Hear how campaigners won full fire safety remediation promise from Bellway, Tuesday 7 Dec

Protest in June 2021 at Bellway development in Chelmsford

Bellway is the first developer to cave in the battle to make developers pay for the building safety crisis. This comes as no surprise since the main organisers of Action for Fire Safety Justice, the group responsible for a series of high impact showroom protests, have been relentlessly targeting Bellway for over six months.

The biggest lesson from this victory is that protest works, particularly protests that directly hit the developers’ pockets and put off potential new buyers. This has been a key feature of the campaign, which has also targeted government with a rally at Downing Street. Homes for All has been proud to support this campaign, which has sought to unite tenants, leaseholders, trade unions and Grenfell campaigners in a struggle that fights for safety before profit.

Bellway Homes have agreed to fully fund the fire safety remediation of Caspian Quarter not only removes the financial burden from Caspian Quarter leaseholders, but provides a degree of peace of mind for the future in view of the incoming fire safety regimes such as the new standard PAS8890. This comes shortly after the win for leaseholders at Bellway’s Chelmsford development, where the developer confirmed it will step in to fund works that will remove unsafe Grenfell style cladding from their homes. https://www.essexlive.news/news/essex-news/essex-housing-bellway-homes-replace-6210489

Bellway Homes confirmed in a letter to Barking Leaseholders:

In this instance and due to the unique set of circumstances, Bellway will step in, set aside legal responsibility, and wholly fund and deliver the removal and replacement of the balcony decking, check and rectify cavity barriers and install those considered missing behind the cladding, as well as replace the cladding with an A1/A2 rated alternative.

AFSJ issued a press statement saying:

This victory comes after a concerted effort from Caspian Quarter and other leaseholders, support from the active Barking Reach Residents Association, housing groups such as Homes4All, other campaign groups such as UK Cladding Action Group, End Our Cladding Scandal, and National Leasehold Campaign, Polluter Pays Bill team, Grenfell campaigners, Fire Brigade Union and other trades unions. The campaign included multiple local and national protests, meetings, emails, media coverage and was also supported by the MP for Barking Dame Margaret Hodge, Councillor Cameron Geddes and the Barking & Dagenham Council, and the Bishop of Barking.

Joanna, the co-founder of Action of Fire Safety Justice, said:

I am over the moon and cannot describe the feeling of relief upon hearing the news of Bellway finally doing the right thing for Caspian Quarter, after they had agreed to do the same for our friends at the Marconi development in Chelmsford. The building safety crisis has so many facets and consequences – in addition to safety and financial worries, it is a tremendous pressure on leaseholders’ and their families’ mental health.

Action for Fire Safety Justice will continue to fight for and with all leaseholders affected by this horrendous scandal. We call upon Bellway to remediate the rest of their defective buildings, and on other developers to follow suit, so that we may all sleep soundly, not having to worry for our lives or livelihoods.

AFSJ are keen to share their learnings with others who are facing the same thing and they will host a public meeting on 7th December where they will talk about how the victory was won and answer questions. Homes for All congratulates all who had a role in winning this concession from Bellway. We are excited to continue supporting any housing struggle that fights for homes for people, not for profit.

Public Meeting: TUESDAY, 7 DECEMBER 2021 FROM 19:00-20:30

Action for Fire Safety Justice Update: How We Beat Bellway & How to Keep Going?

Join us as we share the campaigning tactics that forced Bellway to pay full remediation costs for our blocks. Hear from six Fire Safety Justice campaigners and join us in an open discussion as we reflect on successes and challenges in 2021 and decide together, where do we go from here?

Agenda

*How We Beat Bellway (and how you can too)*
Chloe, Joanna & Kelly, ASFJ crew & Bellway Must Pay co-founders

*How We’re Beating Barratt*
Rhian, Barratt leaseholder, AFSJ crew

*How We Won London City Hall*
Reece (photographer and film-maker) and Natalie (Tower Hamlets Leaseholders for Justice), AFSJ crew

*How to Keep Going: Building Safety Crisis and Mental Health*
Natalie and Jane, AFSJ crew

*Q&A session: successes, challenges and next steps

*Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81699453728

Meeting ID: 816 9945 3728

Dial by your location
0203 901 7895 United Kingdom

Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/FireSafetyJustice

Building Safety Crisis Day of Action, 30 October, keeps up pressure on government

Action for Fire Safety Justice protest at City Hall 30 October 2021

The Tories re-announced their ‘solution’ to the building safety crisis in the Budget last week, a £5bn fund to tackle fire safety remediation. Of course this money is a fraction of the £5 – £50bn that remediation is expected to cost. This was accompanied, as usual, by warm words about how leaseholders should not have to pay. If they thought they could put a dampener on the planned protests on Saturday, they were very wrong. There were eight protests and seven of them were live streamed into the Building Safety Crisis rally online. We were delighted to support the protests in person and by providing the tech support.

We heard, a couple of days before the day of action that Michael Gove had called leaseholders in for a meeting. Michael Gove is the Secretary of State for Levelling Up (sic), Housing and Communities. We think there is little doubt that the publicity around the upcoming protests played a role in his decision to meet leaseholders. Following the protests we are reliably informed that there is more interest in the press and parliament for a real solution – the Polluter Pays Bill.

Solidarity to all those fighting back!

Watch the Online Rally On YouTube On Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Homes4AllUK/videos/570884867514185 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7HBXYRrtIQ&t=1745s

We demanded that the Government makes Developers pay! The costs to fix fire safety issues should not fall on tenants or leaseholders.
Speakers were: Chloe Waite, Action for Fire Safety Justice Tanya Murat, Homes For All Jenni Garrett, End Our Cladding Scandal Matt Wrack, FBU Georgie Hume, CLADDAG Chair, Moyra Samuels, Grenfell Campaigner
Protests featured at the online rally were: ⁕ London City Hal l⁕ Abbey Quays Barking ⁕ Upton Park ⁕ Ipswich Waterfront ⁕ Stotfold ⁕ Bristol City Hall ⁕ Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights

REPORT: This ITV report is a good example of the coverage we received.

https://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/2021-10-30/the-costs-could-bankrupt-me-cladding-victims-plead-for-government-support

Protests, 30 October 2021

Barking – Weston Homes
Bristol City Hall
London City Hall
London City Hall
Ipswich Waterfront
Milton Keynes – Crest Nicholson
Stotfold – Linden Homes
Upton Park – Barratt
How one leasholder re-imagined Michael Gove

Next General Meeting: Saturday 12th June, 2021

Topic: Homes 4 All General Meeting
Time: Jun 12, 2021 11:00 AM London

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82426578224

Meeting ID: 824 2657 8224


Agenda
1. #EndOurCladdingScandal showroom protest day report (5 June) and next steps
2. Grenfell 4th anniversary actions Monday14th June
3. Campaign Against Empty Homes Day of Action (2nd October) and local reports on empty homes
4. Evictions (moratorium ended 31 May?)
5. Cllr Diarmaid Ward will attend to discuss requisitioning
6. AOB

We look forward to seeing you there.

Join us to mark the 4th anniversary of the Grenfell fire

Local actions. If you know of any others taking place, please email or tweet @Homes4AllUK

Southwark Grenfell 4 Years Anniversary Vigil 6:30pm – 7pm Elephant Park marketing suite (Lendlease) https://fb.me/e/gbI6M0KT7

Haringey Grenfell Solidarity Vigil 18.30 at Haringey Civic Centre https://twitter.com/partridgebirdie/status/1404208676739719172?s=20 https://www.facebook.com/HDCHpage/

Manchester 12:30 – 13:00 St Peter’s Sq / Manchester Central Libraryhttps://twitter.com/McrClad…/status/1403673350451478534…

Liverpool Supporting Grenfell vigil St Lukes Bombed Out Church 6pm https://twitter.com/CllrAnn…/status/1403094500583542786…

Barking Grenfell Vigil 6:30pm – 7pm Samuel Garside House (grassy patch outside)Barking Riverside https://twitter.com/Doge977…/status/1403106456136830982…

Tower Hamlets Remember the Grenfell 72 5.30pm St John’s Church, 200 Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PA https://www.facebook.com/events/168398331966069?ref=newsfeed

Milton Keynes, 6pm, Council Offices near the Library https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10225957248901474&id=1342452975

On Monday 14th June, Homes for All is calling for supporters to remember the 72 lives lost and to stand in solidarity with the survivors and bereaved of the Grenfell fire. This must never happen again.

We are asking people to join their friends, workmates, family and neighbours. Make a placard using the slogans below and bring a candle.

Where? Your protest or vigil could be at work, after college, at a developers’ showroom or town hall. It’s up to you.

The important thing is to come together, discuss how we can achieve our demands for justice and have a visible show of solidarity. Take photos and post them on social media.

#JusticeForGrenfell #DecentAndSafeHomesForAll #PeopleBeforeProfit

If you live near North Kensington please join the silent walk organised by Grenfell United.

Grenfell Silent Walk
Notting Hill Methodist Church

240 Lancaster Road, London W11 4AH
6.40pm, 14th June 2021

Press Release: Extend the Eviction Ban

PRESS RELEASE from Homes for All – 02/06/2021 for immediate release

Housing Campaign condemns the government’s heartless decision to end the eviction ban, putting hundreds of thousands at risk of homelessness

The Government’s announcement to end the ban on evictions on May 31st 2021 is now on course to plunge hundreds of thousands of private renters into homelessness

The pandemic has shown the extent to which extreme inequality in the UK can be measured through the indicators of insecure, unaffordable and unsafe housing. Shelter and other leading organisations have revealed that the wellbeing of many families has already been compromised in order to pay their rent. 

It is essential that the government reverses its decision to end the eviction ban immediately if it is to avoid a massive crisis of homelessness over the coming months and over 100 organizations, campaigns, union representatives and leading spokespeople have signed a letter by the national housing campaign Homes for All calling for this. 

John, Lord Bird, founder of The Big Issue, said

“With the Eviction Ban ending, I fear what the coming months will bring. This is about making sure we don’t condemn hundreds of thousands of people to homelessness.

“It is key that the Government supports decent landlords by getting them back to profitability, whilst preventing mass evictions. 

 “Those who privately rent will have felt the brunt of Covid-inflicted job losses, falling incomes and rising debts in the past year. The government urgently needs a Covid Rent Debt Fund to clear these debts, get tenants back on their feet, and allow landlords to claim the income they’ve lost.

The Big Issue set up the Ride Out Recession Alliance in Spring 2020 to prevent mass homelessness caused by Covid-19 poverty and called for the Eviction Ban to be upheld. “

John McDonnell MP said:

“The government cannot just stand by and do nothing about the massive wave of evictions that we are now facing. Action is needed urgently to prevent this threatened dramatic rise in homelessness.”

Homes for All is a broad-based coalition campaigning for secure, safe and affordable housing for all and their letter to highlight this issue with nearly 150 signatures from leading union, campaign and political organisations is here:  letter here.

Household Financial Crunch Data – A glimpse

Striking Numbers

£2,300 Average increase in debt and arrears since March 2020 among those who have fallen behind on bills or borrowed for essentials.

-22.4% Change in outstanding credit card balances in year to January 2021.

360,000 Increase in unemployment in the year to January 2021.

6.8% Increase in average first-time buyer house price in the year to January 2021.Every Day in the UK

£25 billion Amount of arrears and debt accumulated by 11.1 million households since March 2020 due to the financial pressures of the pandemic.

460,000 Number of private sector renters who were behind on their rent in January 2021, up from 230,000 in May 2020.

2.3 million Number of people falling behind on their broadband bill in November 2020.

7 in 10 Proportion of Universal Credit claimants seeking advice from Citizens Advice who have not previously made a benefits claim.

Personal Debt in the UK

People in the UK owed £1,700.2 billion at the end of January 2021.

The average total debt per household, including mortgages, was £60,999 and per adult was £32,087, around 107.6% of average earnings.

Net mortgage lending rose by £5.17 billion in the month, while net consumer credit lending fell by £2.79 billion.

Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales answered380,283 enquiries in February 2021, 9.5% down from February 2020.Mortgages, Rent & Housing

Outstanding mortgage lending stood at £1,501 billion at the end of January 2021.

The average mortgage interest rate was 2.09% at the end of January 2021. Based on this, households with mortgages would pay an average of £2,854 in mortgage interest over the year.

HM Land Registry reports that the average house price for first-time buyers in Great Britain was £208,336 in January 2021, an annual increase of 6.8% and a monthly change of -0.6%.

According to the Office for National Statistics, private rental prices in the UK rose by 1.4% in the 12 months to February 2021.
(All the above data brought to you by Money Advice Charity)

Response from Housing Lead on Southampton City Council

This is a quick response from Housing lead on Southampton City Council – 

she will be responding more fully – action on evictions:

  • Suspended all debt recovery during lockdown 1 when there was so much uncertainty around Government support and delays to UC.
  • We are contacting all our tenants to ensure those entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments are getting DHP, along with support with benefits to make sure they are claiming for everything they should be.
  • We have set up a citywide joint working group with frontline services, including local charities and advice services, to make sure no one is falling through the gaps. If a group are, we are working on what we can do together to try and mitigate impact for them.
  • Any debt policy is being co-design with local charities and advice services.
  • We are taking a more bespoke approach to debt and people’s needs, looking at an individual and what support they may need holistically (broader than just debt they may owe).  
  • Rather than just letters, which can get confusing and scare people, based on advice from local charities, we have also increased use of phone, email and additional stages in the process to allow more time for the individual to get back on track.
  • As well as continuing to negotiate payment arrangements, we have also increased our use of alternative payment arrangements to support tenants.
  • We have set up an Arrears Review Panel, to ensure there are far more checks and balances and offer to support, before taking any further action.

No DSS: Landmark Court ruling declares housing benefit discrimination is unlawful

Right now, hundreds of thousands of renters are facing discrimination when looking for a home. They’re being locked out of properties they could otherwise afford – simply because they receive housing benefit.   

For a long time, letting agents and landlords have been putting in place so-called ‘no DSS’, ‘no benefits’, or ‘no Universal Credit’ policies to prevent renters who receive housing benefit from accessing homes.   

But today we have received official confirmation of a landmark court ruling declaring housing benefit discrimination unlawful, marking a huge breakthrough for our End DSS Discrimination campaign.  

An historic hearing 

Housing benefit discrimination has been confirmed as unlawful in a landmark court ruling. 

At the historic hearing at York County Court involving Shelter client Jane*, ‘no DSS’ discrimination was declared unlawful, meaning letting agents and private landlords will have to drive out old discriminatory practices for good.  

District Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark confirmed that rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit is unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability, and contrary to sections 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010.  

Discrimination and the Equality Act  

Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful to indirectly discriminate based on things like gender, disability or race. ‘No DSS’, ‘no benefits’ or ‘no Universal Credit’ policies breach the act via indirect discrimination, as they disproportionately harm women and disabled people, who are more likely to receive housing benefit.   

This court ruling has confirmed what we have been arguing – that anyone who seeks to exclude renters receiving housing benefit is not just acting unjustly, but unlawfully too. 

A win in the courts  

This is the first time that a UK court has fully considered a case like this.  

Shelter has been fighting to end DSS discrimination for nearly two years, and we have been involved in several other ‘no DSS’ cases. These all settled at an early stage, with each letting agent agreeing to change their practices and offering apologies and compensation to our clients.  

We’ve been pleased to see the changes that these individual letting agents have made, but to bring about widespread change across the private rented sector – and be able to help others who have experienced housing benefit discrimination in the future – we wanted a judge to make a formal ruling on a case.  

That’s the difference with Jane’s* case. It’s the first time a UK court has declared it unlawful to discriminate against someone because they receive housing benefit.  

Jane’s experience  

Jane turned to Shelter for help when a letting agent refused to rent any properties to her because of a company policy not to accept tenants receiving housing benefit.  

Jane is a hard-working single mum who lives with a disability. She had rented privately for 10 years, always paying her rent in full and on time, and has great references from her former landlords. She was able to pay her deposit and rent in advance due to her parents lending her money, which she was able to pay back to them – and she had a guarantor.  

When her landlord served her with a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice, she needed to find a new home. She saw a suitable, affordable property and applied to rent it,  but the letting agents refused to consider her application – telling her that ‘for years’ they ‘have had a policy of not accepting housing benefit tenants’. She and her children were left homeless as a result. Jane told us:

I hope I’ll have helped people who aren’t able to be as determined as me. I’m like a dog with a bone. It’s the principle. It’s completely unfair to treat people like this, and I hope this will prove that letting agents can’t do this and prove they can’t discriminate.

Widespread change 

This landmark ruling will make a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of private renters across the country like Jane, who receive housing benefit and have been facing discrimination when looking for a home. 

We know the ‘no DSS’, ‘no benefits’ and ‘no Universal Credit’ policies are widespread, and that what Jane experienced is not a one-off occurrence. A 2020 YouGov survey found that 63% of private landlords either operate an outright ban on letting to tenants receiving housing benefit or say they prefer not to let to this group. 

But this ruling means that letting agents and private landlords will have to drive out old discriminatory practices for good, so that renters who receive housing benefit are no longer barred from renting any privately rented properties. 

We’ve seen how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to huge financial hardship, with hundreds of thousands of people losing work and urgently in need of support – including housing benefit – to help them pay their rent.  

Given the huge rise in the numbers of people receiving housing benefit due to the pandemic, we’re concerned that many more renters will be coming up against DSS discrimination.  

So, this ruling could not have come at a better time. It will make a huge difference to the lives of many private renters who are relying on housing benefit to keep their head above water.   

What happens next?  

Finally, we have formal clarification that DSS discrimination is unlawful. This win is what we need to end it for good.

Now that  it has been proven in the courts, we’ll be doubling up our efforts to end housing benefit discrimination for good – and make sure letting agents are complying with the ruling.