The independent London newspaper

Landlords see an opportunity to profit from the pandemic

18 February, 2021

Illustration by John Sadler

• I WAS so sorry to hear that the Penn Club is closing, (A sad end for this unique, noble and generous-spirited institution, February 11).

Just last year we were celebrating its 100th birthday. My friends and family have stayed there many times over the years. It has been virtually a home from home for my American friends.

And why is it closing? Because the greedy landlords see an opportunity to profit from the pandemic by converting the place into luxury flats – which will probably be bought by foreign investors as a safe places to launder their ill-gotten gains.

Could they not have given their tenants of 100 years a few months’ break?

I was impressed to learn that the Penn Club is providing free accommodation to nurses from UCH. That is so generous. But what’s happened to all the nurses’ homes that used to be attached to hospitals?

Of course, they have also been sold off and converted into luxury flats. Student nurses who once received grants while they were training, now have to pay while they study and work long hours and find flats they can afford; often many miles away from the hospitals they serve.

In Camden Town this afternoon I counted 11 people sleeping on the streets. One was a 65-year-old lady sitting in the bus shelter near Boots.

She had two suitcases on wheels and several bags piled on top of them. She had lost her job last month, fallen behind in rent and been evicted a few days earlier.

I asked her where she was staying. She said she was just going around on buses day, and night, using her Freedom Pass.

As John Gulliver pointed out, last year during the first lockdown – which began just as spring was starting – the government paid hotels to house homeless people temporarily. Why isn’t this happening again?

Our society seems to have become so insensitive – and concerned about profits rather than human life – that we are now literally letting people die on our streets.

I really hope, even at this late stage, that Bedford Estates has a change of heart and lets the Penn Club stay open.



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