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Facts about housing for the poor and the rich

This article is over 14 years, 7 months old
Children One in seven children is growing up homeless or badly housed. There are 955,000 children trapped in overcrowded housing.
Issue 2055
An apartment in the Richard Rogers Partnership development overlooking Hyde Park costs £100 million - that’s £53,821 per square metre
An apartment in the Richard Rogers Partnership development overlooking Hyde Park costs £100 million – that’s £53,821 per square metre


One in seven children is growing up homeless or badly housed. There are 955,000 children trapped in overcrowded housing.

This is 50,000 more than three years ago. The Labour government has refused to update its antiquated definition of overcrowding.

The current law, which has remained unchanged since 1935, does not count children under one and considers kitchens and living rooms as acceptable places to sleep. Those between one and ten are counted as half a person.

Crisis, what crisis?

There are 89,500 homeless households living in temporary accommodation in England, double the number in 1997.

In 21 local authority areas at least 3 percent of the private houses are empty. In Burnley it is 6.2 percent and Liverpool it is 5.6 percent.

There are more than 28,000 homes standing empty in Suffolk and Essex. Many empty properties are publicly owned. For instance, Lambeth council in London has around 267 empty houses.

When it comes to new houses, huge numbers are being bought up by greedy investors, who have no intention of letting them out but are just waiting for prices to soar.

Buy-to-leave speculators are making millions of pounds without even having to go to the bother of finding tenants. In Leeds, 70 percent of city centre apartments are unoccupied. In Liverpool 35 percent of city centre flats are deliberately left empty by owners waiting for prices to rise.

Rotten Borough

The average property price in Westminster in November 2006 was £750,000. To buy a flat in the cheapest part of the borough a family needs an income of over £70,000.

There are only 106 “social lettings” planned in 2007, while 5,000 households are “overcrowded”. The borough has 10,000 second homes, over 3,000 empty properties and 3,000 used for short term letting.

Over 20,000 households cannot afford market prices, but are not eligible for social housing.

On the waiting list

In the last ten years the number of people on council house waiting lists has risen by 600,000 to 1.6 million.

Number of applications for a single council house:

area applications
Newham, London 1,035
Brent, London 1,016
Edinburgh 800
Tower Hamlets, London 764
Haringey, London 763
Leeds 463
Sheffield 433
Barnet, London 422
Birmingham 248
Exeter 228

To be able to apply you have to be accepted onto the council’s waiting list and be on the correct “band”.

Tibetan air

A one-bedroom flat in Belgravia, central London, has been put on sale with a price tag of nearly £3 million.

The estate agents said, “Personally I would rather buy a wonderful one-bedroom flat than a mediocre two-bedroom flat of the same size. After all, who wants guests to stay?”

In Manchester a penthouse at Number 1, Deansgate is on the market for £1.65 million.

A flat at Riverside Albion next to Battersea Park in London is on sale for £3.9 million. Though there are problems. “There was a psychological barrier to paying more than £3 million,” said estate agent James Barrett. “You only have to cross a bridge to be in Chelsea, but it was difficult for some buyers to get to terms with crossing it.”

Don’t worry though, they did sell one apartment for £10 million.

Three off-plan flats in Clerkenwell, east London, priced between £1 million and £1·5 million, proved so popular that they sold within two hours. But this is mere loose change compared to some developments.

One flat in London went for a whopping £100 million. That works out at £53,821 per square metre. It was one of four flats overlooking Hyde Park – part of a development designed by Richard Rogers Partnership.

The flats have purified air rendered “cleaner than in Tibet”. They feature bulletproof windows and “panic rooms”. The security system was developed “after consultation with the SAS”. To save the owners having to mingle with the great unwashed, an underground tunnel will link the flats to the Mandarin Oriental hotel, which also contains 86 flats with prices starting at mere £4 million.

As the developers put it, “Each individual property is tailored to the customer’s needs. It might be used as a second or third home and it is suited exactly to fit the client.”

The owner will be able to toast their acquisition with a drink from the 30-bottle champagne cooler as they contemplate the trifling £2,062 council tax every year – the top band for such properties.

Rulers’ rules

Planning rules usually require developers to include space for “affordable housing” for key workers such as nurses and teachers.

However most luxury developers build more than one development at a time so they can transfer their affordable housing requirements out of the way of their rich clients. In some cases they give money to councils instead of building any “affordable housing” at all.


The number of mortgage possession orders made by county courts in England and Wales during the first three months of 2007 was 21,931, a level not seen since 1993. The number of possession claims made by landlords was 25,236.


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