Refugee crises highlight our shameful housing shortage

COMMENT: The shortage of low-rent social housing nurtures the kind of us-versus-them mentality that is the trigger for racism and conflicts around the world

Thursday, 31st March

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The New Journal’s Dan Carrier and Richard Osley

DAN Carrier returned to our offices this week, bedraggled but unbowed, having driven our food aid van to the Ukraine border and back.

He came up with the idea due to an impulse to help which was surely felt by thousands of people in Camden watching the Russian missile strikes rain down on Ukraine.

We thank you for all the donations that flooded in after our appeal. The show of support from all across Camden was as inspiring as the journey Dan completed in the CNJ aid van last week.

There will be many, however, left frustrated by the government’s response to the recent refugee crises.

Even when homes are available, the Home Office criteria makes it so difficult for ordinary people to help out. Refugee families cannot be housed in individual flats without support.

They cannot also be put into individual rooms in flat shares. So all that remains is for kind families to take them in.

The complex visa requirements, and the paltry £350 a month contribution, puts this out of reach of many.

It is no wonder that in Westminster, just two Afghan families have been placed in permanent homes. Five have so far been found accommodation in Camden.

The reality is that most will languish in hotels until they are moved outside of London where housing is not in such short supply.

Difficult questions arise when homes – such a life-changing commodity – are used to house those in urgent need arriving from abroad.

Camden’s official council housing waiting list stands at around 6,000. It used to be closer to the 25,000 mark but the list was cut back to only the most urgent cases a few years ago.

There will be many, many more would-be tenants struggling to make ends meet who do not even qualify to join the queue.

How do you explain to a family, who may have been waiting for a transfer from a severely-overcrowded home for a decade or more, that they will have to wait furthermore because a refugee has taken their place?

The shortage of low-rent social housing nurtures the kind of us-versus-them mentality that is the trigger for racism and conflicts around the world.

We may consider ourselves to be a progressive forward thinking society here in the UK. And yet we are unable to provide significant support to our homeless and our refugees.

So much land is being lost to private development. Only radical housing policies will make a real difference.

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