IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

I’m waiting for bailiff to knock on the door

12 April, 2019

• FORMER councillor Raphael Andrews has it spot-on, (Housing crisis that costs 12-year-old a birthday party, March 22).

I might also add that when it is generally regarded that single people “only have themselves to worry about”, it is single people who will have the hardest time when trying to find accommodation.

If you approach a council as a single person, you are told that it cannot help you if you don’t have dependants, or you are not disabled. While it is true that both these categories of people are vulnerable, what about single women and men? Is it fair that they are not considered for social housing?

I have been renting the same flat privately for almost 14 years. When I was told recently by the landlord that he intended to sell, my heart sank because I knew I was going to have difficulty finding new accommodation, especially as my circumstances have changed (not for the better). So it was with not much hope that I approached my council.

I was given an appointment for several weeks in advance (cutting into the time the landlord had given me to move out). I arrived two hours early for my appointment and waited to be called. Ten minutes before my appointment, when no one had called me, I went up to the desk to inquire. The woman behind the desk just shrugged her shoulders.

When I insisted that I had an appointment, she called someone down. However, when they arrived, their attitude was that they didn’t have much time because I hadn’t arrived on time. I won’t go into detail but I was upset and annoyed.

I was interviewed and told that I probably wouldn’t be eligible for social housing, but I would receive a “letter of advice” in a few days and that they would “look at my case and see how they could help me”. I was also told that they would approach my landlord and offer him an incentive to keep me in the property. None of this was done.

In the meantime I had been looking myself, but realised that I needed help and thought that, going by what the young man had said, they might be able to help.

Nine weeks later, several visits, phone calls and a court date for eviction, I asked to speak to the manager of the person who had interviewed me and had been on leave two of the five times I had visited the council offices.

In fact one of the few times I was able to speak to him he became quite rude. The manager had the decency to look shame-faced that someone under her management was not doing his job. She told me that single people were referred to the “single person’s referral department”.

She also told me that they would only be offered a bedsit, but that the bedsits that were available were out of the price range that universal credit covers. This I didn’t understand.

If single people are only offered bedsits but they are out of their price range, who do they let them to? If the housing element of universal credit is only £800-plus but the rent of a bedsit is £1,000, the maths doesn’t work. I know we are all adults and should take some responsibility, but there are always going to be people who need help.

Everywhere in London there are flats being built. If it’s true that young people are having difficulty getting on the property ladder, who is going to buy all those flats?

Everywhere I go in London buildings that I once knew are now flats or being made into flats. Instead of selling off council land, why doesn’t the council develop the land itself?

Everywhere you go in London there are people sleeping rough. No one should be sleeping rough. Council employees who are dealing with vulnerable people should at least show some compassion. I know they have probably become immune to people saying they are homeless, but they should realise how scary the idea of becoming homeless is.

Why don’t MPs listen to landlords, claimants and homeless charities which are telling them that the universal credit model doesn’t work?

I’m not saying that I have all the answers but, among factors causing homelessness are too many people, not enough social housing and not enough being built; universal credit being handed to the tenant, rather than straight to the landlord; stupidly high rent prices; and shabby unfit housing.

In the meantime, I am waiting for the bailiff’s knock on the door at any moment (not even joking).

VIVIENNE HUMPHREY
Address supplied

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