Letter: When only the pregnant get a flat

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Sir: Michael Howard's attack on the council housing rights of single mothers is a cynical avoidance of the causes of the problem. A young woman of 21 recently contacted me. Having lived in Islington for 15 years, she is squeezed in overcrowded accommodation with her sister and husband and four children. She has a decent job, but buying locally is way above her reach. She has been on the housing waiting list (which is 12,000 long) for two years. She wrote:

I was told at the time that the only way I would get a flat was by getting pregnant. I do have a long-standing relationship and would hopefully intend to get married sometime in the future, but I do not wish to start a family until I feel ready to have children. Certainly not to achieve being rehoused.

Given that the waiting list is almost static, the only way for such a young woman to get housed is to get pregnant, be thrown out by her family, accepted as unintentionally homeless, put in temporary accommodation and finally found a permanent place to rent.

Why should aspiring tenants, of all races, not have the same choice and opportunity to stay where they grew up, near their family and friends, as the children of the middle classes? Forced mobility is bad news for communities - and, incidentally, for social services' budgets when Gran needs looking after.

The day someone gives me an answer to the question I am often asked - 'Where are my kids going to live?' - I'll allow them to talk down to the council tenants in the inner cities. Not before.

Yours sincerely,


Liberal Democrat councillor

Clerkenwell ward, Islington

London, N1

7 October