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Neil O’Brien: How the Conservatives can do better with younger voters. And remain a compassionate party.

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

We need to be tough on Corbynism, and tough on the causes of Corbynism. After crushing Labour last year, it might be tempting to rest on our laurels. But we need to act now to keep the extreme left locked out of Number 10 in the long term. This piece is about two ways we can do that.

First, doing better among young people. Second, making sure we remain trusted as a compassionate party.

Both are about uniting the country post Brexit. Let’s start with younger people.

In the last election, Boris Johnson raised our share of the vote across the board.

But we made bigger gains among older people than young. Despite the improvement compared to 2017, last year we still got just 19 per cent of the vote among 18 to 24 year olds, while Labour got 62 per cent. Contrast that with 1979 and 1983 when got 42 per cent of the vote among 18-24 year olds. That was nearly the same share we got among the over 55s those years (47 per cent).

It is true that younger people are always more left-wing. But the gap in voting behaviour between young and old became way bigger in 2017 than it had been before, and that massive gap was still there in 2019.

While today’s younger voters are likely to become more conservative as they get older, we are starting from a much lower base. So if we don’t fix those cracks in the foundations, we risk our 2019 triumph crumbling away over time.

There are multiple factors causing young people to shift left, including: the larger proportion of younger voters who are not white (20 per cent among under 34s, compared to five per cent of those over 60); the liberalising effects of the expansion of Higher Education (three per cent going to uni during the 1950s, and 50 per cent now); and housing costs going up (from 10 per cent of renters’ income during the 1970s to a third now, while twice as many are renting). Other factors include tuition fees; the Financial Crash; Brexit, and the rise of social liberalism.

What’s clear is that we need to make some big changes to do better among younger voters. That means for starters, that the forthcoming spending review has to have something to offer them. Our new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is one of the smartest people I have met. But if we don’t want debt to grow relative to the economy, he inherits no room to go on a spending spree.

So where can he find the money to help young people?

One asset is the remaining stock of local authority housing. Transferring it to not-for-profit housing associations would allow them to borrow against rents, unlocking £27 billion for housing. That would let us build a huge amount of housing for younger working people who don’t get council housing. It could include cheap rented accommodation to build up a deposit, and homes for discounted sale.

Another place to look is our universities. We now know that there’s a large group of young people for whom going  won’t be worth it financially, either for them or the taxpayer.

That’s true for between a fifth and a quarter of those who currently go. Frankly, many are being mis-sold a degree.

For example, the average creative arts graduate isn’t earning enough even ten years after leaving university to pay back any of their loan. We are doing young people no favours by loading them up with debts in return for such degrees.

They also cost the taxpayer a large amount in written-off loans. Clamping down on low value courses could save enough money to either cut the cost of going to university in half, or free up money to invest in top flight technical education and higher apprenticeships. That would also help “Level up” places where more young people go down technical routes.

The other part of combatting the causes of Corbynism is making sure we tackle the big social challenges.

I’ve spent a long time arguing for a focus on people who are not at the bottom, but are “just about managing”. But reasonable, middle of the road people will only keep voting for us if they feel we have a plan to deal with people who are, well, “not managing at all”: people in poverty.

People want to know we are doing the right thing. And people who are just about managing are also the most directly exposed to social breakdown. That means going further to tackle things like rough sleeping. It has gone up since 2010. And that is only partly because we have funded more outreach services and so identified more rough sleepers.

It is true that there are a larger number of EU nationals sleeping rough. And it was deeply unhelpful that EU law banned efforts to return rough sleepers to their home countries. When I did outreach work with street homeless, I met people who wanted to get home after things in London had not worked out.

But there are also large numbers of British people sleeping rough – and shamefully, six per cent of them are formerly of our own armed forces.

In my time working with rough sleepers, I met many who couldn’t face going into a shelter because they’d had a bad experience in one. That’s why the pilots of “Housing First” are important. In Housing First, people are housed first and then have their problems worked on. The Rough Sleeping Initiative also seems to be working in areas where it is operating. But we now need to put rocket boosters under both these schemes.

Take another challenge: food banks. They exist in pretty much every country in Europe, even the richest. France has “Restos du Couer” while Germany has “Tafel” (Food Tables).

How can we drive down the number of people in Britain who need to use them? The main network of food banks, the Trussell Trust, suggests reducing delays at the start of Universal Credit claims so people don’t struggle while waiting for their benefits.

Currently claimants can opt to get an advance loan to reduce the wait for money. We could make this the default, though such loans can still lead to problems paying back the money later. Alternatively, we could make UC payments work more like the old system: with an upfront payment, paid every two weeks, and the housing benefit element direct to landlords as standard.

There would be a cost to upfront payments: as much as £1-2 billion nationally. So we should experiment by trying it in some areas, and seeing what difference it makes to foodbank use and other social problems. If it works, we should do it nationally.

More broadly, the new government should set out a clear new framework for tackling poverty: an approach that tackles the underlying causes, with clear goals to drive down rough sleeping, drive up school standards, drive down worklessness and so on.

Our Prime Minister studied the classics, and will recall how triumphant Roman generals would have an Auriga on hand to remind them that “you too are mortal”, and generally keep them down to earth. He has produced a historic triumph in the general election. Now is the time, when he is strong, to secure the long term future of the party. The time to put his compassionate instincts into action, and build a united country.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Does Johnson have the guts to tackle the rigged housing market described by Halligan?

Home Truths: The UK’s Chronic Housing Shortage – How It Happened, Why It Matters and How to Solve It by Liam Halligan

This is the only book I have ever taken into the Terrace Cafeteria at the Commons – where it is my custom to take a late lunch of jerk chicken and rice each Wednesday after sketching PMQs – in whose contents a member of staff has shown an immediate and passionate interest.

He told me he has no hope of ever buying a place to live in the district, just south of the river and within easy reach of the Houses of Parliament, where he was born.

That district, once quite cheap, is now, like everywhere else in the middle of London, prohibitively expensive for anyone on a modest income. If he is ever to get his own place, he will have to move a long way out, and the injustice of this rankles with him.

Liam Halligan sets out in this book what went wrong with the housing market:

“The average UK home now cost eight times average annual earnings, over twice the historic norm. This crippling affordability multiple rises to twelve times across London and the south-east…

“While the UK needs around 250,000 new homes a year to meet population growth and household formation, housebuilding has failed to reach that level since the mid-1970s. There’s a huge backlog shortage of homes, built up under successive governments over decades, which has seen property prices spiral way ahead of earnings. As a result, millions of young adults are stuck in shared, rented accommodation and have put their lives on hold.”

This is an enormous political opportunity for whoever becomes the next Labour leader. Millions of people are stuck paying extortionate rents for year after year, unable, unless they have rich parents, to get together the deposit needed to buy a house.

And this used not to be the case. Halligan was born in 1969, in the suburban, semi-detached, 1930s house in Kingsbury, London NW9, which his parents, who had both left school at the age of 16 without any professional qualifications and did not go to university, had been able to buy on a mortgage, after 25 years owning this little patch of Metroland outright.

For a long time after Halligan’s parents put down roots, home ownership remained a realistic aspiration:

“When I left home back in the early 1990s, over 45 per cent of 25-29-year-olds owned their own home. Since then, that figure has plunged to less than 25 per cent. Even professional couples with impressive qualifications and relatively high incomes are increasingly ‘locked out’ of the property market as prices keep rising faster than earnings…

“Since the end of the Second World War, one of the basic features of the UK’s free society – the ‘British Dream’ – has been that anyone who works hard and saves for a few years should be able to buy a decent home at a reasonable price. As such, the chronic unaffordability of housing, in many parts of the country, is now the major economic and political scandal of our time. It is disgraceful that over recent decades, a combination of cowardice and neglect on the part of successive governments means that, for countless young adults, the dream of home ownership is being cruelly denied.”

The language is not elegant, but it is hard to deny the truth of what Halligan says. In the mid-1930s, 85 per cent of new houses cost less than £750, equivalent to about £55,000 in 2019.

After the passing in 1947 of of the Town and Country Planning Act, almost all new building required planning permission. That, one could say, was the root of the problem, for it has led to an artificial shortage of building land, which in turn has caused the grotesque inflation of house prices.

But Halligan thinks the 1947 Act worked well, for it provided for “betterment” – the greatly increased value of land once it had planning permission – to be paid to the state. This kept land prices down, and gave local authorities the revenue needed to build the roads and other public services which the occupants of new houses required.

Landowners hated having to sell land at existing-use value, i.e. cheap, and under the Conservative governments of the 1950s, that side of the 1947 system was gradually dismantled, until under the 1961 Land Compensation Act, landowners gained the right to receive full value for all sites, including any prospective “planning gain”.

Land prices almost at once started to rise, and landowners, whether private or public, gained a perverse incentive to hold on to their land for as long as possible, in the confident expectation that it would become more and more valuable.

The market in land is horribly rigged, and favours owners over prospective buyers. As Halligan points out, the UK house-building industry, in which many small firms used to participate, is now dominated by an oligopoly of very large firms, who invest in a scarce resource, building land, which they do all they can to keep scarce, and on which they build an inadequate number of often shoddy rabbit hutches.

What is to be done? Halligan, who writes as an economist, wants the 1961 Land Compensation Act reversed, and has interviewed Sajid Javid, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who served as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government from 2016-18, and described the reform proposals which were being developed under his leadership:

“When I was Secretary of State, we worked on a fifty-fifty split of the valuation between local authorities and landowners.

“This would be an efficient and morally justifiable tax. The state is expected to create the infrastructure around new housing, and that needs to be paid for – so fifty-fifty makes sense.”

Javid was “frustrated” when Theresa May removed this measure from the 2017 Housing White Paper. He told Halligan:

“She just didn’t get the the impact of this housing crisis on ordinary families, ordinary working men and women – so the White Paper was gutted, all the strong ideas removed. It is vital we now take radical steps – once Brexit is done, housing is easily the most important domestic policy issue we face.”

Boris Johnson has not yet said very much about housing as Prime Minister, but one hopes he agrees with the Chancellor. For what they do about housing will give a good indication of where their sympathies lie.

Halligan says “there has not been nearly enough resolve to tackle the entrenched supply-side vested interests benefiting from the status quo”.

He means house-building companies such as Persimmon, whose iniquitous behaviour he describes at considerable length, also quoting the memorable condemnation of them in the Commons by Robert Halfon (Con, Harlow):

“On Saturday, I met a group of Harlow residents, many of them on Government Help to Buy schemes, who moved into homes built by Persimmon Homes that are shoddily built with severe damp and crumbling walls. In the eyes of my residents, Persimmon are crooks, cowboys and con artists.”

This was in July 2019, at Theresa May’s penultimate PMQs, and she said in her reply to Halfon:

“We have already announced our intention for a new homes ombudsman to protect the rights of homebuyers and to hold developers to account.”

A new ombudsman is an empty gesture. This distorted market, which enables house-builders to make vast profits from shoddy work carried out at the expense of people in desperate need, requires root and branch reform.

But Halligan underestimates the vested interests which stand in the way of reform. Many an owner, or part-owner with the building society, of a small, shoddily built house (I write as someone in that position myself) enjoys thinking, with a certain ineffable complacency, of its enormously inflated value, supposedly several times what it cost to buy.

These prohibitive prices have to come down, and that is a message Johnson and Javid will be reluctant to convey, especially as according to Halligan, senior Treasury officials believe that tackling the housing shortage “will spark another banking collapse”.

One of the happy side effects of the last banking collapse should have been a collapse in property prices, so that people of modest means could once again afford somewhere to live.

But instead, the property market froze, owners stopped moving house, and there was no proper correction to prices, which remain grotesquely high.

My inclination, as a conservative, is to believe that property rights are one of the most sacred guarantees of liberty itself. But since 1947, the state has removed the right of the owner of a piece of land to build on it.

It was beyond Halligan’s scope to describe how some of the tawdry speculative building of the 1930s created a demand for planning controls. In any case, he loves those 1930s houses, grew up in one of them and reminds us that their praises were sung by John Betjeman.

If the nation is going to control what can be built, the nation should also take some of the profits which are reaped by landowners and developers who gain permission to build.

Some years ago, I examined for ConHome how Harold Macmillan managed, as Housing Minister in the early 1950s, to fulfil the Conservative pledge to build 300,000 dwellings a year, which Labour thought was impossible.

He did it by employing every lever, public and private, which was to hand, by sanctioning every single application to build council houses, and often by giving orders in the wartime manner. His achievement paved the way for the Conservative election victory in 1955, for him to become Prime Minister in 1957, and for the Conservatives to win again in 1959.

He had demonstrated that the Tories were better than Labour at providing for the welfare of the people. Not that everything he did was admirable, for as I remarked in that piece:

“Some of the housing built at this time was so repulsive that to this day it makes people deeply suspicious of all new building.”

Will Johnson evince Macmillan’s ruthlessness and flair, or will he fob people off with an ombudsman?

On Tuesday of this week, I attended a reception held at the Commons by ConservativeHome for new Tory MPs, and spoke to a number who feel a burning desire to repay the trust which has been reposed in them by former Labour voters.

But as I entered the Palace of Westminster from the Underground station, I passed a number of rough sleepers already settling down for the night in the white-tiled tunnel.

What a shameful sight. Something here is terribly amiss. Those rough sleepers, so visible in most of our towns, have something to do with the intolerable cost of getting a roof over one’s head, which in turn has something to do with the intolerable cost of property, which in turn proceeds from the artificial scarcity of building land created by the state.

The buck stops with the Prime Minister. Does he have the guts to act?

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Paul Mercer: Tackling homelessness from the ground up

Cllr Paul Mercer is a councillor on Charnwood Borough Council and is the Lead Member for Housing in the Cabinet. He is writing in a personal capacity.

The Homelessness Reduction Act which came into force in April 2018 was always going to be a challenge. Charnwood Borough Council put a lot of effort into ensuring that housing officers were ready. As lead member for housing, I attended briefings, accompanied officers on a training session, and ensured that other Cabinet members were aware of its implications.

The Act has resulted in a significant increase in the number of cases of homelessness which councils have had to deal with and has put significant pressure on both officers and finances.

In the first year of the Act, Charnwood dealt with 609 cases, of which a third had formerly been in private rented accommodation. Almost half were a consequence of relationships breaking down; less than one per cent were because of mortgage repossession; 58 per cent had no children; and 27 per cent were single parents.

We have always been conscious that many private sector landlords and letting agents are reluctant to accept tenants who are on low incomes or claim benefits. With housing stock levels declining, and funding more difficult to find, it has become more difficult for the homeless to access the private rented sector.

With this in mind, we launched ‘CBC Lettings’ at the Private Landlords Forum in April 2019. This is a social lettings service designed to make renting out a property easier in the private rented sector. It was set up to provide landlords with a range of different options to let out their property, whilst working to improve the standards of accommodation within the sector; and to improve access to the sector for homeless and vulnerably-housed households.

In May 2019, a successful bid was made to the Rapid Rehousing Pathway fund. The bid was to expand the CBC Lettings Service across Leicestershire. The successful bid has meant the creation of two new posts, a CBC Lettings Officer and a CBC Lettings Liaison Officer. These posts provide a professional and comprehensive service to customers and offer intensive support at the beginning of the tenancy and at points of crisis.

CBC Lettings does not charge any set up fees for the management of a property. It does charge a monthly management fee which covers the costs of running the service. In order to encourage landlords to become involved, we have held a series of well-attended landlord forums with presentations on relevant issues, but with the objective of promoting this service.

These events, coupled with the promotion of CBC Lettings, have gone some way towards encouraging landlords to look more favourably on low income and benefit-claiming tenants. However, it has not gone far enough. Therefore we are looking at other ways in which landlords can be encouraged to engage.

The cost of putting individuals and families into temporary accommodation is significant and it is likely that there are many long-term and unquantifiable knock-on effects. Finding secure accommodation is therefore not only preferable but is likely to lead to other savings as well. For many councils, including Charnwood, building new social housing is not practical because of the lack of availability of suitable land. But the greatest hurdle is this reluctance of private sector landlords to accept these tenants.

Landlords are wary because of a concern that tenants could damage their properties and there would be no realistic way of being compensated. This apprehension is not entirely misplaced although, in my experience, it is only a small minority who cause significant damage. Many of these landlords have borrowed money to buy these properties and the Government has recently reduced the tax benefits of buy to let schemes. Therefore, one option might be to offer landlords who are prepared to let their properties to tenants who either need to be rehoused immediately or are on our priority waiting list an incentive – through being able to offset some of their interest against tax while the properties are being rented. The amount could be increased until it was clear that it was having a beneficial impact on the level of homelessness.

Councils already provide ‘partnership grants’ of up to £15,000 to help towards the cost of works to bring empty properties to a decent home standard in exchange for nomination rights. Once completed, the owner enters into an assured shorthold tenancy agreement with the tenant under the provisions of the Housing Act 1988 and the Council will provide a rent deposit bond to the owner to the value of four weeks rent. If the full amount is claimed, the Council has nomination rights for three years, and the property must be available for five years.

The idea would be to extend this concept and allow landlords to gain tax relief by offsetting their mortgage interest payments while they were renting to tenants who had been either in temporary accommodation or in a priority band on the housing register. This would go some way towards meeting the challenge that councils have to face as a consequence of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

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WATCH: Labour will create an economic crisis if they win the election, warns Javid

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Be sure to sign up for next week’s “poverty simulation”

Westlake Legal Group homeless Be sure to sign up for next week’s “poverty simulation” The Blog simulation Silicon Valley San Francisco Poverty homelessness

If you happen to be one of the well-heeled liberals living in the posh environs of Cupertino, California, mark November 2nd on your calendars. The economic disparity in your region is such that those with homes and good jobs in the tech sector are out of touch with their more financially challenged brethren. (Yes, we’re looking at you.) With that in mind, you need some sort of exercise to help you better relate to those living on the other side of the tracks or, more likely, in a cardboard box. Not to worry… the city has you covered. Come on down to the Cupertino Senior Center on the second of the month and take part in a “poverty simulator.” (Free Beacon)

Residents of Cupertino, Calif., and the surrounding enclaves populated by wealthy liberals will soon have the opportunity to attend a government-sponsored “poverty simulation” designed to educate participants on “the reality of a Silicon Valley that grows in disparity as much as prosperity.”

The event will take place on Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cupertino Senior Center. During the two-hour simulation, participants will “work to overcome barriers to social services, live off insufficient income, and encounter unforeseen economic obstacles along the way,” according to the City of Cupertino website.

The poverty simulation will be hosted by the city and two local nonprofits, West Valley Community Services and Step Up Silicon Valley. The latter group describes itself as a “social innovation network focused on reducing poverty.”

So for two hours on a Saturday morning you will be able to learn how to access social services. I suppose that could come in handy if you lose your job. You’ll also be “living off of insufficient income.” Even if they take all of your money away at the door, how much were you going to spend between ten and noon on Saturday morning? Particularly when you’re inside of a retirement center.

If you’re so well off that you can’t “relate” to the less fortunate, perhaps there’s a better way to make an impact. You could go down to the local soup kitchen with a big bag of bread, cold cuts, cheese, and condiments and start making sandwiches to feed the hungry. You might consider calling the local battered women’s shelter and see if they need any help or donations. Heck, you could just walk down to the areas where the homeless congregate on the streets and start handing out food. I’ve seen people do it.

Nobody is going to learn about the experience of being poor in two hours when they’re just going to walk back outside, hop into their Tesla and drive back to their gated community. Real poverty is figuring out where your next meal is coming from and then not being able to enjoy it because you still have no idea where the next meal will come from. It’s being out on the street and knowing that you won’t have a locked door between you and any potential attackers when you lay your head down to rest that night.

Of course, as Andrew Stiles at the Free Beacon points out, if all you’re really interested in doing is trying to publicly express your opposition to poverty and make sure all of your friends see you doing it, carry on. Sounds like you’ve got this one nailed down pat.

The post Be sure to sign up for next week’s “poverty simulation” appeared first on Hot Air.

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Ilhan Omar promises the Squad will eliminate homelessness with Homes for All legislation

Westlake Legal Group Ilhan-Omar-homes-for-all Ilhan Omar promises the Squad will eliminate homelessness with Homes for All legislation The Squad The Blog Ilhan Omar homelessness

During a town hall event Thursday, Rep. Ilhan Omar was asked if she would support a home guarantee and make a commitment to “building millions of social housing units.”

Ilhan Omar replied that when she first came to America she was shocked to see homeless people. “It is a moral stain on our country that we have half-a-million or more people facing homelessness,” Omar said. She added, “In a few weeks, we are going to introduce our Homes For All legislation, which will, hopefully, guarantee a home for everyone by investing federal dollars in the creation of millions of homes.”

Omar went on to explain that the Squad would be rolling out a coordinated effort regarding Homes for All: “We collectively in the progressive caucus, mainly the Squad…are going to be rolling out a Homes for All package, each one of us, that will deal with many of the systematic problems that we have in our housing.”

I guess it was inevitable that the party of free college and free health care would get around to promising free homes for all. Obviously, there aren’t a lot of details here yet but Omar says there are half a million homeless people in the US, which is in line with recent government reports that found about that many people were homeless on a given night in 2017:

On a single night in 2017, 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States. For every 10,000 people in the country, 17 were experiencing homelessness. Approximately twothirds (65%) were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, and about onethird (35%) were in unsheltered locations.

The number of homeless in a given year is much higher because most people are only homeless temporarily. They either find a place to live (with friends or family) or they find a new job, etc. The long term homeless who you see living on the street in tents are a different population, a majority of whom have mental problems or drug problems that prevent them from reintegrating into society. So if Omar’s plan is to provide free homes to the people she saw on the streets then she’s necessarily going to be giving those homes to a lot of people who have other serious problems that go beyond a lack of affordable housing.

I’m also curious about the cost of all of this. In 2016, LA residents passed proposition HHH which raised $1.2 billion to create just 10,000 new housing units for the homeless. But 2 1/2 years later the plan is looking like a debacle:

Today the ten-year goal to build 10,000 units of homeless housing is in serious jeopardy, beset by delays, losses in federal tax credit funding, and skyrocketing construction costs. Not a single HHH unit was completed by the end of 2018…

The city has committed $311,672,673 of the $1.2 billion voter-approved bond money to 33 development projects to build a total of 2,133 units of affordable housing, including 1,643 with supportive services for the chronically homeless. It has broken ground on eight projects and approved construction loans for five more, which are slated to launch within a month.

But even if all goes according to plan, no more than 239 of the affordable units are expected to be completed by the end of this year, including 164 for permanent supportive housing.

Maybe a nationwide approach will be more successful, but ultimately, no matter who provides the money, this is going to boil down to city bureaucracies that have to actually make these projects happen. Anyone who thinks that is going to go smoothly, efficiently, or cheaply, hasn’t been paying attention.

This clip courtesy of the Washington Examiner:

The post Ilhan Omar promises the Squad will eliminate homelessness with Homes for All legislation appeared first on Hot Air.

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Gov. Abbott says Austin’s mayor must deal with homeless camping downtown or the state will do it for him

Westlake Legal Group Gregg-Abbott Gov. Abbott says Austin’s mayor must deal with homeless camping downtown or the state will do it for him The Blog Texas homelessness Gov. Greg Abbott austin

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is not happy with Austin’s Democratic Mayor Steve Adler. Earlier this month, Gov. Abbott sent Adler a letter giving Mayor Adler 30 days to deal with the homeless situation in the city or else. Here’s how the Dallas Morning News reported Abbott’s letter:

Abbott sternly wrote Austin Mayor Steve Adler and admonished him for not reversing the City Council’s June rescission of prohibitions on sitting or sleeping in public and panhandling in certain parts of the city that didn’t specifically prohibit it.

Abbott cited news reports about used needles and feces littering certain locations, and the arrest early last month of a homeless man accused of assault with injury of a woman.

“As the governor of Texas, I have the responsibility to protect the health and safety of all Texans, including Austin residents,” Abbott wrote.

“Further inaction by you and the Austin City Council will leave me no choice other than to use the tools available to the state of Texas to ensure that people are protected from health and safety concerns caused by the Austin homeless policies,” the Republican governor said.

Gov. Abbott made this video expressing the sentiments in his letter:

Last week Gov. Abbott sent the mayor a second letter reinforcing the November 1 deadline. Today the governor gave an interview to KXAN’s Phil Prazan in which he described what would come next if the mayor doesn’t take action.

PRAZAN: Let’s start with just on your letter. November 1st comes. How is this going to look, because the critics at city hall question whether there’s any legal authority to actually do this?

ABBOTT: The state of Texas has a multitude of laws, whether it be health laws — the transportation department can go about cleaning up all this mess. As governor of Texas, I’m not going to stand idly by while Austin allows feces on the streets of downtown. It endangers health. It endangers safety. The laws of the state of Texas give me as governor the power to make sure I keep our citizens and residents safe. I will not allow the city of Austin to endanger the people of this state to be exposed to things like Typhus and Hepatitis A.

He added that Dallas, which has a higher numer of homeless people, doesn’t look like downtown Austin:

PRAZANTheir argument is, if you ticket people, that leads to warrants. If they can’t pay, then warrants get in the way of them getting a job or getting a home. That’s their argument for why they did it. What are your thoughts on that, because the way they frame it seems to be reasonable?

ABBOTT: It’s insane the way they phrase it. I spent three days in Dallas, Texas, the past few days. I’ve covered almost every area of downtown Dallas. There was not one person out camping. There was not one person laying on the street. No feces on the ground. They have more homeless in Dallas than they have in Austin, Texas, because they have an orderly process. They go about making sure that what’s going on in downtown Austin is not taking place in downtown Dallas…

What I’m saying is city hall, this week, better vote to restore the camping ban to stop allowing the homeless to live a life different from other people. They are empowering the homeless to say ‘You have no rules that apply to your life. Use the bathroom wherever you want.’ That’s not the way society works. What the city of Austin is doing is they are hurting the homeless. They are exposing the homeless to greater danger — the risk of greater disease by the rules they are allowing the homeless to live by.

Here’s the full interview with Gov. Abbott. This is the kind of thing you rarely see in California or Washington, where having the homeless live in tent camps and use the sidewalks as a bathroom seems to be a given for local authorities. At least Gov. Abbott is calling on Austin to expect better.

The post Gov. Abbott says Austin’s mayor must deal with homeless camping downtown or the state will do it for him appeared first on Hot Air.

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Jonathan Glanz: Allowing tents on the public highway is the wrong way to help rough sleepers

Cllr Jonathan Glanz represents West End Ward on Westminster City Council and is the Council’s Lead Member for Broadband and Connectivity

If somebody pitched a tent on the front lawn of your home, you would be within your rights to remove them from your property immediately as they would be trespassing. If somebody pitches a tent on the Public Highway, as we have seen examples on Regent Street, Piccadilly and Whitehall, the Local Authority has no power to remove them without first serving 30 days’ notice on the occupants. That is the minimum requirement, and it is only then that a Court Order can be made to remove the tent. The process therefore often takes considerably longer.

The Court Order applies not to the individual within the tent, nor to the tent itself, but to the specific location of the tent at the time. If the tent has been moved, even by just a metre or so, the Order is invalid, and even when a valid Order is obtained, the recipients, fully wise to the current law, can move the tent and the whole process starts again.

The tents provide immediate shelter for rough sleepers, but they also provide a space where they can undertake activities unseen from the prying eyes of neighbours or law-enforcement officers.

Tents pitched in Soho have frequently been used as drugs dealing points, for drug consumption, prostitution and other crimes. As they amount to a private space or dwelling, neither the police nor the Council can require the occupants to open the tent flap and reveal the activity within without a warrant.

Those occupying the tents often use the nearby street for dumping, as a lavatory and a queue for drug users or prostitutes’ punters. You can imagine the frustration of living above or besides such activity and having no effective remedy.

This is part of the increasing challenges faced by Local Authorities and police with rough sleeping in our city centres. Westminster spends over £7 million per year reaching out to rough sleepers in an attempt to bring those living on the streets indoors where they can receive medical attention and help to start rebuilding their lives.

Westminster has always had more than its fair share of people living on the streets. Historically, it was Meths drinkers in and around the Strand, many of whom suffered from substance misuse or mental health, who lived (and in many cases prematurely died) on our streets.

However, the new tent-dwelling cohort are part of significant Roma population who have come to London simply to beg and indulge the generosity of the resident and visitor population. Whilst many visitors salve their conscience by thinking they are helping the individual concerned, those who understand the problems know that these people, often victims themselves, are part of sophisticated organised crime.

Literally, millions of pounds per year are taken out of the West End economy by such activity. Unfortunately, little if any of this goes to help the individuals concerned, who are merely pawns in the organised crime game. They themselves are the victims of modern slavery as they are forced to beg on the streets, and then account for their monies to their gang masters. Those giving money believe they are helping the individuals concerned to buy a sandwich because their piece of cardboard, provided to them at the beginning of their shift, says “I’m hungry”. In fact, they are providing money which is more likely to go to fund the next Range Rover for Mr Big back in Romania.

The agencies involved in seeking to help rough sleepers and the police will tell you that it is not unusual for these beggars to take £500 or £600 cash per session in central London. Indeed, a Senior Police Officer told me that he recently arrested one who had £6,500 in cash on them.

Roma beggars now live in our parks, squares, subways and doorways. Men and (even heavily pregnant) women often spend their nights on the streets and then await their gangmaster who will allocate spots to them and organise their shifts and arrange to collect their monies afterwards. They are extremely well-organised.

This behaviour has now has become further entrenched with the tents. Last week saw a huge operation to clear 15 tents from the central reservation of Park Lane and a similar number from Hanover Square, where Crossrail is building one of its Bond Street Stations. Needless to say, they are already back. Residents and businesses are at their wits’ end, complaining that neither the police nor the Council have sufficient resource to undertake the necessary enforcement, but the fundamental problem lies elsewhere.

As Romania is in the European Union, its citizens are free to travel, and free to work in the UK. They claim to be here exercising their Treaty Rights, and the Courts have decided that they have a right to be here, even when they have no intention of seeking work (presumably decided by a judge who does not live in the West End). Consequently, there have been further emboldened by this process, and we must now, as we leave the European Union, revisit the Legislation, so that we can have appropriate enforcement action coordinated between UK Borders Authority and with the full support of the Council, police and Home Office to ensure that this arrangement, facilitating and providing monies for organised crime comes to a swift end.

I am therefore calling on Priti Patel to ensure that Local Authorities be given the necessary powers to deal with such problems. Whilst this problem is by no means confined to the West End or indeed London, without the necessary powers both the police and the Council struggle to make any effective progress.

The idea that tents on the Public Highway require 30 days’ notice for their removal is nonsensical, and, in the same way, as you would be entitled to remove a tent from your front lawn with immediate effect, Local Authorities must be given the same power to deal with tents on the Public Highway.

I am also calling on her to prioritise the necessary legislation to ensure that people who come to the UK as part of an organised begging gang can be swiftly and effectively repatriated.

Without such powers, our city centres, already blighted by begging, antisocial behaviour and criminality will become no-go areas for residents, law-abiding citizens and visitors.


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Great News for L.A.’s Homeless Population: ‘Second Phase’ of City’s Plastic Straw Ban Now Underway

Westlake Legal Group LosAngelesHomeless2-620x357 Great News for L.A.’s Homeless Population: ‘Second Phase’ of City’s Plastic Straw Ban Now Underway Straw ban progressives priorities Politics North Carolina los angeles Human Rights homelessness homeless Government Gavin Newsom Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story Featured Post donald trump democrats Culture California Allow Media Exception

A homeless encampment in Los Angeles, CA. Screen grab via Fox News.

The long-running housing crisis and homeless problems in California’s big Democrat-run cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have been well-documented. But the tens of thousands of those living on the streets in L.A. can rest a little easier this week as the ‘second phase’ of the city’s straw ban has gone into effect.

KABC reports:

The first phase of the “Straws on Request” initiative went into effect in April on Earth Day, and applied to restaurants with more than 26 employees. The second phase expands the ordinance to include restaurants of all sizes, including fast food and sit down businesses.

Under the city ordinance, restaurants can only provide plastic straws if a patron asks for one.

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and the city’s Bureau of Sanitation held a press conference Monday morning in Echo Park to remind restaurants of the law.

O’Farrell said the law seeks to reduce “single-use plastic waste from littering our beaches and waterways.”

Per the L.A. County website, “non-compliance may result in notices of violation and $25 fines for each day the business is in violation, not to exceed $300 annually.”

CBS Los Angeles notes that the L.A. version of the straw ban goes even further than a similar law already in place at the state level:

The Los Angeles ordinance is more restrictive than a state law that bars full-service restaurants from automatically giving out single-use plastic straws because it applies to fast food restaurants and is the latest in a series of moves to by several other cities and organizations to cut down the use of plastic straws.

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell (D), who led the effort to get the straw ban in place, told a journalist during a news conference this week that in his opinion people didn’t really need straws to drink with anyway. He also provided smoothie drinkers with some helpful advice:

Twitter users had a some thoughts and questions after reading the news about Phase Two of the straw ban and O’Farrell’s suggestion:

Fox News took an in-depth look at the homeless crisis in Los Angeles back in August. Watch their report below to find out just how bad it is, and what L.A. is (not) doing about it:


(Hat tip: Twitchy)

Flashback –>> Disabled Woman Tweets Epic Thread Demonstrating the Absurdity of Plastic Straw Bans – and Her Rant Goes Viral

— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –

The post Great News for L.A.’s Homeless Population: ‘Second Phase’ of City’s Plastic Straw Ban Now Underway appeared first on RedState.

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Can Trump tackle L.A.’s homeless problem?

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As the President continues to get into scraps with the Governor of California and the mayors of several major cities on the left coast, add Los Angeles to the list. But this time, rather than just seeing accusations coming from both sides, there might be a workable solution to a very real problem in the offing. We’ve already spent considerable time covering the exploding homelessness problem in the City of Angels, and asking if there’s nothing to be done about it. But what if there was?

On the outskirts of L.A. sits the abandoned Hawthorne Federal Building, formerly the west coast home of the Federal Aviation Administration. Homeless advocates had previously asked if the facility might be repurposed to house displaced citizens, but they were turned away. Now, however, Donald Trump’s team on the ground is talking about using the building for just that purpose. (Government Executive)

One option under discussion is to use a former government building just outside Los Angeles to house (or detain) people now living in Skid Row in downtown L.A., where some 8,000 to 11,000 people are typically living on the streets. Federal officials have already reportedly toured the facility, the former West Coast headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration, located 20 miles away in Hawthorne, California.

But a review of public records shows that the government previously rejected two efforts by advocacy groups to use the former Federal Aviation Administration building to serve the homeless.

Repurposing federal properties to provide homeless services isn’t a new or unprecedented idea: In fact, federal law already requires the government to make unused properties available to advocacy organizations that provide shelter or services to the homeless.

Could this building provide housing for all of the homeless in the Skid Row area? (Estimated to be between eight and eleven thousand.) No. Not even close. But it could hold a lot of them. You can take a look at the building here. It’s six stories tall and as long as a city block. It would require some work, most likely in the form of adding more bathrooms and lots of showers, but other than that it might be quite serviceable.

There are, unfortunately, complicating factors. First of all, the site has been named a historic landmark because of its period architectural style. That doesn’t mean it can’t be sold, but it does throw a wrench in the works.

Perhaps the bigger barrier comes from the politics involved. Even if both the federal and municipal governments want to do this, there remain questions of who will handle the logistics and (probably more importantly) who will get the credit. The President would like Washington to tackle the conversion and have federal agents rounding up the homeless and transferring them to the new facility. The city would obviously rather handle it themselves in cooperation with advocacy groups. We might be setting up for a stalemate here that shuts down a potentially viable answer to a significant challenge.

On that note, even if the Hawthorne Building can’t be made to work, the government is still sitting on a vast number of properties, both government and military in nature, that are collecting dust. Finding some way to get them back on the tax rolls, or at least serving some useful purpose, should be an obvious choice. And I’m not talking about only in Los Angeles. There are abandoned military bases and other facilities around the country, some with track housing that’s ready to be refurbished and put to use just sitting there. If the President is willing to go along with this, why not make it happen?

The post Can Trump tackle L.A.’s homeless problem? appeared first on Hot Air.

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