Five years after the Grenfell fire and we are no closer to a comprehensive solution to guarantee fire safety to all residents in affected blocks. And it still seems unclear exactly who will be funding remediation in many cases. This is despite the pledge developers have made to fund repairs in buildings over 11m high. This pledge is a product of the campaigning pressure of the Grenfell impacted community, leaseholder campaigns such as UK Cladding Action Group and Action for Fire Safety Justice and trade unions, particularly FBU. Homes for All has been proud to support them over the years. It’s no accident that this pledge comes just days before campaigners are due to protest again.
But whatever the Government says, and whatever Secretary of State for so-called levelling up Michael Gove wants people to believe, this pledge, and the proposed Building Safety Bill is yet another piecemeal solution for some people, at best. UKCAG explains what’s happening here. Bankruptcies and years of living in unsafe housing are set to continue for many.
This is why everyone needs to support the protest on Wednesday 20 April at 1pm in Westminster. It seems likely that following months of talks and lobbying with MPs and government ministers, the movement will have to return to the streets in a major way. This is needed to force the government to legislate to protect all leaseholders from costs and make all buildings safe. As Action for Fire Safety Justice has proved, a developer can be forced to take full responsibility for remediation if the campaign to make them do so is active enough and visible enough. We stand in solidarity with all those fighting back.
The Campaign Against Empty Homes Local Election Manifesto calls for Local Authorities to take action!
There are over 100,000 families living in Temporary Accommodation whilst over half a million homes lie empty as so-called ‘second homes’, Airbnb-type short lets, or simply have no permanent residents.
Meanwhile, the wrong type of housing is being built nationwide. Unaffordable to anyone on an average income to either rent or buy, from city centre towers to car-dependent suburbs, many of these newbuilds are sold to global investors via off-plan schemes, ending up as so-called ‘Buy to Leave’ wealth investments or Airbnbs and second homes, with no permanent residents.
Communities are being broken up as council estates that could be refurbished are being left to decline with many homes empty, only to be replaced by yet more unaffordable new builds, often financialised by private developers.
Campaign Against Empty Homes is organising a “Digital Day of Action” on Monday 25 April, 2022
Supporters of the campaign group will forward the manifesto to their council candidates and seek support. If you would like to take part in the Digital Day of Action and let the media know please download this press release.
25th April Digital Day of Action calls for candidates to end the empty homes scandal
Campaign calls for candidates to combat empty homes and stop developers building ‘The Wrong Housing’
As local elections approach the Campaign Against Empty Homes coalitioni which unites housing campaigners across political parties, homelessness and tenant organisations and trade unions call on supporters to seek local election candidate commitments to address the housing crisis.
25 April ‘Digital Day of Action’ will see supporters contact candidates to call for support of a Manifesto of demands that centre on growing numbers of empty homes and action to combat housing policy which leads to tens of thousands of new homes being sucked out of residential use as second homes and Airbnbs, as affordable options for those on average incomes decline to zero across the country.
Coalition members call on supporters and members of the public to ask local election candidates to directly address the housing crisis and support action to end the waste of hundreds of thousands of empty homes.
Long-term empty homes numbers have risen to nearly a quarter of a million and stand 20% higher than 5 years ago despite an intensifying housing crisisii.
Numbers of families in Temporary Accommodation continue to rise with 100,000iii placed in Temporary Accommodation by councils, increasing numbers housed in unsuitable accommodation distant from families and local support networks.
The Manifesto calls on candidates to support:
Funding local council work to bring empty homes back into use for those who need genuinely affordable, decent and permanent homes to live in.
Campaigning for national government action through investment and stronger powers to bring wasted homes back into use
Greater regulation of Airbnb to stop low-cost housing being sucked out of residential use.
Vacancy Taxes on homes not in residential use, to discourage second home purchases.
Local and national registers of residential property ownership and use.
Retrofit First model for social housing to prevent demolitions and help tackle the climate crisis.
Fair redevelopment to prioritise low-cost homes and council houses to meet demand – not corporate developments that break up local communities.
Will McMahon, Director of Action on Empty Homes, said “We support the Campaign Against Empty Homes Day of Action because it is time we had a frank conversation about vacancy levels. Over half a million homes are out of residential use long-term in England. Without change these homes won’t house anyone any time soon. We need to stop pretending that a quarter of a million second homes in England are really homes at all. We need to get wasted empty homes back into use for those 100,000 families who desperately need them. We must also stop building the wrong housing to end the housing crisis and instead force developers to address the falling numbers of social and genuinely affordable homes available to those in desperate housing need.”
Tanya Murat, Homes for All, said “We think the empty homes scandal should be a major election issue. No political party should be able to sweep this under the carpet any longer. There are over half a million empty or underused homes in the UK whilst every day developers continue building housing for profit not for people. Local government should play a role in challenging that – making sure every empty home is filled with people who need housing.”
Notes to Editors:
The Campaign Against Empty Homesis a cross-party coalition calling for action and involving community organisations, trade unions and homelessness projects, as well as members of many different political parties – it calls for everyone concerned about the intensifying housing crisis across the country will call on local politicians to adopt the policies in its Manifesto for the upcoming local elections.
List of Campaign Coalition, supporters: Action on Empty Homes, The Big Issue, Disabled People
Against Cuts, Fuel Poverty Action, The Green Party, Homes for All, Labour Homelessness Campaign,
Renters’ Rights London, Peace & Justice Project, People Before Profit, Radical Housing Network, Social Housing Action Campaign, Southwark Defend Council Housing, Streets Kitchen, Street Storage, Unite the Union London and Eastern Region, Unite Community London and Eastern Region, Yes to Fair Development.
Grenfell Community Campaigners protest outside Celotex Factory in Hadleigh, Ipswich, in fight for justice for victims, survivors and bereaved.
Celotex executives were complicit in the murder of 72 people, including 18 children, in the fire at Grenfell Fire that broke out four and a half years today
Grenfell Community Campaigners are today at Celotex Factory, causing disruptive protest and demanding justice. Justice means jail time for those who are culpable
Celotex manufactured the highly flammable insulation, which was a primary factor in the atrocious fire at Grenfell Tower
We are the Grenfell Community Campaigners and we are at the Celotex factory in Ipswich this morning on the 4 and a half year anniversary, where Celotex are complicit in the murder of 72 people, of which 18 are children, in the most atrocious fire in Grenfell Tower, North Kensington. We will be here for two hours protesting. Anyone in the Ipswich area who is able to join us, please do so.
Celotex are one of the main culprits of the fire. They produced the foam insulation which was one of the major products which led to the fire spread, the release of toxic gases including hydrogen cyanide and subsequent death of 72 people, including 18 children.
The Public Inquiry into the fire revealed that Celotex rigged fire tests and therefore the fire certification. One of the executives, it was shared in the recent inquiry, said by email that he “didn;t give a f***” that they knew Celotex was highly flammable and toxic, and letting off cyanide fumes.
The Grenfell Community campaigners believe that the time is now to prosecute those responsible for the murder of those who needlessly perished in Grenfell Tower. We want justice.
Justice for the Grenfell community means that those who are responsible for the 72 deaths are charged and spend time in jail, not just fined. There must be jail time, for those that knew the insulation was highly flammable and did nothing about it.
Protest location: Celotex, Lady Lane Industrial Estate, Hadleigh, Ipswich IP7 6BA
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?
*How We Beat Bellway (and how you can too)* Chloe, Joanna & Kelly, ASFJ crew & Bellway Must Pay co-founders
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.
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.