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Audrey Farrell


Cathy clear off

(April 1994)

From Socialist Review, No. 174, April 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The High Court has ruled that Tower Hamlets council was wrong to deny homeless Bangladeshi families long term council housing. But the practice of denying permanent housing to those in desperate need will become general if new Tory housing proposals become law.

Currently, priority for council housing is given to those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. But this is no fast track. Half those applying as homeless are turned away. The most desperate may be found temporary accommodation, investigated and then allocated permanent housing. In future it is intended that only temporary accommodation shall be provided after investigations have been carried out. No secure accommodation will be provided except via waiting lists.

Emergency help will only go to the roofless. Recently the House of Lords ruled against Wandsworth Council who had refused to regard short term hostel accommodation as homelessness. This legal ruling is to be reversed. Families being thrown out by relatives or friends will have to produce a court order as proof of threatened homelessness. More families will spend years in hostels or bed and breakfast or will be passed to and from social services and housing departments.

The only route into council or housing association housing will be via the waiting lists and these will be tailored in a leap back to workhouse values. Local authorities will be required to specify who ‘may or may not appear on waiting lists’ and ‘balance the intensity of housing need with the length of time spent in need.’ Government regulations may keep people off the lists because of age or length of residence in the area.

Residence qualification will increase racial discrimination. British citizens will not be considered homeless if they have lived overseas and ‘still have accommodation there which they can be reasonably expected to occupy’. There will be no duty to provide even emergency accommodation for anyone who has entered the country promising to have ‘no recourse to public funds’.

The proposals are sexist and hypocritical. Irresponsibility of lone parents is implied, with emphasis placed on deserving couples. The ministers want supervised hostels for young single parents (presumably with a red light outside).

Like Westminster, authorities will be able to push their homeless out to other areas and then decide whether or not to take them back.

At least two million new homes are needed according to the Faculty of Public Medicine figures. Lord Archer sits in his penthouse flat converted from a corner of the 32 million square feet of empty office space in London. But the Tories don’t even mention unprofitable office to flat conversion as an option. For them ‘social housing’ is capital assets to be seized or a mean gift to be handed to the deserving poor.

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