The independent London newspaper

Housing crisis means 12-year-old misses out on birthday party

22 March, 2019

• AS a former councillor I can tell you that politicians do not normally get letters from a 12-year-old. The reason why I point this out is to explain what a state we are in with a housing crisis that goes far beyond London.

We have about 336,000 people sleeping on the streets. In Islington, rough sleepers have increased by three times since the previous count

People on universal credit have increased by 55 per cent, and demands on food banks are increasing along with court cases for rent arrears.

Given all these push factors, homelessness is bound to rise. This government’s policies are forcing people onto the streets and into destitution.

Listen to the 12-year-old who wrote to MP Stephen Timms: “When other children invite me to their birthday party I have to say that I cannot go as I know I have nowhere to invite them to if I have my birthday.”

The 12-year-old goes on to explain how there are seven of them living in a one-bedroom flat. She can’t get any sleep as she is woken up by her father leaving for work and having to turn on the lights at night.

Many years ago I tried to help a family with four children living in a two-bed flat. This not a unique or isolated case. This is the reality of the housing situation in the fifth-richest country in the world.

Why is it like this? Well, the answer is simple: we have more millionaires than ever and part of the reason this government does not and will not deal with the housing crisis is because its MPs are making millions from being landlords.

Many of them are doing so tax free. They could be making as much as £10,000 a month by renting four to six properties. That is an income of £120,000 a year tax-free. Who, besides drug dealers, earns this kind of money without having to lift a finger?

Housing is the number one issue facing this country and affecting every family. What has the government done to deal with it? It’s given £18million to the whole country to build new homes. That is not even a drop in the ocean. That will build only 288 new homes.

If the government was serious it would need to do three things that it is not doing. First, it would stop selling off government-owned sites such as Mount Pleasant and Whittington Hospital’s residential halls and give them to councils to build social housing on, thereby housing the homeless and those in need.

Second, it would invest time, funding and training on building skills. We already have many places offering apprenticeship courses for plumbers, electricians and bricklayers, but we need more.

Third, we need to end right-to-buy. It is effectively giving tax money to people to buy council housing. Instead, we should allow councils and housing associations to borrow money and invest in new housing without been penalised, allowing them to build homes with green features like solar panelling, heat recycling features and better insulation. This would cut bills.

This is what a responsible government should do. You need to ask why, in a nation that has just created 26 per cent more millionaires, a 12-year-old is writing to her MP because she can’t have friends come to her birthday party?

Housing is the number one crisis and this government is ignoring it. For your children’s sake, do not let them do so.

Chair, ICTAG


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