ALAN MILBURN used a speech last Sunday to unveil a new assault on social housing. He wants the “right to buy policy”, introduced in the 1980s for council houses, extended to housing association tenants. With council housing already being taken out of public control through ALMO schemes and sell-offs to housing associations, this would make life even harder for people who cannot afford to buy or afford private rents.
An authoritative survey of homelessness officers conducted by Roof magazine, shows that the government is already putting pressure on councils to keep their homelessness figures down. This pressure means many people who are eligible for emergency housing are not being allowed to apply for social housing. Even if they can apply, the wait can seem endless—and sometimes it is.
In Hackney, east London, Betty Saltzberg has been on the housing waiting list since 1947. Betty and her husband Alfred applied when she was pregnant and they were sharing a one bedroom flat with Alfred’s brother. In 1978 the couple received their first—and so far only—letter from Hackney council saying that they were still on the list.
Meanwhile, in Cornwall, a pensioner who was recovering from pneumonia was sent back to his unheated caravan by the local council, which saw nothing wrong with his accommodation. After the story was taken up by the local press, the £15,000 needed to repair his home was provided by charities.