Housing

Money for the banks...

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My first thought when the government bailed out Northern Rock last year was, where the hell does it find this kind of money when there's never a spare million for a new school or hospital?

That was nothing. Last month has brought new surprises at the amount of wealth in the system and how prepared governments are to use it to bail out the rich and powerful.

The whole scale of it takes your breath away. Banks lent money they didn't have to people who couldn't pay it back and then packaged these debts as prettily as they could and sold them on in such a way that no one really knew where they were. When this game of pass the parcel stopped, everyone panicked and refused to lend to one another.

Housing benefits

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The abandonment of council housing building has worsened dramatically the housing crisis, both socially and financially. Glyn Robbins argues the case for publicly-owned, democratically-run and high-quality social housing.

The current world economic crisis is unusual. Previous recessions have been triggered by commodity prices, runs on the banks, stock market crashes, wars, natural disasters and hyperinflation. The roots of this one lie in the absurdity of the housing market.

Shelter dispute: charity begins at home

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Oscar Wilde once wrote that "charity creates a multitude of sins".

Were he alive today, Wilde would probably have singled out charity Shelter's chief executive, Adam Sampson, as one of the sinners. Sampson has launched a savage assault on his employees, forcing pay cuts and an extended working week on frontline staff who provide support to some of most deprived in Britain.

Relocation inflation

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The ferment over the US subprime mortgage market, which has been helping to make the money markets so unsteady in recent weeks, tends to ignore one aspect: people are so desperate to obtain decent housing they will take on debt they are simply incapable of ever paying back.

The subprime market was aimed at those sections of US society who were too poor to gain mortgage credit any other way. They were people who lived on benefits, or very low wages, and who often had a bad credit rating. Suddenly a few years ago they were promised a dream home bought on credit with very few questions asked.

I Predict a Riot

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Tensions are mounting as the housing bubble nears its limits.

Last February the sirens howled in Hollywood as the LAPD rushed reinforcements to the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue. While a police captain barked orders through a bullhorn, an angry crowd of 3,000 people shouted back expletives. A passer-by might have mistaken the confrontation for a major movie shoot, or perhaps the beginning of the next great LA riot.

Housing: Street Spirit

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Tenant activist Eileen Short explains why council housing was such a historic achievement - and why we must campaign to defend it.

I can now report that Britain is enjoying its longest period of sustained growth since the beginning of the industrial revolution' - Chancellor Gordon Brown, Budget Speech, 17 March 2004.

So why is housing such a problem?

Mortgaging our Future

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Just like the great pensions mis-selling scandals that rocked the UK during the last decade and brought misery to millions, along comes another personal finance disgrace that could swallow up the savings of hundreds of thousands of people.

According to figures recently released by UK insurers, 60 percent of the UK's outstanding 10 million endowment mortgages are forecast to fall short of the amount needed to repay the original loan. Across the country more than 6 million people have endowment mortgages. In the last two years, some 500,000 endowment holders have been sent letters coded 'red'--warning that their policies will be worth too little to pay off their mortgages. A further 2.5 million households have received 'amber' letters warning them that their policies are in danger of falling short.

How We Beat the Bankers

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The Birmingham Defend Council Housing Campaign recall how they inflicted a serious defeat on New Labour.

Last year John Prescott announced the 'death of council housing'. Last month 40,000 Birmingham tenants stuck two fingers up to him. Birmingham City Council spent two years and over £36 million (of tenants' rents) on their slick 'vote yes' campaign. Birmingham has the largest number of council homes in the country and despite the council's one-sided propaganda campaign over two thirds of tenants voted against them.

Housing: No Easy Touch

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On 16 April Defend Council Housing (DCH) is organising a 'Case for Council Housing' briefing for MPs at parliament.

Tenants' federations, trade unions and local activists are organising delegations from each area, and contacting their MPs to persuade them to join them at the briefing. Contributors already include an impressive list of tenant reps, MPs, academics and trade unionists. Ucatt, Unison, and the GMB are all supporting the event.

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