Dawn Howley writing in The Guardian this week discusses the the human cost of destroying social housing.

I moved into my one-bedroom council flat in 2007, after eight months living in temporary accommodation for homeless people including B&Bs and a hostel. The London borough I live in operated a bidding system, where all available properties are advertised online and after registering your interest in a particular property, you are placed in a queue based on your level of need. After many failed bids, this flat was my first offer and I took it straight away.

Becoming permanently housed has been the foundation for every bit of progress I’ve made in the last eight years. My health is good after battling a severe mental illness. I feel more resilient and secure because whatever may happen in life I’ve got a base from which to deal with it. I am very aware of how lucky I am to be housed, because flats like mine are becoming ever more scarce.

I live on an estate considered to be “prime real estate” so there will be a whole group of asset-hungry developers champing at the bit for the land I live on. I live close to the now demolished Heygate estate in south London where the developers gave Southwark council money to build social housing “elsewhere” rather than the cost of building poor doors and a separate lift shaft on the flats they were building.

Every week, I receive marketing communications from estate agents and letting companies – some of the envelopes are addressed to “the legal owner”, which I’m not, and the letters tell of “lucrative rental opportunities”, offers to value the flat, and examples of the value of recent sales.

Five minutes of research would show these companies that my flat has never been bought, but they keep targeting our flats. They prefer to contribute to a narrative that there are large swaths of wasted real estate opportunities: that’s far more palatable than to say it as it is, that you want to rid an area of a certain kind of person.

Recent debates about the “sense of entitlement” that the “undeserving poor” possess argue that these people should accept the argument that where there is great economic potential, people who can’t take part in that should go “elsewhere”.

In fact, it is the developers with large amounts of cash who are the ones with a sense of entitlement, who come into communities with their “visions” and build luxury developments. People’s lives are uprooted and the social housing they demolish is not always replaced.

The boundaries of what is “prime real estate” are spreading far beyond the reaches of the very centres of cities, and the consequences of letting it expand unchallenged are catastrophic for those without buying power.

I’m not against home ownership, I’m just opposed to the destruction of social housing. We’re not just selling off homes and not replacing them, we are destroying a social contract that really works, which gives people homes that they can afford so they can live decent lives and really thrive.

My estate and others like it may be in prime locations, but they are worth much more than the monetary value placed on the bricks and mortar, because the people laying roots and living lives here are prime assets that we ought to take more care with. If you come to my estate you will see people working hard, attempting to build a future for themselves and their families. Those that are not working are mostly trying to do so.

Recently, I met a young family who were housed after a year in temporary accommodation: the mum was so relieved that she could make them proper dinners and get a bedtime routine going.

It’s the details of what you can’t do when you’re not securely housed that matter. Not having the basics makes everything else much harder. Most members of the government have probably never had to worry about such things. The future is so much brighter when you have a home.

Source – Guardian