Sunday 14th June marks three years since the fire at Grenfell Tower. Victims and survivors do not all have permanent homes yet – and three years on, still no-one has been held to account for what happened.
For those who can’t get there, at 6pm 80 London churches will ring bells 72 times to mark those who died. If you are in London, can you organise with others to take banners or posters and stand outside while the bells ring?
Or organise something where you are – making sure you safely observing 2m distancing. Or hold up a solidarity sign from your home or doorstep – and send a selfie photos and messages to Grenfell, and to us here, or on our Facebook page or through Twitter.
Join our online meeting on Tuesday 2nd June, 6.30pm with Mark Slater of Rochdale Seven Sisters campaign; Will McMahon Action on Empty Homes; Labour Homelessness campaign, and Tanya Murat Southwark DCH.
Despite the crisis and lockdown, Housing Association landlords are pushing through rent rises; NottingHill Genesis (NHG) is threatening outrageous 25% rises for NHS staff, teachers and other key workers. Tenant protests have forced NHG to delay these – but tenants are determined to stop this rank profiteering. Do get in touch if you or people you know are affected, or if you can help their campaign.
And you can write to Housing Minister Robert Jenrick, and copy it to your own MP, council leader (and us!). We need to keep up pressure to ensure thousands don’t face evictions at the end of June, and to get funding for a new generation of council homes.
This letter from a Minister dated 18 May 2020, says ‘landlords should be able to carry out routine as well as essential repairs’, making prior arrangements with any households isolating or shielding sick and vulnerable people. It includes guidelines for how work should be done and tenants protected: see links in the document including Coronavirus (Covid19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants.
We can’t leave our safety to chance – so demand your landlord agrees in advance to stick to the guidelines, and agree a procedure if these are broken. All workers in our blocks and homes need to work safely or not at all.
Work on high rise blocks with unsafe cladding or insufficient fire safety, ‘remains a top priority for the Government’, it claims. (So why are there still at least 357 blocks still with Grenfell-style cladding, and 11,000 blocks with risky cladding, two years on from the Grenfell fire?)
This letter, with important information, has not been sent to any of the 4 million+ tenants so far – so we are publishing it to ensure we can prepare and protect ourselves.
A Homes for All survey is gauging how Coronavirus is affecting its supporters, families and communities. Initial results, from 101 respondents , confirm that Covid-19 is deepening a housing crisis that’s been growing for years. The survey results show:
25% have lost all or some of their income. 9% have had to claim Universal Credit. 15% are struggling to pay rent/mortgage. 10% have fallen into arrears. 17% are worried about falling into arrears.
Private renters are most, and disproportionately affected by the crisis:
39% have lost all or some of their income. 70% are struggling to pay the rent. 50% have fallen into arrears. 73% are worried about falling into arrears.
By comparison, although 28% of those who’ve lost all or some of their income are council tenants, their secure tenancies appear to reduce anxiety at falling into arrears.
Eileen Short of Defend Council Housing (part of the Homes for All alliance) says: “These results are very worrying. They tally with other research showing we’re heading for an explosion of evictions and homelessness unless government takes urgent action to protect tenants who can’t pay the rent due to the Covid crisis. The results also show council housing is the only truly secure affordable rented housing, especially in a crisis. That’s why we’re demanding action to ensure 100,000 new and reclaimed council homes a year as part of the recovery plan.”
As London Renters Union’s Amina Gichinga says: “After lockdown ends, it could go two ways. Renters could face the chaos of rent debt and evictions. Or they could be safe from eviction and able to afford necessities like food and rent.
“That’s not much to ask – but for it to happen, the government needs to suspend rent payments, cancel rent debt and make the evictions ban permanent. Ultimately we need rent controls and more council housing.”
Behind the statistics are people’s lives. Among some of the responses to the Homes for All survey: “It is hard not having any face to face contact with family/friends, as I live on my own in a flat. Also, I do not have a garden or balcony, which increases the time I have to stay inside.”
(15% of responders reported lack of access to open space.)
“I have constant anxiety and fear about money and housing security.”
“I am classed as vulnerable. I’m over 65 and Diabetic. I live in an overcrowded house with one son sleeping on the settee and working making cardboard boxes for lamp shades and another son, a bus driver whose been furloughed.”
“On 27 March, Haringey Council’s management company closed the concierge service and reduced the cleaning service in blocks (no more weekly cleaning of stairways landings and corridors). The risk of infection is obvious.”
Housing pressures are mounting as the health crisis continues. Millions are losing pay, and can’t afford the rent. Or are in unsafe, overcrowded homes. We need to increase pressure on our politicians to act, and support each other to avert misery.
On Saturday 2nd May at 11am our next organising meeting will be held via Zoom. Meeting details will be emailed to our mailing list – email us to join.
With estates still being emptied and demolished, and some sitting empty, along with thousands of other empty homes, we’ll hear from campaigns about how we stop the demolition and get people rehoused now.
We are making our statement into an online petition to Parliament, and will need your help to get lots of people signing, to force Government to address it. It is waiting for Parliament to process it; once it’s live, we will send the link.
Under mounting pressure, Government has made some steps:
Action to provide a roof for street homeless, at local discretion. No move for the thousands in cramped temporary accommodation, sharing rooms, kitchens and bathrooms with other household
Mortgage payers can request a limited ‘holiday’
Ministers are ‘guiding’ courts not to process the 20,000 evictions in the pipeline. Further evictions are delayed for three months. Renters are still being hassled to pay rent they can’t afford
No shift on five-week wait for Universal Credit; you can ask for an advance, to be deducted from future payments
Work on luxury housing and other non-essential projects continues, but no commitment yet on funding for future council housing
So this is still urgent, and our united voice can send an important message. We will update you on when the petition is ready for you to circulate and add your name.
Our next meeting will be held on 14th March 2020, 11am – 1pm at:
School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS), 10 Thornhaugh St, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 0XG
Let us know what’s happening locally, and if there are things you want to discuss.
Shelter have launched their London campaign, calling on the next mayor to strengthen policies for ‘social rent delivery’ and to end the conflation of so-called Affordable and London Living Rent. Read the summary and the full report:
Our first organising meeting of 2020 on 18th January had a fantastic turnout, with people from Harlow, Southampton, Aldershot and Horsham, and at least 13 London boroughs, representing council, housing association and private tenants, councillors and trade unionists. There was determination to build the campaign in the year ahead, and a good, open discussion about how to do this.
We agreed to:
1. Update the Charter for Housing Action for 2020
2. Send the Charter to Mayoral and council candidates, and to Labour leadership/deputy leadership contenders, asking for their endorsement. Also invite other groups to support and add their names.
3. Update “Vote Housing” flyer in time for May elections.
4. Need to form more contacts/links for national campaign against Universal Credit.
5. Support Justice for Grenfell in building and organising event in April in Kensington, raising critical issues around the inquiry, fire safety etc.
6. Attempt to open up discussion with Extinction Rebellion
7. Need to be vigilant about forthcoming demolition ballots, and share information asap.
8. Improve our social media operation.
9. Consider a possible housing hustings prior to May elections.
10. Use the Charter and other material for local actions, stalls etc.