The Housing Crisis Highlighted by the “Beds in Sheds” Scandal.

by Mark Johnston

The housing crisis highlighted by the “beds in Sheds” scandal.

In recent years many housing campaigners have repeatedly tried to draw the attention of the media, the political class and the general public to what has now inevitably become a ‘housing crisis’.

The chance of home ownership for many is now slipping slowly over the horizon as rents keeping rising more than wages.

Despite campaigners trying so hard to highlight the perils of housing building dropping to historically low levels, the issue that has grabbed the spotlight recently is defence of the greenbelt.

Until recently overcrowding has gone very much unnoticed behind closed doors, then the government and the public realised that some families are living in garden sheds and paying up to £350 a month for the privilege of doing so!

Council officials in Ealing believe that some 60,000 people are living in makeshift accommodation, which is outside of all proper planning and safety laws and that in only oneLondon borough.

However many campaigners feel that we will not rid our society of this “terrible scar” unless we recognise it as the tip of the housing iceberg; the product of series of pressures building up over a long period of time.

Ministers have therefore recently launched a major clampdown on rogue landlords who have trapped vulnerable people in potentially dangerous living conditions.

The issue of rogue landlords is serious but recent news that reported “beds in sheds” scandal seemed to be more about immigration than it was about poor housing.

Grant Shapps, housing minister, said “it is simply unacceptable that people are living in squalid, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords more interested in a quick profit rather than their basic responsibilities”.

Therefore new guidance has been given to Councils making it clear the wide range of powers at their disposal and the action they can take against bad practices by landlords such as over crowding and poor maintenance.

The new guidance highlights the range of actions councils can take to clamp down on rogue landlords once and for all. These include:

• Proactively identifying problem properties and effectively working through complaints;

• taking action using a full range of legal powers to stop rogue landlord activities

• prosecuting landlords who persistently let illegal property

• naming and shaming prosecuted landlords by publicising successful cases

This guidance is backed up by the recent allocation of £1.8million to councils earlier this year to tackle the issue and flush out those landlords renting out ‘beds in sheds’.

Although many housing campaigners feel that local authorities should be given the powers to take action against exploitive landlords they also feel that they should also be given the tools to make difference to housing in their area. They need to be able to make the most of social housing, with full scope over how it is allocated and also the ability to borrow against its value.

In conclusion the recent scandal of “beds in sheds” should now prompt everyone in to recognising that something has gone badly wrong with the direction of housing policy.

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