Ugh, I’m depressed. A post on Londonist about how benefit caps, specifically housing benefit, will in all likelihood force 15,000 poor families out of central London has been met by a slew of comments along the lines of “so? I can’t afford to live in central London so why should someone who earns less than me?”
I suspect the Londonist demographic is largely like me – incomers to London, no real family where they live, chose to live where they do according to their income and whose ‘support network’ are their fellow middle-class mates. But it’s not a huge leap of imagination for me to imagine someone who’s grown up in Somers Town or, like this lady, in Queens Park, who has a couple of kids and a low paying job who relies on benefits to keep them near their family, the schools, the social workers and doctors who’ve known them all their lives.
Apparently the correct reaction is to say “fuck ’em” and assume it’ll be as easy for them to carve out a new life for themselves as it was for me, when I moved from Muswell Hill to Lewisham – for economic reasons. Never mind that I’m (usually) capable of earning enough to go swanning off into town on my travelcard to see my friends who live all over the place, that I don’t have kids to look after and clothe and feed and sort out childcare for, that this was entirely my choice because I am middle class and well educated and only start to go a little bit crazy when I haven’t left the flat in four days (I really must leave the flat today).
I can make the imaginative leap to realise that it might be different for others. I’m not special, I have no particular cognitive gift; why can’t other people see it? Are they really so wrapped up in their own small worlds that they can, in all seriousness, leave comments like:
I am happy to hear that people who can’t afford to live in London are being moved out of London.
I work in the City, but I can’t afford to buy a place there. Not even an ex-council flat, the likes of which are offered free to people that contribute less (or nothing) to the economy.
Why should I be forced to commute from the suburbs, whereas cleaners and unemployed people get to live in the heart of the city I love, subsidised by my money?
You’re right. Why should your cleaner travel home at 2 in the morning to their home that’s a bus ride away, instead of having to trawl all the way out to Uxbridge?
Why does your sample family need a three bedroom flat unless they have 6 or more children – if you want to live in the heart of one of the world’s top cities, the least you can do is have your kids share bedrooms.
Two or fewer children to a bedroom? Then you’re positively wealthy.
Just because you are born somewhere does not give you a right to remain there. If I could live in central London for free then that would be great, unfortunately I can’t – and so the question is why should someone else?
I don’t know. I just don’t know. I’ll just ask this pensioner who’s lived in Finsbury for 70 years…
This is a poorly thought out article regurgitating other poorly thought out and briefly researched stories appearing in the papers and online yesterday.
This article is less than useful: it’s fodder for inflaming an already tense situation. Housing is the single biggest repository of misery in this country, and the above piece does nothing to reflect on the wider issue or document an individual case study.
I am shit.
(I also want to take a moment to say that when someone posts a comment on Londonist, the site emails a copy of that to my inbox. It takes effort, sometimes, to remain detached and remind myself that it’s not personal when stuff like this comes pouring into my personal email account.)
Seeing as everybody seems to want to talk about this on an economic, rather than human scale (oh, how quickly we all became Tories), consider this. Forcing the poor to the outer boroughs is going to put extra pressure on housing (are 15,000 extra homes really going to become available in a few months? Perhaps more, when you factor in other people who’ve been made redundant and are looking for cheaper housing?), council services like schools and social services, and NHS facilities. So that’s your rent and council tax going up and your local doctor and dentist who you can’t get an appointment to see. For a governmental saving of £250m nationally (when you consider Vodafone was just told to pay £1.25billion in evaded tax this summer), is it worth bringing the extra pressure to your doorstep?
I am profoundly depressed that the argument has to come to that.