London’s Olympic victims

Olympic Park in London, ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

“He wanders around Westfield, dreaming about what he can’t have”, Carole Vincent says of her autistic son. “I’m not confident about finding a new place for him.”

The glamour of the Olympic site’s new shopping centre is as close as Ashley Vincent, 23, can get to the £10 billion renewal programme in East London. He has just been evicted at short notice from his apartment close to the site, along with three disabled housemates. His landlord has chosen to chase a fortune from short-term lets. Demand has pushed rental prices up to 400% higher around the site, and residents like Ashley lose their homes.

In Newham, London’s most deprived borough, “hundreds” of local people have been evicted ahead of the Games, Anchor House shelter Director Keith Fernett told Metro. Newham Council drew criticism in April over a plan to relocate 500 people to Northern England, a “pragmatic” policy which Fernett expects to see more of.

The evictions have inflamed a severe housing shortage, which had already forced people into desperate conditions. There are an estimated 10,000 living in illegal extensions in Newham, “sheds and garages are being let”, says Fernett. Overcrowding is severe – “We’ve seen 38 living in a house”.

Newham, London.

Sim Sekhon, director of Legal 4 Landlords eviction specialists, confirmed to Metro that business is booming, and that even the previously comfortable are being dragged down. “London is the majority of our business now. Evictions are certainly increasing in the Olympic hotspots. Landlords are cashing in on short-term lets and people who have done nothing wrong are replaced. Even the middle classes are being affected”.

The Olympic legacy was supposed to solve the housing crisis and regenerate run-down areas. London Mayor Boris Johnson recently claimed 10,000 “affordable” homes would come out of the Games. But the only new housing being built in Newham is high-end, far beyond the means of its cash-strapped community. “LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) are saying ‘we want to build new communities here’”, Fernett says.

Complaints from residents to local government have failed, as councils say they have no power to regulate private landlords. “There is nothing to prevent soaring rents because there is no protection for tenants,” Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey told Metro. “The Olympics are a triumph for Britain but it’s wrong that thousands of local people are paying the price for it.”

Ashley and Carol Vincent.

Olympic bulldozers

Over two million people have been displaced by the last six Olympic Games, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions claim. Beijing is the worst offender, according to the Switzerland-based group, having forcibly moved 1.25 million residents for the 2008 Games. It is estimated that 720,000 people were displaced in 1988, in Seoul, South Korea, including through mass demolitions and imprisonment. For the 1996 Games in Atlanta, USA, up to 30,000 lost their homes when public housing was demolished. Over 600 families were evicted in Barcelona 1992, and hundreds of Greek gypsies were forced out in 2004. There were no reported displacements in Sydney 2000.

Another summer of rage?

Riots are the number one threat to the Olympics, according to the Home Office Director-General of Security. Last year, 15,000 people participated in the worst public disorder Britain has seen in 20 years, in which five people died and several major cities were reduced to chaos. The potential for new unrest remains, with the UK back in recession, and unemployment and poverty growing. The Olympic site is located in the East end of London, which saw some of the most violent riots last year. Several activist groups are planning to target the Olympics for protests, such as the extremist Coalition of Resistance. Britain’s largest ever peacetime security force will attempt to keep everything quiet.

Q+A with David Cox, Policy Officer of the National Landlords Association

Are landlords evicting and exploiting more tenants in the Olympic boroughs?

Most of our landlords want long-term tenancies. We advise landlords that if they have good tenants to keep them instead of making a lot of money for a few weeks and then having no guarantee of finding replacements.

We are aware of some unscrupulous landlords, but we could call them criminals not landlords, taking advantage of vulnerable people. That is a rogue minority that taints the majority, in the bottom 5% of the sector.

How much more can landlords make from short-term lets?

We’ve heard four times as much in the Olympic boroughs. At this time hotel capacity is still only 80% so when that’s exhausted there could be higher prices.

Does the sector need more regulation?

Private renting collapsed last time there were rent controls in the 1960s. We want to see local authorities prosecute rogue landlords. Intelligence-led enforcement is the best way to root them out.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels Kansas concert, condition unknown,…

Singer Miley Cyrus was hospitalized on Tuesday night after suffering what is believed to be 'a severe allergic reaction' to antibiotics medication. The 21-year-old Bangerz…

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

National

Reddit boosts news capabilities in social media turf…

By Jennifer SabaNEW YORK (Reuters) - Reddit, a website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As,…

Local

New York joins accord to strengthen popular vote…

New York State joined a nationwide effort that would gives the state's 29 electoral votes for president to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

Entertainment

Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels Kansas concert, condition unknown,…

Singer Miley Cyrus was hospitalized on Tuesday night after suffering what is believed to be 'a severe allergic reaction' to antibiotics medication. The 21-year-old Bangerz…

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Accomplice Tour: New York (Spoiler Alert)

When I signed up for the Accomplice show tour, I had no idea what I was in for. But every grimy job comes with a great reward.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

NBA

Nets miss chance to clinch No. 5 seed…

Nets head coach Jason Kidd expressed little concern after a 109-98 loss to the Knicks, but others seemed to disagree.

NFL

Jets confident despite Chris Johnson leaving with no…

Jets fans clamored for a playmaker on offense all offseason. It looked like they were going to land that player on Tuesday when Chris Johnson…

NBA

Knicks, Nets rivalry never materialized despite national attention

When the NBA schedule was released, the league anticipated an intense rivalry between the Nets and Knicks with all four games slated for national TV.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Personalize your massage at a private practice

CityTouch customizes spa treatments to meet client's needs.

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.