Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Return of the London slums.

Slum UK: housing crisis that shames the nation

Conditions now among worst in Europe, warns major study, while thousands forced to sleep rough as landlords cash in. Housing conditions in Britain are among the worst in Western Europe and cost the nation about £7bn a year by adding to the pressure on the NHS and other public services, according to a major study to be published today. It warns that homelessness is on the rise and predicts the return of unscrupulous landlords like the infamous Peter Rachman, who exploited his London tenants in the 1950s and 1960s. Almost 4,000 people are sleeping rough on London's streets, an increase of 8 per cent since last year. The number of families on waiting lists in London doubled to 362,000 between 1997 and 2010 – and now accounts for more than 20 per cent of the national waiting list.

Posted by khards @ 12:58 PM (2608 views)
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41 thoughts on “Return of the London slums.

  • Landlords have too much power because we don’t have enough houses. Build more

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  • Yes, these housing numbers are awful!

    It’s all part of the transfer of wealth from the poor and middle classes to the rich, overseen by the banks and their puppet politicians. They couldn’t do it without the presstitute media.

    Good to see Galloway going for London Mayor via Crowdfunding. That’s what you call democracy, not the crony capitalism seen in the Houses of Parliament.

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  • alan, elites and puppet masters? Why does everything have to be expressed with such melodrama? It obscures any serious point you might make. If we had a few million more houses there would be no need for this article. Build more

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  • mark wadsworth says:

    I chat to a fair few of those 4,000 homeless when I’m sat outside the pub on a Friday evening (it’s a prime spot for begging, in exchange for a quid, they tell you their life story) so I feel entitled to comment on this.

    The reasons they are “sleeping rough” has nothing whatsoever at all to do with availability of private built housing, it’s got to do with booze, job and girlfriend problems in no particular order.

    Availability of housing might have a little something to do with the “hidden homeless”, the couch surfers and B&B residents, but you can extend that to adult children still at home, flat sharers, unwelcome long stay guests and the under-housed and cramped generally. But it has little to do with availiability of shiny new houses for those that can afford them.

    Did we have a chronic housing shortage in the 1950s and 1960s?

    Certainly not, for the majority in full employment, housing was cheap and affordable, but the people at the bottom were still being done over (by e.g. Rachman). That’s why the UK government in its infinite wisdom built “council housing”.

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  • Good, so as I’ve said a hundred times, build tons of new council houses. Don’t care who lives in them or what they earn. Just build more.

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  • @flashman – Who or what is preventing this house building if it is not the “elites and puppet masters”?

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  • Khards, I could tell you in detail but I have no inclination to discuss anything with you

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  • Strange how people still bring up Rachman, who died 50 years ago. There have been many ‘Rachmans’ since then – Mr Nasty himself, Nicholas “van” Hoogstraten, for instance (buying properties that were cheap because of sitting tenants, then frightening them out) and many current ones.

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  • @flashman – Who or what is preventing this house building if it is not the “elites and puppet masters”?

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  • @flashman – Just as I suspected, you know nothing – “Just build more”

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  • @5.

    Build more council housing, thats a fine idea. You also say you dont care who lives there, or how much they earn, or therefore i assume whether they would be able to pay the council rent or not. Basically give anyone who needs a home a house.

    Here is my question: Who is entitled to one of these new flash council houses?, and why? Who should pay for their construction and upkeep and why?

    Should we restrict flash council house entitlement to UK citizens? EU? or anyone from planet earth? I don’t think the problem of the amount of housing can be addressed without the question on entitlements? The who and why? Also the question of who should pay for this needs to be addressed, and why.

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  • mw @4 – but it’s worth remembering that those cheap, affordable houses occupied by people in full-time employment in the ’50s and ’60s often had just two bedrooms, an outside loo and no running hot water. It wasn’t just those at the bottom who needed those council houses.

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  • Nod, do you think we should have free schooling? I assume you do so just apply the same sensible restrictions we have on free schooling to housing. Definitely no Martians but just like with primary schools the odd toffs son is no problem. Most toffs want to live next to other toffs so they are unlikely to overrun the free houses. Just because there are abuse stories there is no need to dismiss an entire system. It’s always seemed a bit illogical to me that almost everyone is for free schools for poorer kids but far less people like the idea of them having a free/subsidised roof over their heads

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  • mark wadsworth says:

    Icarus, fair point. My memory only stretches as far back as my childhood home which was built 1950s and my parents bought early 1960s which very much had three bedrooms, inside bathroom etc. My grandparents on the other hand lived in a 1930s council semi for half a century which was pretty small and only had an outside/downstairs loo. I dunno about hot water, I’m sure they had that.

    Nod: “Who should pay for their construction and upkeep and why?”

    The tenants pay for the upkeep!

    By and large and in the grander scheme, it only needs half of council tenants to have a job and pay rent to cover the entire costs for everybody, I’m a taxpayer like everybody else and I know for a fact that council housing costs me +/- nothin, as opposed to housing benefit for private landlords, which costs me a fortune.

    “Why?”

    Because we can! And because it is a good thing to do, basic human decency, social cohesion, starving the banks and landlords of cannon fodder, keeping rents and prices down, jobs for construction industry etc.

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  • rumble, I could tell you but khards might see it. Let’s wait until he’s on holiday

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  • @2

    This concept that true democracy is what we need is not questioned by most people. I wager if you stop people on the street and ask them, is democracy good or bad, you will get close to 100% saying good.

    I think we need less democracy and more freedom. All that is happening here is a very very small group of people, politicians and their backers, using the mandate of an election to buy votes and maintain power buy taking from one bit of society and giving it to the other larger bit.

    The morality of this is never questioned, it’s just assumed to be good because it’s democracy.

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  • @13
    I never understood this logic that we much provide entitlements to people, but. oh, restrictions apply. why? why should someone from briston, edinburgh, krakow get a council house/schooling, but not someone from say thailand, or even if martian existed him/it? There is just something so illogical to provide for people who don’t have and justify it by saying it’s the right thing to do. but then turning around and saying only these people and not those.

    @14, i believe it nobel to prove for others who can’t (a little less so for those who wont mind). So yes because we can is a good reason, but using a badge and a gun to steal from me? really thats moral? If i give willingly, and all who can should, thats fine. but not by force? Bankers, politician and landowners only have power because they can legally steal.

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  • mark wadsworth says:

    Nod, if they can build social housing at +/- zero cost to the taxpayer (in fact, compared to anything else, it is a huge cost saving for the taxpayer, worst case, it reduces a big cost to a small cost which must be a good thing) and for the benefit of social tenants (whether they are paying or not), how is that stealing?

    Where do badges and guns come into it?

    The people who lose out from social housing are exactly the people on your list – “bankers, politician and landowners”. How much money do bankers earn from social housing? Nothing, the exercise is more or less self financing. How much do they cream off from “privately owned housing”? Three or four per cent FOR EVER.

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  • Our current form of “democracy” is about as democratic as the our “free markets” are free.

    Why should lobbying lay any part in a democratic system?

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  • Nod I think you’re trying to slip away from your earlier statements by suddenly coming over all Band Aid. We can’t afford to pay for Martians and visiting Swiss dignitaries so we set sensible limits. If you personally want to feed the world then choose a charity and donate

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  • Mark, the reason (i assume) why your calculation show council housing (with council rent) being +/- zero cost is because the cost of the planning permission (or more accurately the difference is cost between ag land and res planning plot) is zero. Your logic is fine, if everyone is granted either a council house, or planning permission to build their own home.

    If these new council houses are means tested, or these super restrictive planning rules remain, then the cost to the tax payer is the cost of buying the planning permission of an existing house.

    badges and guns? taxpayers are forced via the courts which are ultimately enforced via the governments monopoly of force, to pay X% of their income to the state. i know you know this, yes it’s a little off-piste on this thread.

    I agree with building council housing. But i don’t agree with who is entitled to them, and i don’t agree with the logic used to justify it. I tried to make that clear above, by asking who gets a new house and why. A low income and a high income person should have exactly the same entitlement to a council house, no questions asked. Now anyone who can afford, and most likely will, can choose to buy an existing house somewhere else.

    yes social housing does hurt the elite (bankers, politicians, landowners) but taxpayers still lose if you don’t apply the entitlement of council housing equally to all.

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  • Mark Wadsworth says:

    Nod: “I agree with building council housing. But i don’t agree with who is entitled to them… A low income and a high income person should have exactly the same entitlement to a council house, no questions asked.”

    Yes, I completely agree.

    My rather utopian vision is a full on LVT system as the only tax with most of the proceeds dished out as Citizen’s Dividend.

    But actually, if there were a universal entitlement to a council house (or a plot of land to build your own home) for no more than £100 a week in rent, that would come to pretty much the same end result (i.e. instead of paying £250 rent and getting £150 Citizen’s Income, the average couple just pays £100 rent). All the rest of their money can be spent on actual wealth creating stuff (or saved up or whatever).

    I’d sign up to that, I was at a Priced Out meeting where they were all wailing about how they dream of owning a home and I said my dream was a council flat for £80 a week so that I can spend my hard earned money on more important things like booze, fags and holidays 🙂

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  • @19

    flash, please point me to the early statement which you claiming i’m attempting to slip away from?

    My position is I appreciate that we should provide for those who can’t, and for those who chose not too at a less of a degree. I strongly appose being forced to do so and hope on aggregate people would chose to give and provide by their on free will and morality.

    This bi-polar logic of we are such nice people and it’s the right thing to do to heavily tax people A to provide for people B, but oh not give anything to people C just highlights that it’s not about providing for people B or C. It’s about the elite (bankers, politicians, landowners) using the mandate of democracy to buy votes and retain power. In democracy people C don’t get a vote, therefore they don’t get any of the pie taken by force from people A. If this fiction of “we are such nice people thats why we are taking from A” were true, then we would give to B and C.

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  • flash, btw, i do give to charity. but every time i see the income tax and ni line on my paye slip i feel like i’m becoming less charitable.

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  • @ 22 I hear you nod, it’s never pleasant.

    @21 It’s bound to irk when something inadvertently benefits someone who it’s not designed to benefit. I’ve thought carefully about the mass building of council houses and I’ve come to the conclusion that its a greater good argument. No matter how many of the wrong sort wheedle their way to benefiting from it, it would still end up taking power away from the crew who currently leverage the restricted supply of land and property. For example there is no way that private rents wouldn’t tumble, so many landlords would sell up thus freeing up private housing for sale at better prices. It works on so many levels; cheaper houses, cheaper private rents, less homelessness, more money available for consumption, jobs building the things.

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  • yes i appreciate the gap between idealism and practicality.

    i just can’t stomach paying for something but i’m not entitled to it. and the justification for doing it in the first place is questionable.

    for me the best route is take the underlying power the elite have away from them, and let the private sector build the housing we need. not give the elite more power by giving them more leverage by providing and entitling housing, and inevitability additional reason to tax.

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  • Council housing doesn’t cost anything. The main cost with building a house is buying the land. The government has tons of land. The govt. could borrow to build council housing without adding to the national debt. They would just have to design some sort of bond whereby the pension funds that finance the construction, collect half the rent for the first few decades. I realise that sounds a bit like PFI, but housing is a pretty established breed of construction and much less likely to go 3x over-budget than, say, the Olympics, Crossrail, HS2 etc.

    So many think tanks and journalists have pointed this out, but the Tories have instead chosen a path that involves demonising poor people and subsidising developers who aren’t building houses.

    I’m with Flashman, I don’t care who gets the council houses, you could exclude non-immigrants for all I care. The mere presence of them will make me better off, even though I would probably not be eligible. It would be far more preferable to ploughing public money into landlords’ pockets via HB and it would ease aggregate pressure in the housing market.

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  • @20 – A low income and a high income person should have exactly the same entitlement to a council house, no questions asked.

    They absolutely already do have the same right. Exactly the same ….. However, unfortunately, priority is allocated on a means tested, need related basis. How else should it be allocated?

    As Mr. Flash says, just build more, everyone can have one if we build enough of them. What’s the problem?

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  • Building more council housing is definitely better than current policy. I don’t believe it’s the ideal policy.

    As your pointed out, with a restricted stock, entitlement and needs based priority become conflated. Needs based priority is the same immoral logic as tax the rich, with the only justification is because they have more to take. Means testing for public services justified by saying successful people can do without. punish the most successful, reward the least successful. I appreciate some need, but shouldn’t be means by which to allocate public services. In practicality, people who can afford private housing will most likely chose to either live somewhere of their choosing, or not wait on a list for a council house.

    I don’t believe building more council housing is the best policy because government already has far too much control over our lives. Giving up more power and control to part of an elite class can’t be the best solution. Deregulate planning permission (not completely) and allow the private section (not just the building corps which can afford to navigate the planning permission regulation) to build the housing we require and the free market to allocate it to people. Of course this (and building more council housing) will lead to massive house price decline which is a vote loser and politicians will not release power willingly. So this whole discussion is futile until our political system is restructured, and therefore is why i believe that’s the right policy to start with.

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  • Re cost of council housing
    You don’t have to factor in the cost of land with planning permission for one simple tried and tested reason. Councils could Compulsory Purchase Order the required land at agricultural land prices – peanuts. As the then legal owner of land which has increased in value because of the amenities and infrastructure provided, and the reflection of this in tenants’ rents, the exercise has paid for itself. Even before you factor in other benefits to the rest of the system (NHS, social care, prisons etc.). The CPO to finance development by government is routine financing mechanism on the continent – we invented it after WW2 but don’t allow councils to use it any more it seems. For some strange reason.
    N

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  • nickb – CPO as an alternative to LVT?

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  • This is why ending VAT on home improvements would be better than help to buy. Housing in many places is in a shocking state. New build is VAT free, but home extensions and improvements are not. We could also let BTL investors off-set investment against potential capital gains.

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  • @icarus
    They are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps if you had LVT at a high enough rate you would not need the CPO mechanism though.
    N

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  • Oh for a return of Rachman and affordable Notting Hill rents!

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  • Did anybody notice that the article is dated september of 2011?

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  • righttoleech – You don’t need to go back that far. Rachman operated in the ’50s. Those affordable rents were there until Thatcher took over in 1979. Her sales of council house were complemented by encouraging building societies to provide easy loans (which set off a price boom) and by the loosening of rent controls. This gave free rein to Rachman’s heirs in the ’80s. Ruthless developers bought up solidly built Vic/Edwardian tenanted buildings at knock-down prices and rode not only the price boom but also the huge price premia for harassing and forcing out the tenants. From 1981 to 1984 the number of privately rented properties in London dropped by 68,000 (some of it slum clearance, much of it tenants being forced out). Bedsitlands of many parts of central London, including Notting Hill, were ‘gentrified’. Charities to help the poor and Church Commissioners sold up to the new Rachmans, who made a killing turning the flats and betsits into upmarket residences. Other places, especially Brighton, underwent the same experience.

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  • mark wadsworth says:

    Icarus, it’s grim ul North. I can honestly say, I ‘ve never been in a house with no bathroom whatsoever, at least my grandparent’s house had a wash basin or something inside next to the loo. Didn’t have a bath or shower though.

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  • mw – the article I pointed to @30 was about the housing stock oop north 50-60 years ago. If you want to read about how much more grim London and parts of its housing stock was 50 years before that just take a look at the highly readable ‘People of the abyss’ by Jack London (free at Amazon/Kindle).

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  • mark wadsworth says:

    Ic, by ‘eck, it were grim Down South an’ all, young laddie.

    With hindsight it’s amazing what people put up with.

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  • mark – aye, t’ young uns nowadays don’t the’r bloody born.

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