Housing Emergency

The current cold weather spell in the UK often makes us think of those without anywhere to sleep except on the streets and to be thankful that we have a decent place to live.  Our house may not be a palace, but at least we can usually keep warm and dry inside it, even if sometimes I sit at the computer wearing a scarf and hat and wondering if I could possibly type ok wearing gloves.

Before we bought this house, I’d spent around around four years living in a series of privately rented flats, then three years in public housing in a flat that would could never have afforded to rent privately.

Around thirty years ago, government basically abandoned the idea of public housing, selling it off on the cheap to tenants, preventing a sensible level of investment in the sector and later hiving it off to housing associations. The latest proposals will mean that many families in high rent areas such as London will be unable to afford to stay in their homes as low wage earners will no longer get the current level of support needed for them to pay market rents.

It’s a policy that makes no sense and in practice will not work, at least not in London and the south-east, but is likely to cause a huge amount of hardship and chaos before things get sorted out.  So  not surprisingly a wide range of people and groups are opposed to it, but the protest in Whitehall a couple of weeks ago was a small one – later if the policy is enacted we may well see riots.

For now there wasn’t a great deal to photograph, or at least I couldn’t find a way to really make strong images.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

This was perhaps my best attempt, and it was one where the image doesn’t really fit the 1.5:1 ratio frame – I think it would be better with a crop to the left edge of the red ‘Housing Justice’ banner.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

There were a couple of MPs speaking, and the obvious way to photograph them was over the pile of cardboard boxes, so I got into the right position for that only to have a couple of colleagues ask me politely if I would move a little so that they could get the shot (I think they probably thought “as well”, but sometimes that isn’t possible, and I think this was one of those times.)  Since I’d taken a few frames I moved, but I don’t think I’d got quite what I wanted.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Of course I’m almost always happy photographing people and gestures and this woman’s hands and expression I think express the worries of people well, and I almost managed to frame the placards  how I wanted them – just a little too tightly cropped.

You can see the rest of the pictures – with more about the event – on My London Diary.   Unfortunately although of course I also posted it to Demotix, I don’t think it made any of the papers; I think they were full of some royal nonsense and didn’t have space for anything serious.

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