Homelessness and empty homes in the UK

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We are being told time and again by the British government and the building industry in this country that there are not enough (affordable) homes in Britain and hence that this is the fact that there are so many visible and even more invisible homeless individuals and families.

This, however, is about as far removed from the truth as Toronto being the capital of Canada or Melbourne that of Australia.

Fact is that there are a multiple number of empty homes to homeless in Britain both in the public and in the private (rented) sector.

Many of those homes, in the public domain, however, are not even on the “empty homes register” as they are earmarked for “redevelopment”, as in the case of the Ocean Estate in Stepney (London), which has been in this limbo state for a decade or more already, or, as in the case of the Robin Hood Estate in Poplar (also in London and in the same Borough, namely Tower Hamlets), for destruction.

In the case of the latter it is about money as the site is prime real estate for development just on the border of original Docklands and now, in fact, slap bang in the middle of it.

In neither area did or do the residents want to move but were and are being forced to. Relocation has been well out of the area, and out of the borough, thereby breaking up long-established communities, many working class communities. But, then again, the latter is the very aim in this, namely the social cleansing of London and here especially areas close to the Docklands.

As far as empty homes in Britain are concerned there are enough to house all of Britain's and all of Eire's homeless with room to spare.

Thus the claim that Britain has a housing shortage and crisis is absolute baloney as there are masses of empty homes and if we would look at other empty buildings that could be used as good and decent homes with but a little conversion we could house more homeless folks still.

However, when this government, and those before, makes the statements about housing shortage it is not really talking about homes for rent even though the speeches may include reference to this but about homes to own and of creating a nice little earner for politicians' cronies in the house building industry.

Why else is it then that, when the talk was about the building of eco-towns under the previous Labour administration, self-build was a big No! No! And those “towns” were to be built by the likes of Laing, Barratt Homes, Wimpy, and one or two other large players in the game? Because the brown envelope division had been working overtime.

If government would just have the political will to do something about homelessness and supposed housing shortages then it would refurbish – or enable residents to refurbish – places such as the Ocean and Robin Hood Estates and permit people to take over derelict objects such as old hospitals, military bases, etc. to turn into homes and communities. The Christiania Community in Copenhagen, Denmark, was an abandoned army base taken over by Hippies and it turned into a real great community and even a tourist attraction.

But, the UK government is not about even to remotely consider such a thing. There is far too much money to be gotten from letting their cronies build homes (on such sites) that the people cannot afford and thus perpetuate homelessness.

We do not need a new government; we need a new system.

© 2013