We have a strong tradition of social housing in Britain. I am enough of a romantic to think that this is linked to what I hope is an underlying equally strong tradition of fairness and in supporting those who are less fortunate than others.
However, this thread of decency I believe has been eroded over the last few years. The banking crisis and resulting recession gave scope to those who would forcibly reduce others reliance on the State, to put their plans into place. Social benefits have been cut.
I have little doubt that this is why we are seeing an increase in the number of people sleeping rough on our streets. Furthermore, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that those people who are forced to sleep rough no longer simply consist of people who find themselves marginalised by society; but also include mothers with young children.
Local authorities have been stretched to the limit. Despite the criticisms and tosh from the Home Secretary earlier this week, the police have also been stretched to the limit and the support networks, so vital to the fabric of a civilized society are coming apart at the seams.
I find it very distressing that the people who are the least privileged are now having the buildings in which they have lived in and paid rent for, for so many years, bought up by financial investors who then use the block of land and property to refinance, add to their portfolio and assist them in investing in other financial deals.
The impact upon tenants is enormous. They face the prospect of a huge hike in rent which, for a number, will mean they will have to move out and fall upon the burden of overstretched local authorities. In some cases this could mean communities being dispersed and ending up homeless.
We forget sometimes what effect this can have on children in particular. In my son’s school, in central London, the parents of a friend of his were made unintentionally homeless by their employer a few months ago.
As a result they had no option but to seek social housing. But the only available accommodation was in Essex, which meant they had two options. Either they find a school for their son locally, causing huge upheaval at a very important time in his life when exams are looming and with no guarantee of a place, or alternatively they travel as they are at the moment, almost two hours each way on the bus, train and tube, taking their son back and forth to school.
London is becoming nothing less than a playground for the rich. They can swap properties as they wish. It is those who are way down on the pecking order who will suffer as they always do.
There is no question that the Mayor’s Office has recognised the importance of rental accommodation.
If private rental accommodation is removed from realistic reach, it will mean that far from having a capital city which is populated in the centre as it should be, to rival other capital cities around the world and to make London a much more pleasant place to live, we will go back to what it was like in the 1970’s and 80’s.
We will live on the outskirts where the rent is affordable. We will come into work in central London and leave at 6.30pm. We will leave central London a ghost town as a result.
Tristan Hallam is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
Slater and Gordon are a national law firm with 1,450 staff and 18 offices in England, Scotland & Wales. For assistance please call freephone 0808 175 8000 or contact us online.