Editor’s comment: Barnet only told us half the story

Tina Williams recovers from a toe amputation with her husband Lee, inside the Barnet Council home th

Tina Williams recovers from a toe amputation with her husband Lee, inside the Barnet Council home that she has lived in since 1978. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

It’s almost as though there aren’t enough council houses.

Cllr Barry Rawlings is wrong, sort of, to say Barnet has a long waiting list: the council’s (bizarre) official line is that it doesn’t have one at all, and says it will only help people in “high housing need” before discharging them immediately.

In common with most councils, it does this by placing them pretty much anywhere – whether in Barnet or halfway across England. Upwards of 1,600 Barnet households with children were living in temporary accommodation inside or outside the borough as of the end of June.

Barry’s right, though, that demand for social housing badly outstrips supply.

This isn’t an exclusive problem for Barnet, or for Conservative boroughs: the only control town halls have over the amount of housing stock within their borders is how much they build.

And that quantity is minuscule compared with the number lost over 38 years of right to buy, thanks to hopelessly restrictive government regulations that control borrowing to build, and what can be done with right to buy receipts (hardly anything).

Having to choose between making someone like Tina Williams homeless and depriving someone else who is technically next in line for a council home – and that could be someone living in a B&B or a flat that is awaiting demolition, both of which are classed as “temporary housing” – epitomises what is wrong with this system. Both deserve to be housed safely and securely.

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So the most accurate response from Barnet Homes to our press enquiry would have been: “This is a bad situation that we will try to manage as fairly as we can, but we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because there aren’t enough council homes and only the government can sort that out.”

Yet nowhere in Barnet Homes’ response to the Ham&High is there any whiff of this conflict. It helps no one to pretend there isn’t a housing crisis, whatever colour the council.