Thursday, July 26, 2012

olympic records

Over the past four years, Britain committed £9.3 billion to building structures for the 2012 Summer Olympics opening tomorrow, most of them in Newham, north of the River Thames. In addition to the 80,000-seat stadium and other sporting venues, the projects include an athletes’ village of elegant, apartments with glass balconies and polished woodwork, set in sculpted parkland. During that same period,  More than a million people face debt arrears or homelessness, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing, and almost 7 million borrowed last year to pay rent or mortgages, according to an estimate by Shelter. Once the Olympic Games finish, the U.K. developer Delancey Estates Plc and Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. will convert part of the athletes’ village into 1,439 homes for private rental. The housing company Triathlon Homes will convert the remaining units into 1,379 apartments for rent at below-market prices. The project will help offset about 450 housing units that were destroyed to make way for the stadium, and the Carpenters estate, where the number of housing units was originally about 700.

The lack of affordable housing is the biggest problem facing the city, according to London Citizens, a community organizing group. “London councils are reluctant to set aside land for cheap housing because they can earn so much money by selling it to developers,” says Neil Jameson, director of London Citizens. “Without cheap housing, people have to move away from their families.” London has the world’s second-most expensive residential real estate after Hong Kong, according to broker Savills Plc. Newham’s 308,000 residents are the most crowded in England. For each 100 housing units, there are 301 people, according to data from the 2011 census published this month. That is 50 percent more than in the wealthy borough of Kensington & Chelsea, with 199 people for each 100 houses. The pressures of the housing benefit cuts are forcing people to smaller accommodations. Newham residents on low incomes can try to rent private accommodation if they can’t get a council-owned property or a place from a nonprofit housing association. A private one- bedroom apartment in Newham costs about £818 a month, more than double the average monthly council rent of £345. The average monthly housing association rent is £419. Newham’s average rent for a private one-bedroom apartment is the 12th- lowest in London. Landlords who illegally overcrowd properties with multiple renters can double what they make on a property. Christine Lyons, Newhams housing inspector, estimates that there are as many as 10,000 outbuildings where people may live illegally - beds in sheds. With the decline of housing provided by the government, private landlords find profits in illegally breaking up houses into separately rented rooms and building sheds without permits.

The number of Newham families on waiting lists for public quarters rose 33 percent to 32,045 in 2011 from 2007. Meanwhile, in the last decade the supply of council-owned houses declined 24 percent as properties were sold off to occupants or developers. The supply of public housing will probably shrink further. The Newham Council in November announced plans to redevelop the Carpenters housing estate with University College of London for an undisclosed amount. The new owner would demolish the dwelling places and build new laboratories and research facilities. Properties are currently occupied by families on public assistance and residents who have leases. The council, which also wants to build residential and commercial property there, hasn’t committed to giving residents the right to return. Newham are determined to sell it to the highest bidder,” says David Richards, vicar of the nearby St. John’s Church. “What it says about the Olympic legacy is that Stratford will not be a place for the people who live here at the moment.”

Newham has the second-worst income deprivation in England behind the neighboring borough of Tower Hamlets, according to University of Oxford researchers, and it has London’s highest unemployment, government statistics show.  More than a third of the children live in poverty. The borough has one of the highest crime rates in London, according to the Metropolitan Police Service.  In 2010, a council study found that the rate of violence against persons -- at 9.9 attacks for each 1,000 people -- was the worst in a sampling of 15 similar U.K. areas. The crowding and poverty brings with it ill health. Life expectancy in Newham is below average for England. Levels of tuberculosis and diabetes are among the highest in the nation. So are hospital admissions for asthma and the rate of people living with HIV, according to the U.K. Health Protection Agency.

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