London may have opened its doors to the rich from around the world– at the latest count the city had 72 billionaires – but some of the British capital’s poorest, indigenous residents are not feeling quite so welcome. They are being priced out of their hometown.
Twenty-nine single mothers on welfare in the east London borough of Newham claim that they were threatened with exile from their own city. The mothers were living in the Focus E15 hostel for the homeless and when the hostel faced closure, the local authority reportedly advised the women to relocate to cheaper parts of the country.
One of the mothers — 20-year-old Samantha Joanne Middleton — was angered by the advice: “They’re trying to move me away from my family. I mean, I’m born and bred. My mum and my dad are from Newham. Their family’s from Newham. It’s not right. It really ain’t right.” she says.
Middleton became homeless after a domestic dispute. 19-year-old Jasmin Stone was in the same predicament when she went to live in the hostel, and she claims she too was told by the local authority that although she was born and brought up in Newham, she’s now too poor to live in the borough: “East London was a place for the poor. But it’s not anymore. You see so many luxury apartments everywhere. The rents are so expensive. London’s being made a place for just rich people.”
Some of those rich people are foreign investors buying new luxury apartments in the city off-plan. That makes Middleton feel even more alienated.
“We’re the minority of London now,” she says. “Londoners don’t live in London anymore.”
The 29 “Focus E15” mothers will be living in London for a while longer. Thanks to a protest campaign organized by local activist Hannah Caller, the mothers have been given a reprieve; they will stay in the neighbourhood in private rented accommodation for the immediate future. But Hannah sees this as only a temporary fix.
“The fundamental problems remain for poor people across the capital,” says Caller. “Both Labour and Conservative governments have failed to build enough public housing for low-income families. And now the present coalition government is also squeezing the incomes of the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community by cutting and capping welfare benefits.”
Caller accuses Britain’s main political parties of not caring about the poor and focusing only on the money that big business and rich individuals can bring into London.
No one at the Newham Borough Council was available for comment.
Local activist Hannah Caller pictured next to a campaign poster says “ British governments don’t care about the poor.”
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