What is public housing in London

Great BritainLondon's dramatic shortage of public housing

"Barnet Council got rid of 9,000 social houses 9,000!"

A gathering of city planners and local politicians in central London. Unasked and unexpectedly, a woman grabs the microphone and reports indignantly what is going on in her neighborhood.

"9,000 social apartments have already been destroyed in Barnet. 9,000! And not a single one of these apartments has been replaced. All only private landlords!"

A little embarrassed, but patiently the politicians and experts on the podium listen to it. Politicians have long ignored the problem. But unaffordable rents are getting more and more British people into great trouble. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no longer any social housing construction worth mentioning, says Paul Watt, urban geographer and lecturer at Birbeck College London.

"The construction of municipal social housing has literally collapsed since the early 1980s. And neither private investors nor non-profit housing companies have built enough to fill this gap."

Alternative offered 200 miles away

That is why there is far too little affordable living space. This affects all British people looking for an apartment. But it particularly affects people who are threatened with homelessness.

Like Jasmine Stone from Stratford in the north-east of the capital. The 20-year-old woman with long blond hair and a round face is sitting in a cafe in the pedestrian zone. About a year ago, the district asked them to vacate their social housing. However, the authorities made her an offer.

"We got an eviction notice, but the commune said they could offer us a place to stay - in Manchester, Hastings or Birmingham! That's 200 miles away. Far from our friends and families who support us."

In return, the authorities promised, they would also cover the costs of moving to the cities 260 kilometers away. For Jasmine Stone, mother of a one-year-old daughter, a terrible idea:

"I couldn't take it. My mother helps me, and I and my daughter spend so much time with our family. We wouldn't know anyone at all, I've never been there in my life. It's really scary!"

Jasmine and other residents then got together and went public. Their protests caused so much fuss that the district eventually found them temporary public housing. However, this does not solve their problems.

"My rent is £ 950 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. To understand what that means: I worked full-time as a trainee in a daycare and earned £ 420 a month. That is not even half the rent. And I have a child! "

Threatened by homelessness

This case sounds extreme, but it's not entirely unusual. The welfare offices place people at risk of homelessness with private landlords. But they charge horrendous rents, as is common in London. For example, the district pays around 1,300 euros for Jasmine's small apartment. The authorities are therefore increasingly trying to relocate social tenants to the north of the country. There is certainly living space in the Greater London area - but these are condominiums and they cost a fortune due to the ongoing real estate boom. Paul Watt from the University of London again.

"When you walk around London, in Stratford for example, you see new buildings, fancy multi-story structures. One-bedroom condominiums in such new buildings cost at least £ 300,000, £ 400,000. For people who earn an average, that's just priceless."