Stories

Send your housing stories/accounts to londonyffj@gmail.com

Cramped & Overcrowed 

This photo was recently sent to us by a young West Londoner. They are paying an extortionate £380 per month for this single box room on the outskirts of North-West London.

Low Paid & Worse Off

I’m 24 years old and have been working for seven years – and I’m being forced out. Mostly my employment has been in minimum wage jobs with poor conditions. When I was 17 I would sometimes have to skip meals at the end of the month – I thought those days were behind me!

I live in South London in a shared house. We were very lucky with the deal we got considering the size and area, but it still costs me £485 per month in rent and bills. After giving us a pay cut, and finding out I was trying to organise staff to campaign against it, my bosses started cutting my shifts. I’m on a zero hour contract and we don’t have a union so there’s nothing I can do but beg for more days.
It’s gotten so bad I’ve had to sign on to make up the difference. But because I’m in casual work my income is fluctuating, so my claim is complicated and I still haven’t received any money. It’s very difficult to plan my life because I live off other workers’ shift cancellations. Getting a second part time job is nearly impossible because of clashing shifts.
Luckily my parents are currently in a position where they can afford send me some money each month, but this counts against any housing benefit I might receive! Even if they stopped sending me money and I didn’t get any shifts at work, benefits would cover at most two thirds of my rent and bills. With Jobseeker’s on top I’d still be about £100 short each month. And that’s before I’ve bought any food or paid for travel to look for work!
Despite my low pay I had managed put aside a few hundred pounds over several years. That all went recently so I could pay the rent on time.
I’m at the bottom of my overdraft and likely to stay there because of all the fees the bank charges me for breaching it. My credit card is near its limit, not because of extravagant purchases, but from buying groceries and Oyster credit. I’ve got no savings left. Even with my parents’ support and benefits, I’m running at a loss. I can’t just make work give me more shifts. And there’s precious little other work available, particularly with enough hours for me to make ends meet. I’m trying, IDS, but what more am I supposed to do?

Anonymous South Londoner

Moving Out

I’m 25 and have recently moved out of my parent’s house. I wanted to stay in the borough I have grown up in and built a relationship with, but the rents there are extortionate and rising fast. Instead I have had to move to a cheaper outer London borough. Moving is a stressful enough experience and that’s without having to deal with council services that have been cut to the bone and dodgy landlords looking to bleed you dry.

Firstly I had to lie to the estate agent as most landlords won’t take on Housing Benefit claimants. This is just through sheer snobbery; these people seriously believe the myths about benefits claimants as being unemployed and workshy people who won’t pay the rent. If you don’t want benefit claimants then don’t charge rents of well over £1000 per household! To make matters worse this unseen and unheard landlord, that I pay money to every month, hasn’t signed my tenancy agreement so I’ve had to make up a signature in order to provide proof to the council that I do in fact live in the house.

Then you actually have to get the Housing Benefit. It took the council a month to get back to me a month after I made my claim. Then I had to repeatedly wait on the phone for 15 minutes a time in order to talk to advisors. There have been huge job cuts directly to the service that deals with benefits claims in the last month which means there are less staff to deal with my claim, and presumably thousands of others. Having given them all the evidence and jumped through all the hoops three months on I am still waiting for my first payment. As a result I have wracked up debts of £1,200 in loans I have had to take out to pay the rent. I have a never been in debt before and it’s very distressing for a low paid worker like myself.

All in all moving has made me poorer as a result of the Housing Benefit cap for under-35s, greedy landlords and cuts to local services. On top of that my expensive ‘new home’ is filthy, rat infested and disgusting. If I had known all this before I had moved I would have stayed at my parent’s place. But can I, like thousands of others, be forced to live in my parent’s small home until I’m 35 or am able to get a higher paying job whilst unemployment is so high?

Moving shouldn’t be like this. We need a cap on rents not benefits. We need to stop landlords of profiteering at our expense. We also need a programme of affordable council house building; this would provide home and jobs and keep rents low. That why I am fighting back, that why I’m joining Young Londoners – Forced Out.

Anonymous, angry young Londoner

No choice but poverty or homelessness

I’m 25. I have been forced to move from the inner London borough that I grew up in and have lived in since birth, to an outer-London borough away from friends, family and the community I have invested 25 years in. I’m not alone. I’m a low paid part-time worker with a decent degree and the soaring inner London house prices have meant I, alongside presumably hundreds of other working class young people, have been forced out to make way for a growing gentrification of the capital.

I am paid just over £320 per month – minimum wage for approx. 12 hours per week. My rent for a room in a shared two-bedroom flat is £470 per month. This is £200-300 less than what I would pay for a similar room in the area I grew up. As you can see, the maths just doesn’t add up.

The government say they want to help low paid workers. That low paid workers shouldn’t suffer whilst the unemployment get ‘rewarded’ with benefits.

So what’s there to help young people faced with situations like mine? Housing Benefit used to be there to help plug the shortfall in my rent but the age at which you can claim full housing benefit has gone up from 25 to 35. If you are under 35, like me, you can now only claim SAR (Single Accomodation Rate), for a single room in a shared house and there is a limit to how much you can claim. The SAR I do get doesn’t go to help me, it goes into my account and then straight to my unknowing greedy landlord who has multiple properties in the area.

As a result I’m left with £145 per month to live on. This is impossible. What option do I have? Move back in with my parents who have had to take on a lodger to help get by? Move out of London and lose my part-time job whilst unemployment is rocketing? There is no option. Poverty and/or homelessness is the only thing faced by myself and other young people thanks to this government of the rich and for the rich.

What’s more, I miss my community and the borough I know more than ever.

Down and Out in London 

One thought on “Stories

  1. Sent from Isabel Counihan-Sanchez vivaizzie@yahoo.ie Housing for the Counihan, Housing for all, No cuts in Brent, No cuts at all…

    PRESS RELEASE

    Join in the housing debate

    27/12/2012

    At the next Kilburn and Kensal Brent Connects Forum on Tuesday 8 January, there will be a Question Time style panel, and residents are invited to join in from the audience.

    The subject under discussion is a topical one: ‘Housing – Are we pricing the poor out of Brent?’, and taking part as panel members will be:
    Laurice Ponting, Executive Director for Communities at Genesis Housing Association
    Dave Woods, Development Director at Octavia Housing
    Susmita Sen, Executive Director at Network Housing Group
    Perry Singh, Assistant Director of Housing at Brent Council
    Cllr Janice Long, Lead Member for Housing, Brent Council
    Gerry Doherty, Chief Executive, Brent Housing Partnership

    The panel will be chaired by Cllr James Denselow.

    The discussion will be filmed and the edited version will be available after the event on the council’s website.

    If you are unable to attend there will also be an opportunity to take part via Twitter as questions and responses will be tweeted throughout the evening. Follow the discussion online @Brent_Council.

    The Forum will take place from 7pm at Kensal Rise Primary School, Harvist Road, London NW6.

    Details of upcoming forums taking place across the borough can be found atwww.brent.gov.uk/consultation

    ENDS

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