A team from Four Housing took the lead leg in a mammoth 500 mile, people powered ‘relay’ aiming to end the UK’s housing crisis within a generation.
They joined housing associations from across the region taking part in the Homes for Britain ‘Relay to the Rally’ which set off from Berwick on Sunday.
Four Housing chief executive Paul Tanney said:
“There is insufficient housing in the area and what is available is often unaffordable. We are seeing an increase in the disparity between the needs of communities and the supply of appropriate housing.
“We need the right type of accommodation in the right place in order to lessen the burden on local authorities in the future, all of which will enable us to contribute to vibrant and active communities.”
The relay is due to finish at Westminster in London in time for the national Homes for Britain rally on March 17.
In the north east, Four Housing, Bernicia, Isos, Cestria, Home Group, Gentoo, Livin, North Star, Thirteen and Coast and Country are carrying a symbolic key from Berwick to Whitby, shining a spotlight on housing issues in the region, and visiting some of the key projects bringing homes and related services to people desperately in need of affordable housing.
At the same time as the north east relay is working its way south, a specially commissioned double decker bus is also winding its way from Land’s End to London, visiting some of the south and south west’s most vital housing projects.
Homes for Britain is campaigning for the next government to come up with a long-term plan to tackle the housing crisis within a year of getting into office. It is being backed by thousands of people up and down the country who have joined forces with organisations from every corner of the housing world.
Across the UK, housing association staff, residents and members of the public are making their way to London for the biggest housing rally in a generation. They will unite to call on all political parties to take bold action and end the housing crisis within a generation.
Homes for Britain’s call comes at a time when housing demand vastly outstrip supply at both a national and local level.
The Home Truths report shows that over the next 20 years in the north east region alone, there will be 156,000 new families or households, all of whom will need homes, but at current building rates, 75,000 will have nowhere to live.
Meanwhile, some areas are in desperate need of regeneration and jobs, and having the right types of homes in the right places can play a vital role in sparking new life into these communities.
The Homes for Britain campaign needs people to add their voice – anyone wanting to get involved can write to their local politicians and share the message on social media using #HomesForBritain.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 04 Mar 2015
The Green Party has committed to building 500,000 social rented homes by 2020 to tackle the current housing crisis, it has been announced today.
‘Urgent action is required to address the housing crisis that sees 1.8million people on waiting lists for social housing, while ‘ghost mansions’ lie empty’, say the Greens.
Just 5% of Government expenditure is spent on building more affordable homes, which the Greens have described as a ‘disgrace’.
According to the Greens, 30,000 social homes have been lost to Right To Buy since 2010 – with only a few replacements.
The Greens in Government would build 500,000 social rented homes by gradually increasing the housing budget from £1.5bn to £6n by 2017. This would be paid for by reforming landlord tax allowances, scrapping buy-to-let mortgage interest relief and removing local authority borrowing caps.
The Green Party’s Manifesto will include policies to address the housing crisis, including policies to bring empty homes back into use, a better deal for private tenants, ending Right To Buy, and action on rent levels.
Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader, said:
“We need to move away from regarding houses as primarily financial assets and go back to regarding them as homes. This policy is an important step in that direction.
“Landlords have been receiving massive public subsidies through tax breaks and housing benefits, and this is contributing to the rising, unsustainable level of inequality in our society.
“They do not deliver enough of social and economic benefit to the rest of society to justify their favourable tax treatment: it isn’t in the interests of our common good to continue this bias towards the wealthy at the cost of those struggling to survive with high rents and often low-quality housing.”
Tom Chance, PPC for Lewisham West and Penge and Green Party Housing Spokesperson, said:
“Social housing has provided decent, affordable homes for millions of people over the past 150 years.
“After 40 years of sales, demolitions and budget cuts, the Green Party will put social housing back at the heart of housing policy.”
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, added:
“In my Brighton constituency the cost of buying a home is 44% higher than the average. That’s pushing my constituents into debt, into poor quality rented housing, and into homelessness.
“There’s no silver bullet that will magic away years of failure by successive governments to invest in ending the housing crisis, but increasing the supply of sustainably built social housing, as we are announcing today, will start to make a real difference for tenants, homeowners, and anyone wanting to buy a home.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 05 Feb 2015
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today claimed George Osborne’s fifth budget would only widen the north-south divide.
She believes Osborne’s statement demonstrated the Coalition Government is “out of touch” with people in the constituency.
She said: “He tried to say that the economy is turning around, but households in South Shields who have seen their wages fall while prices rise month after month will see right through him.
“It’s clear whose side the Chancellor is on. Wages in London’s banking sector are rising nearly five times faster than the national average, and even then he won’t rule out tax cuts for the top earners. Meanwhile, those on low incomes are continuing to see their living standards fall.”
Coun Iain Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council, labelled the budget a “gimmick”.
He said: “The budget was classic ‘smoke and mirrors’, full of pre-election gimmicks. They announced that they would cut inheritance tax for emergency service workers killed in duty – but this only applies to those leaving more than £325,000, so it is difficult to calculate how many would actually benefit.”
Coun Malcolm said new support to build 200,000 new homes was “simply nowhere near enough to resolve the housing crisis facing this country”.
The budget received a more positive response from a senior member of the borough’s business community.
Julie Lightfoot, managing director of South Shields-based Solar Solve Ltd, said: “As a local family-owned business who exports 85 per cent of our turnover, it’s encouraging that the Government is supporting British manufacturers by introducing a £7bn package to cut energy bills
“Although we aren’t an intensive energy user, every little saving helps, although we’ll have to wait and see what the actual savings will be. However, it’s nice to know that half of the firms that will benefit the most by cuts in manufacturing costs are in the north of England.”
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said: “This is a government that has pushed down living standards to such an extent it has left working people £1,600 a year worse off.
“Osborne and the Tories only stand up for the privileged few.”
Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “The Chancellor should have had the courage of his convictions and stood by his support of a £7 minimum wage. Moving to the Living Wage is the best way to raise tax revenue and put money into people’s pockets. It would boost consumer confidence and increase spending in local shops and businesses.”
North East Chamber of Commerce policy director Ross Smith said: “This was a sensible budget, and the conditions within which North East businesses can continue their strong contribution to UK growth have been strengthened by these announcements.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 21 March 2014
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, has been accused of being a coward after making a quick escape via the back door of a Jobcentre, rather than confront a group of protesters waiting for him outside.
Iain Duncan Smith was visiting a Jobcentre in Bath to see how a trial of his flagship Universal Credit welfare reform, which rolls a number of state benefits into one single monthly payment, was performing in the city.
Around 26 protesters had gathered in front of the Jobcentre hoping to confront the Tory MP after a local council report suggested that coalition welfare cuts were fuelling a housing crisis in the city.
According to the report, Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms had resulted in a surge in social housing waiting lists and an increase in eviction notices being issued against local tenants.
Rather than meet with protesters to answer their concerns, who had formed a human barricade in front of the building to block his car, Iain Duncan Smith decided to wait for his car to be moved to the rear of the building before slipping out of the back door and making a sharp getaway.
George Aylett, a student who had taken the day off to confront Iain Duncan Smith, told the Western Daily Press:
“He ducked down in the back of his car – how pathetic.
“He can’t even be bothered to come out here and hear what we have to say – we don’t want to hurt him, [we just want] him to understand that people are suffering because of his policies.
“He’s being a coward. He’s pathetic. He’s meant to be representing us – yet he won’t even come to hear what we have to say.”
“He obviously doesn’t care. He can’t claim to care about us if he does this.”
Jackie Hunt-Phillips, 44, added: ”If he’s so proud of his policies then why isn’t he walking through the front entrance with pride? If I had done something I was proud of I would walk high with pride, I’d tell everyone what I’d done. He’s obviously ashamed of what he has done – that’s why he is too scared to come and talk to us.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 08 March 2014
Campaign launched to give voice to people supported by benefits
The vast majority of people believe benefits are an important safety net for people in need, a new campaign has revealed today.
But one in four people who claim benefits have hidden the fact because they worry what people will think.
More than seventy charities and community groups have joined forces to launch Who Benefits? – a campaign to give a voice to the millions of people supported by benefits at some point in their lives.
Polling carried out for Who Benefits? – brought together by The Children’s Society, Crisis, Gingerbread, Macmillan Cancer Support and Mind – reveals overwhelming public support for the principle that benefits should be there for those who need them. 81% agree that ‘benefits are an important safety net to support people when they need help’, while two-thirds (64%) agree that ‘we all benefit as a society when support from benefits is available for those that need it’.
But despite widespread public support, more than a quarter (27%) of those who currently claim benefits say they have hidden this because of what people will think. This rises to half (47%) of 16-24 year olds who have been supported by benefits. And more than half (51%) of all those who had never been supported by benefits said they would feel embarrassed to claim.
The poll findings come on the back of the recent British Social Attitudes survey which showed a softening of public attitudes towards benefits and unemployment.
Who Benefits? argues that the overwhelming majority of those on benefits really need the support, yet too often their voices are ignored, misrepresented or at worst they are blamed for their situation.
The campaign, which launches today, is asking people to share their stories. Hundreds of people who have been supported by benefits have already shared their stories through the website and through social media with the hashtag #WeAllBenefit.
Laura is one of the hundreds who shared their story. She said: “I’ve needed support from benefits because, as a mother of four, daily life can be a real struggle. Before we received support I was forced to borrow from family and friends. I’m a full-time mum, and my husband has been working as a full-time mechanic for six years.”
“Receiving support from Child Tax Credits is not a lifestyle choice for me – it’s a necessity. It helps me to put food on the table for my family, buy clothes and school uniforms for my children and prevent the gas and electricity from being cut off. Without this support I don’t know how we would survive.”
Who Benefits? asks politicians of all parties to do more to understand the lives of people who have been supported by benefits, as well as focus on the real reasons that people are struggling, like low wages, the high cost of living and the housing crisis.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Life is full of ups and downs, it can be unpredictable. But no one should go hungry because they lose their job or go into debt because they are on such a low wage. And it is reassuring to see that the public support this view.
“At a time when families up and down the country are feeling the squeeze, it is important – now more than ever – that society supports those in need. The overwhelming majority of people who get benefits really need them; whether they are working, looking for work or unable to work.”
Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “At Crisis we see every day how support from benefits lifts people out of homelessness, or prevents them from ending up on the streets in the first place. With this support we see people moving into work and on to a better life. Yet all too often the realities of people’s lives and situations are just ignored. That’s why we want people to get involved with Who Benefits? – to ensure real voices are heard.”
Fiona Weir, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, said: “None of us know what is around the corner for our family, which is why it can come as a huge blow to someone who’s already having a tough time to be labelled or stereotyped. It is great to see that the vast majority of the British public are behind giving support to those who need it, and we hope that our campaign will encourage more people to come forward to share their stories of how benefits have supported them.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Support from benefits makes a huge difference to the lives of many people with mental health problems, allowing people to stay well and retain their independence; or help with the additional costs that come from having a disability.
“Lots of individuals with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination, as their condition is less visible than a physical disability. These new statistics suggest those who claim benefits experience double the stigma.”