing Policy

Clapham Junction Action Group Newsletter Feb 2013  contains comments about developments for central Wandsworth.

Cuts to Services for Rough Sleepers & Substance Dependents

The Labour group in Wandsworth have drafted a motion condemning cuts to services funded via Supporting People for rough sleepers and those with alcohol dependencies. 

With negligible hostel provision for homeless people in Wandsworth at the moment, it is hard to imagine where further cuts will fall. 
Western Lodge, apparently the only homeless hostel in the borough and run by SHP (Single Homeless Project) charity, is relocating to Tooting Bec and downsizing to only ten places. 
After that one has to go to Cedar Lodge in Clapham,  actually falling within the Lambeth borough, which is not taking any further referrals after beginning the process of closure some months ago. 

A professional within IDAS (Integrated Drug & Alcohol Services) with many years of experience remarked that, of all the London boroughs they had worked in, the gaps between services in Wandsworth were the greatest. They described it as worse than Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, even worse than Enfield where provision was very poor. 

The professional in question said Wandsworth was equipped like 'an outer London borough despite having the needs of an inner London borough' and it fell on already-stretched staff to try to cover these gaps.  

A worker within another substance misuse organisation within Wandsworth remarked that to be considered for priority housing need by the housing dept one had to be a 'very extreme case' of vulnerability if not pregnant or with a child. With recent cuts to housing benefit one can only imagine the homelessness problem in the borough getting even worse. A Wandsworth resident recently remarked that they had seen their housing benefit halved when the the cuts of last April were implemented. With the £85 per week benefit capping for a single person, which is supposed to fund a single room, they were having to find the other £85 per week themselves. Like many others this resident may be too vulnerable to take a room in a shared property with people they don't know. For them and many otherslike them one asks - where will they go? 


Is Wandsworth hoping that other boroughs will subsidise them by taking on those they are refusing to help?  Is this a moral, compassionate society?

Renewal of Right to Buy
This is taken from the Wandsworth Council website:

  • The First Steps Shared Ownership Scheme for households with an income of less than £64,300 (for a one or two bedroom property) or £77,200 (for a three bedroom home).
  • Council tenants can buy their own home under Right to Buy, The maximum discount for this has recently been increased to £75,000.
Is this the right policy?
Let us be clear, we do not want to stop people being able to buy their own homes BUT, if the council are not replacing those which are sold, what happens to those who are on lower incomes.  We know of cases where tenants have bought their council flat and then rented it out at a higher rent, whilst they buy somewhere else, leaving the private tenant in poverty.  In effect we are subsidising the landlord's profiteering.  (See: Tony Belton's contribution below)

How much has really changed since 1995?
Wandsworth Council are selling properties:
and want to renovate "right to buy"

Who had benefitted from Right to Buy?
What is wrong with the idea of helping everyone to buy their own home? (Again, see Tony Belton's analysis below and the results of the GMB research)
The Government has announced that it intends to crack down on Council tenants who rent out their homes.  But what about all those tenants who bought their homes at a discount and are now making a profit out of renting them out because there is a shortage of council tenancies?  Recently one tenant of a flat has fallen foul of both the cap on housing benefits and the profiteering of people who have benefitted from the sale of council properties - she and her child were made homeless.

The following is taken from Tony Belton's newsletter and reproduced with his permission:

It turns out that nearly 6,000 of the Council’s 18,000 odd leasehold properties are not lived in by the actual leaseholder, or to be absolutely precise they have their management mail from the Council sent to different addresses. The Council believes that this means they are probably let to private tenants. One leaseholder owns over 90 ex-Council properties, and whilst he is in a “class” of his own, 17 others own more than 10 each.

 

Surely when the “Right To Buy” policy was introduced and the Council started its aggressive sales policies it was not their intention to create at least 17 multi-millionaires and to jack up rents on the estates from the Council’s rent levels of roughly £200 per week to the private sector’s £500+ per week.

 

I suspect that this was very much a case of introducing a policy, which has had unintended consequences. And one, which as the lack of affordable housing becomes ever more acute, has become more and more serious.


The GMB have carried out research on who has benefitted from the sale of Council property. One might assume that "right to buy" would mean that a council tenant could buy their own home to live in but it is clear that what has happened is the some people are being able to acquire multiple properties. (The full GMB documents are can be seen at the bottom of the page.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said “This investigation lays bare the harsh reality of the exploitation of our social housing stock.

It shows private businesses making vast profits from the public purse while the people these homes were built for sit on waiting lists that never move.
To add insult to injury many are using offshore tax havens to avoid paying tax on these profits.

These homes were built and designed to be rented by ordinary London families. The investigation exposes Mrs Thatcher’s flagship policy of “right to buy” for individuals as nothing more than a charter for the exploitation of our social housing for private profit. Her plan to create a home owning democracy has turned into a “buy to let” bonanza.

You could not make it up that the family of one of Mrs Thatcher’s aides who served as housing minister during the high tide of the right to buy ends up owning a vast swathe of London’s ex council housing.

While tens of thousands of ordinary London families are unable to find council house to rent rich farmers and the elite are scooping them up by the tractor load.  The “right to buy” has turned into a rich harvest for greedy farmers and others.”
 
TV News:
BBC1 21th  December: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nosk7QfQUoo
ITV News 6th November: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy-mzRa_bZ0
Channel 4 3rd July: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVApWi4X4jY
There was also another BBC 1 in November but I don't have the link

Newspaper:
The observer 18th December: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/dec/18/families-face-eviction
Wandsworth Guardian 4th November: http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/9343726.Woman_could_be_homeless_by_Christmas/

Local community in Battersea:
Kambala Estate resident association: http://kambala.org.uk/
Battersea People: http://www.batterseapeople.co.uk/Battersea-woman-fears-homelessness-new-cap/story-13806065-detail/story.html
Simon hogg Blog (Local Councillor): http://simonhoggblogs.com/2011/11/09/homeless-for-christmas-sandra-and-eduardo-in-shelter-video/
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