Housing policy represents another lack of strategy in the Queen’s speech (Editorial, 10 May). A combination of housing benefit caps, cuts and the rising prices and rents of a home will inflict ever increasing pain on Londoners. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors tells us that house prices are falling everywhere except London, and Rightmove says optimistic sellers in the capital have driven asking prices nationally above their 2008 peak. Rents in London are being driven above the caps by a global free market which sees London property as a triple-A-rated safe haven for spare cash. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, was planning to make more than half a million pounds a year renting out his home in north London.
The coalition, with almost total silence from the opposition, has told Londoners to get on a housing ladder that is more like a moving staircase coming down, until the poorest are shunted off the bottom to who knows where as rents overtake caps. In the 1960s, many families were moved from the East End into new towns with newly built homes. This time there is no planned affordable rented housing to move to, just temporary accommodation, overcrowding and debt. Is anybody listening, does anybody care?
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
• Amelia Gentleman’s special report (10 May) outlines the desperately inadequate living conditions and exploitative landlords to be found in the London borough of Newham in 2012. I have just been re-reading Jack London’s People of the Abyss and have been struck by the frightening similarities in the grim picture he paints of squalid living conditions for the poor of the East End in 1902. He too describes vastly overcrowded, infested houses, with haphazard shacks behind, their roofs strewn with refuse from above. The inhabitants have miserable and precarious lives.
The 20th century brought genuine and huge improvements in living conditions for millions, by means of mass access to high-quality sanitation, healthcare, education and social security. I fear that the regressive policies of this government are leading us, 110 years later, to a place where nobody should ever want to go. We should be concerned that the safety net is really starting to unravel. In part, these are some of the unanticipated social consequences of the Olympic project, in a capital city where Boris Johnson’s regime has knowingly presided over a growing housing crisis. The sad predicament of the people Ms Gentleman describes diminishes us all.
• A website launched by Shelter Scotland to help private sector tenants reclaim fees unlawfully charged by letting agents has helped 73 people to start proceedings to reclaim over £11,400 in its first 24 hours. Over 600 people sought advice by visiting reclaimyourfees.com in a single day, which further consolidates our belief that some letting agents are routinely ripping off tenants by charging extortionate and unjustified upfront fees. Nevertheless, it is not a long-term solution. We want the Scottish government to clarify legislation to make it clear to tenants, landlords and their agents that all charges above rent and a reasonable deposit are unlawful.
Director, Shelter Scotland