So, being unemployed and therefore dependent on the state, I eventually gave up waiting for Lewisham Homes to process (or lose) my ''underoccupation'' forms and went down to the Trading Places event held at the Civic Centre in Catford to see what kind of properties came up. You see, I've had £15 knocked off my benefit each week because the flat I've lived in for 29 years, which was let to me as a single person in the olden days when the estate was ''hard to let,'' was originally designated as having 2 bedrooms. Sooner or later, I'm going to start getting letters about arrears, threats of eviction leading inevitably to eviction proper. Because, maybe I should be able to but I can't live, light and heat my flat on £50 a week.
A Saturday morning, take my bike from the study - sorry spare bedroom, because there's no safe provision for bikes outside, or indeed any storage room whatsoever, and cycle down to Catford. As my 80-year old mother lives just over the Ha'penny Hatch and I don't run a car, I don't want to go too far out of the area where I've lived for 45 years, and I need to be able to get there quickly as she grows frailer.
Right, I set to searching for nearby one bedroom flats with owners wishing to move to two bedroom flats. And, guess what, all the one bedroom flats available bar one were more expensive than the flat where I am now. The only cheaper place was a tenant on the 4th floor of another Crossfields flat. I contact the tenant but my flat, also top floor, was unsuitable because of the difficulties getting shopping and children and buggies, etc, up the stairs. Clearly they need somewhere closer to the ground. Or a lift.
It looks like, in order to save money from the housing benefit bill, they've come up with the so called bedroom tax, but the only smaller places coming up on offer are more expensive, so the housing benefit bill will increase, on the smaller flat because the bedroom tax doesn't apply, and if my 2 bedroom flat is let to a claimant with children, then the bedroom tax won't apply here either. It's the tax payer who ends up paying more.
Ironically, a big part of the reason I never bought my flat at a discounted rate (when I was earning money and had good health) was because I believe in social housing. But this is not so for many others and I believe a good number of smaller flats around here have disappeared from social housing altogether. New social housing stock has not replaced them either.
The result for me: no security of tenure, nowhere cheaper to go to, potential loss of the home where I've lived for a tad under 30 years, potential loss of quick access to my elderly mother. The personal solution, of course, is to simply move somewhere more expensive but, with the meds for my dodgy kidney, I'm unlikely to be in full time work for a while and the increased financial burden will fall on, well, you all.
You'd think that Lewisham Homes would help tenants out on this one. Indeed, they appear to have paid someone to come in on a Saturday morning to phone round tenants in April this year. And post the application forms for the underoccupation scheme - help with removals, etc. But, having filled in the forms, physically delivered them to the address on the forms (Eros House) and got a date-stamped photocopy of them, those forms – together with personal passport details and billing details – never got to where they were supposed to. The lack of care over personal information, in an age of identity theft, is truly astonishing, but that's by the by. So more forms posted out, more journeys, this time to the Pepys Housing Office back near the beginning of June. Since then, nothing.
The fruit of 2 journeys to Catford, 2 journeys to Pepys, postage costs, form printing, photocopying, paying overtime for weekend office work, and dealing with an increasingly irate Marmoset is absolutely zero. Well, it's less than zero, actually, because someone has to pay for all that. I wonder who.