If there's a housing shortage, why aren't people sleeping on the streets? Currently in the UK, everyone has a bed somewhere. Admittedly, many live in overcrowded homes whilst others rattle around in under-occupied houses. In some parts of the country whole streets and terraces of perfectly decent Victorian cottages stand empty, cottages that folk in Kentish Town or Muswell Hill would pay half a mill for. If they were in Kentish Town or Muswell Hill.
And that's the nub. The 20,000 west Africans who have arrived in my London borough over the past fifteen years don't want to live in Middlesbrough either. They'll take a decent new-build Housing Association flat, thank-you, on the corner where a local pub used to stand. Which has forced Darren and his girlfriend into a private buy-to-let that they can only afford to rent on Housing Benefit. He did train as a bus driver, but needed to work a regular 48 hour week to make £500 before tax. He'd rather leave that to the immigrants and over-50s.
And now the government has decided that if Darren and his girlfriend are going to do nothing all day except smoke spliffies and watch daytime TV they might as well do it in Margate rather than Brockley, at a considerable saving to the taxpayer.
Polly, of course, makes the most tremendous whine that Darren's mum will no longer be able to pop around from the 3-bed Council flat she's had for three decades. That the moves will split up extended families, take people out of their own areas, break links and bonds of community and family. All true, sadly. But then Polly probably doesn't follow the stats published on Migration Watch; ONS figures that show that 20% of social housing in London is occupied by foreign nationals.
Of course, we could instead move all those foreign nationals to Margate, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough and free up 350,000 homes in London overnight for all the Darrens - but I have a feeling this isn't exactly what Polly's after.