THE number of people forced to live and sleep on the streets has more than doubled since 2010, the year the Tory-led coalition came to power, and has increased by a massive 30% in the past year alone.
The government’s annual figures on ‘rough sleeping’ estimated that 3,569 people were sleeping in the open on any given night in 2015.
More than a quarter of rough sleepers in England are to be found in London. These figures do not go anywhere near describing the enormity of the homeless crisis facing the poor and working class families, for they do not include those in hostels or homeless shelters or forced to live in ‘temporary’ accommodation.
Bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families with children has more than doubled over the past five years, with the number of households living in B&Bs increasing from 2,050 to 5,270.
The number of homeless households in temporary accommodation has risen by 26% over five years, to 64,710 in 2015. Driving the massive increase in rough sleeping and homelessness has been the devastating impact of all the Tory cuts to welfare and the orchestrated destruction of social housing in cities like London.
This was highlighted in another report issued on Thursday by the charity Crisis who surveyed 800 private landlords and found that 83% were unwilling to rent to homeless people while two thirds refused to rent to people in receipt of benefits like Universal Credit.
Private rents in London are anyway so excessive that even those in relatively well paid work are finding it impossible to pay them. According to the housing charity Shelter, over half those in private rented accommodation are struggling to pay the rent and having to cut back on food and clothing for fear of going into rent arrears and facing eviction.
While private rents are being forced up beyond the means of workers, social housing is being either priced out of existence – affordable rents for social housing being reckoned by the Tories to be 80% of private rents which makes them still out of reach of the average pay packet – or destroyed completely.
Entire housing estates like the Heygate in the Elephant and Castle have already been bulldozed to make way for luxury estates where a one bedroom flat can be snapped up for £500,000. This destruction of perfectly decent council housing is happening all across London as councils sell off their housing stock to property developers out to make super profits building properties that can only be afforded by the filthy rich.
This surge to drive the working class out of the city and turn it into a haven for Russian oligarchs and feudal Saudi royals is necessarily accompanied by an unprecedented wave of evictions.
A record number of tenants were evicted by bailiffs in 2015 with 42,728 tenants (250 a day) forcibly evicted. In England 19,093 evictions were carried out by social landlords – housing associations and councils.
Of these councils in London, the Labour-controlled Southwark council led the way in forcible evictions with 218 last year. It was the Labour administration of Southwark that sent over 50 bailiffs and police to evict a woman and her three children along with other council tenants from a block of flats in the early hours of February 11th, arrest her and put her children onto the streets.
This reign of terror is being used daily to cleanse central London of the working class and turn it into a fortress for the rich, with workers only admitted through the gates to perform essential tasks. Under capitalism the working class faces being driven quite literally onto the streets to join the mass ranks of rough sleepers.
The answer must be for tenants and trade unions to unite in forming councils of action in every area to stop all further evictions through a campaign of occupations and strikes.
Above all, the only way to put an end to the crime of homelessness must be to force the TUC to call a general strike to bring down the Tories and advance to a workers government and socialism where housing will be a basic right.