Defend Council Housing activist, Paul Burnham explains what’s behind Michael Gove’s new plans for housing.
Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove has unveiled a ‘long-term plan for housing’ based on ten principles – but his principles do NOT include providing a decent, secure and affordable home for everyone.
Instead, there will be additional subsidies to support the demolition of existing estates. We need to push back, and refurbish rather than demolish.
Gove wants to build garden villages such as ‘the outstanding Welborne development’ at Fareham in Hampshire, ‘championed by my colleague Suella Braverman’. There could be as little as 7.3% affordable housing in this 6,000-home scheme. Fareham Council’s own housing service even made a formal objection to the low level of affordable housing provision.
Building unaffordable housing is part of the problem.
Full article here – Michael Gove speech and estate demolitions 06/09/2023
Thanks to everyone who came along and also joined us online to listen and discuss with Peter Apps his book on how and why the Grenfell Fire happened. The meeting contributed to the debate around the need for radical changes to housing policy.
A short video of housing activists who came together to join XR Housing and Radical Housing Network as part of Extinction Rebellion’s week long campaign to highlight the climate emergency and what needs to be done to save the planet.
A snapshot of the six speakers who joined the demand for radical change and action to bring about housing justice for all.
Homes for All were pleased to welcome Zak, a St Mungo’s worker, to our national organising meeting on Saturday 15 April to tell us of their forthcoming strike.
Zak is a member of Unite and an outreach worker who along with around 600 other members voted overwhelmingly to reject a one off pay offer of £600 and following an imposed pay increase of 1.7% in 2021.
Like many Public Sector workers, Zak and his colleagues worked throughout Covid providing support and care to an often ignored section of society by the state. He spoke of the impact of homelessness on the client group they work with, but also how the cost of living crisis and lack of housing is now affecting his colleagues. As directors’ wages go up, front-line staff face financial hardship and increasing workloads whilst trying to provide a quality of service that their clients deserve.
Zak said the wave of strikes across the UK has given confidence to St Mungo’s workers and that they voted for the maximum strike days of 4 weeks. He talked about the importance of linking up with organisations like Homes for All. We sent solidarity greetings to the strikers and will encourage members to join the picket line.
After the successful round of protests on 14 March Housing Rebellion, led by Refurbish Don’t Demolish, will make its voice heard at the Extinction Rebellion days of protest 21 to 24 April. The XR BIG ONE is four days of mass protest in London focusing on climate justice.
Homes for All has agreed to be a part of it, and send a speaker. We urge all our supporters to attend with their banners, placards and noise!
Radical Housing Network, which is helping to co-ordinate the housing protests said
“Reducing the environmental impact of buildings and construction, while also dealing with the housing crisis, is crucially about addressing the glaring inequality in access to land and housing. Why are some people allowed to own multiple energy-guzzling homes while others are forced to live in overcrowded, or cold, damp and overpriced housing? Why is social housing being demolished to make way for luxury new developments when we know that retrofitting and installing renewable energy would not just be more sustainable for the environment but would also safeguard truly affordable social housing for the next generation? Protesters will be discussing the problems, the solutions and how we work together to get results.”
The protests will take place at the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) on Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
There will be a Housing Rebellion stall at the DLUHC showcasing information from all the various housing campaigns on Friday 21 April from 10am to 6pm and again on Monday the 24 April from 10am to 5pm.
On Friday 21 April at 1pm there will be a street theatre performance about a retrofit house.
On Monday 24 April at 4pm there will be a Housing Rally at Marsham Streetbefore joining thousands of other campaigners to surround parliament at 5pm. A range of speakers will outline the key demands for housing and climate justice, including resident campaigners fighting for refurbishment and against demolition of their homes, architects pushing for sustainable buildings, and politicians who are supporting ‘retrofit first’ and truly affordable housing policies.
‘I’ve always felt these spaces were ours’ is an article on DPAC’s (Disabled People Against Cuts) activism published in the radical academic journal City: analysis of urban change, theory, action.
It is written by Debbie Humphry and based on interviews with DPAC members. It looks at how disability was created as an exclusionary category during industrial capitalism and continues today during contemporary austerity capitalism. It then looks in detail at the fantastic and inspiring activist strategies of the DPAC campaigners and argues that putting disability at the centre of anti-capitalist and urban struggles is crucial.
The article also has great photos by Paula Peters (DPAC).
Many thanks to DPAC for their time, the interviews and for reading and approving the article.
Campaigners in the group Housing Rebellion hope to make a few unannounced ‘site visits’ to some of the worst climate culprits in the property industry to say ‘Refurbish Don’t Demolish’; ‘Create low-energy, low-cost, warm, dry homes for all’; ‘Provide housing for people and planet not profit’.
This is a welcome unification of demands to stop the climate emergency and demands to ensure homes for people not profit. This is something Homes for All and our supporting organisations have paid more attention to in recent years including our involvement with Yes to Fair Redevelopment, the Campaign Against Empty Homes and other local campaigns against demolition and gentrification. It points to the need for a system-wide challenge to the way society is organised, depriving people of decent homes and a livable planet.
Trade unions, the Mayors of London, Greater Manchester, and Liverpool, the Green Party, think tanks and other organisations have joined London Renters Union (LRU) in calling for Michael Gove to freeze private rents.
1 in 2 private renters nationally are struggling with housing costs, with 4 in 5 London renters hit hard by unaffordable housing.
Thursday 23 February: Trade unions, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, leaders of the Green party, think tanks and charities have signed an open letter calling on Michael Gove to implement a Scotland-style freeze on private rents and an eviction ban to tackle the current rental crisis.
As wages hit a near 20-year low forcing half a million workers to strike earlier this month, rents continue to skyrocket at record rates. 1 in 2 private renters nationally are struggling with housing costs, with the situation even more severe in London. LRU members reported average rent rises of £3400 (20.5%) in December, nearly double the 12% national figure.
Millions trapped in an unaffordable private rental sector are forced to cut back on essential spending or face the threat of homelessness. Evictions are on the rise, as landlords use no-fault section 21 to force out tenants unable to accept unaffordable rent rises, still legal despite the government’s 2019 promise to abolish the clause.
The NEU, RMT, CWU and UNISON are among the unions to throw their support behind the call, whose members are being squeezed by falling pay and rising housing costs. The open letter states that a temporary freeze on private rents is the best policy to address the scale and urgency of the current affordability crisis. The government must also abolish unfair evictions and introduce the long-overdue Renters Reform Bill to improve housing standards. The letter was also signed by Mayors and council leaders in Hackney, Newham, Brent and Wandsworth.
LRU launched a campaign in December calling for a rent freeze, after Scotland’s tenants union Living Rent won a similar commitment in Scotland. Public support to bring back rent regulations is mounting with the Mayor of London and other local authorities calling for devolved powers to introduce caps on unaffordable rent rises.
Kirsty, LRU Member, says: “As a teacher, my pay has not risen in line with inflation, and the 5% offer from the government does not cover rising rents and the cost of living. After my last landlord tried to raise the rent, I had no choice but to move further away from work. I was soon signed off sick due to the stress of the move and the increase to my commute. Now, only one year into our new tenancy, our landlord has asked for another £1200 in rent. I feel like I’m back to square one.”
Bekah, LRU Member, says: “After refusing a £100 rent rise in our previous house, our landlord evicted us and listed the property for £300 more. We felt sad, angry and like a great injustice had happened to us, but it was all completely legal. We were forced to move to a significantly more expensive house and now we are facing a rent rise once again. We are already anxious about our food shop and energy prices, and this rent rise will only add further stress. I feel very precarious right now and a rent freeze would give me some peace of mind.”
Liam Miller, LRU Spokesperson, says: “Millions are being squeezed by falling wages and rising rents. The government has the power to protect people from unaffordable rent rises, but it is choosing instead to preside over a wild west rental market that is punishing the people who kept the country going through the pandemic. A rent freeze now is the only way to address the scale and urgency of the crisis, and would represent a step towards a stronger housing system that meets everyone’s needs.”
A crowd of housing activists, tenants, workers, union and trades council representatives and anti-poverty campaigners gathered outside the Department of Levelling Up on Saturday 11 February 2023 to demand a rent freeze across all rental sectors to be funded by central government. The move had broad-based support, including from Action for Fire Safety Justice, Defend Council Housing, Homes for All, SHAC (Social Housing Action Campaign), Movement for Justice, FueI Poverty Action, Ealing Housing Co-op, Islington Trades Council and a Grenfell Community Campaigners.
There was an open call to speak and a mix of personal stories and political analyses vividly demonstrated the urgent need to follow in Scotland’s footsteps of legislating for a rent freeze during the worst cost of living crisis in decades.
Messages of support and solidarity to the victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria and to the asylum seekers in Knowsley, Merseyside were both warmly received.
Having learned from the Scottish example, the campaigners are clear that the rent freeze needs to be funded by central, not local government, in order to avoid an adverse impact on councils’ capacities to fund housing repairs and services. The rent freeze also needs to be across all sectors and accompanied by a service charge and eviction freeze, along with radically improved private rent regulations to ensure affordable and secure tenancies.
Following the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell fire, in which tenants had warned of a disaster but been ignored, there were promises of change but the speakers at the protest made it clear that this had not happened.
Alex Considine spoke of how Newlon Housing Trust had failed to respond to tenants’ calls to fix the damp in her block of 54 flats in Islington North in which children were sleeping next to black mould, which had caused herself and many other tenants to suffer from pneumonia over the winter. Water has infiltrated the building’s infrastructure over the last eight years to the extent that the electrics are breaking down and the intercom and lifts no longer work.
Alex says “People are dying. You can hear the water coming out and you can see the black mould bubbling from the water stacks. It’s now gone through so much of the building into the infrastructure, so it’s not just in the apartments, it’s in the hallways, it’s in the corridors, it’s in the communal spaces.”
Yet despite this appalling record, Newlon Housing Trust have been given permission to develop a new ‘Barnsbury’ estate in Islington. Even with threats of legal action, the housing association is only addressing the symptoms not the cause, decanting residents to ostensibly fix their apartments but failing to address the root of the problem, the faulty water stack, and even returning mouldy cabinets to the flats.
We are constantly told by the government that there is not enough money to fund decent and affordable housing, but as Joanna, from Action for Fire Safety Justice, pointed out, the CEOs of Clarion, L&Q and Guinness housing associations, respectively, are receiving annual salaries of £400,000, £328,000 and £245,000.
Clarion, the UK’s largest social landlord, has also seen fit to appoint former Conservative housing minister Gavin Barwell, to their board of Directors, despite the fact that the House of Lords found him to be in breach of the code of conduct due to registration issues with a consultancy business he runs. No surprise then that Clarion tenants are on a partial rent strike, as yet again housing associations are failing to listen to tenants living in appalling and unsafe conditions.
The housing system is broken, with the wrong kind of housing being built for profit. Tenants are evicted from affordable homes so that they can be developed into expensive rental accommodation, which is now the only tenure available for young people on low and median incomes, who are forced to compete with each other for private insecure tenancies that can take up half or more of their wages.
One protester told us that her daughter had found a modest one-bed apartment in Tottenham listed at £1200 per month, only to find the rent had already been raised to £1300 by the time she phoned to confirm the viewing. As the speakers made clear, this underlying housing crisis can only be fixed by a mass council housing building programme, security of tenure extended to the private rental sector and rent caps applied across all sectors.
It was heartening to see the broad-based support, but not surprising as so many are affected by housing being treated as a commodity for profit rather than a basic human need. Everyone supported a coming together of workers, tenants, unions and campaigners – “We need to build coalitions and stand together” – to demand safe, secure, affordable housing for all, as this is the bedrock of all we value – community, work, family, security and mental health.
We were pleased to receive support from Dave Ward, CWU General Secretary (above), Mick Lynch, RMT (Left), Ben Selby FBU, Onay Kasab, UNITE, Zarah Sultana MP and of course Jeremy Corbyn MP who also agreed to speak on our demo in London.
With 2 weeks to go, we are asking everyone to help build the demo.
Haringey and Southwark Councils have now announced 7% rent increases – this is the maximum proposed by the Dept of “Levelling Up” and which sets a worrying precedent. Swindon Council has plumped for 5%, far short of the rent freeze we are fighting for.
We are calling on the Trade Union Movement and Local Authorities to support the Day of Action to Demand a Rent & Service Charge Freeze.
🔰 Leaflets and documents can be found for the day of action can be found here
📩 Email the leaflet to your local Trade Union, Housing Group and Local Authority.
🚩 Join us leafleting on Saturday 1st Feb, national strike day – in London meet on church stairs at Portland Place outside the BBC at 11am.
📢 Homes for All has booked a table at the TUC and Stand Up to Racism ‘Fighting for anti-racist workplaces’ conference at SOAS, Thornaugh St, London on Saturday 4 Feb at 9am. Can you be there? email email@example.com