- No more sell-offs of public land
- A national programme of council house building
- Rent control and more rights for private renters
- The decriminalisation of squatting
Next meetingMonday 14th July, St George’s Town Hall, Tower Hamlets
Attending the conference “2nd Forum on Natural Commons”, held on 2nd June 2014 in London, the author was looking for common ground between the housing and environmental movements, to see what links could be made in the future. Having missed most of the first half, took the following notes for the second:
Carbon/ biodiversity credits/ offsets are financial instruments to provide incentives/ monetary payments for “protecting” eco-systems. However these credits have mostly led to land- & green-grabs, such that areas rich in natural diversity have been turned into private conservation reserves, fenced off for offsetting credits and used to harvest “eco” consumer products. Market-based credits have simply become a means for the commodification of the natural environment, a collusion between science, finance and government based on the flawed assumptions of “the market”; this type of conservation sees all eco-systems as a homogenous mass (so that for example irreplaceable ancient woodland is considered equivalent to any other forest) and the only value of the environment as a means to making profit.
Credits have lead to a redistribution of power in areas affected, with green-grabs, enclosure and “fortress conservation”, in which the indigenous communities are marginalised, and any deliberative process and debate closed down in favour of making money. In Europe and the UK, “independent” (private) verification contractors are paid to create offsets, these offsets then used for speculation and gaming, and areas set aside as offsets are often built on a few years later (issues of maintenance). There are often perverse outcomes from this type of environmental protection, such as the growing desirability of land around national parks, created to protect natural eco-systems, but now the favoured sites for the rich to live in wealthy enclaves. Similarly, “experts” (eg ecologists, geologists) colonise these “commons” and landscapes with rules and regulations to “protect” them, thereby stopping local communities from deriving sustenance/ recreation from them.
Carbon Trade Watch have put together a short report on the global issue of biodiversity credits and their abuse in a “A Fish for a Tree: Understanding the (il)logic behind Biodiversity Offsets”
There is still plenty of land-grabbing in the EU and UK, especially around infrastructure, agricultural and energy policy, a constant battle between large corporates vs small producers, rights of possession vs rights to produce, etc. Resource issues are treated as a technical issue (monetary value), rather than a rights-based issue, and highly centralised land ownership leads to problems of access to land for everyone else. One recent example of this green-grabbing is that of a large solar farm in Sardinia, Italy, where 64ha of prime agricultural land was taken over for a private solar farm, with small farmers forced off the land and given small, one-off compensation payments, while the EU subsidised the solar project to the tune of Euro7 million a year.
Friends of the Earth and FERN have put together an excellent selection of case studies from the UK which demonstrate how biodiversity offsets are used by property developers to defraud communities of their ancient woodlands, green belt, meadows, etc.
“Case studies of biodiversity offsetting: voices from the ground” [foe, FERN; 2 June 2014]
In seeking to draw parallels between housing struggles and environmentalism, the first similarity is their opposition to the prevalent system of rapacious capitalism. Corporates and governments alike cynically manipulate instruments and legislation to promote and protect their own vested interests, using “institutional abuse” to break down resistance to their predetermined agendas; for example in the UK, Social Services currently threaten families under eviction with having their children taken into “care” if they do not comply. Secondly, the centralised and concentrated control of land, power, resources, etc means that there is little scope for alternative models, and where alternatives do exist, they are constantly under threat from encroaching resource-grabs (eg council housing taken over by housing associations and Right-To-Buy).
Governments and corporates are short-termist in their approach, preferring quick wins for profit, tax income, votes, etc. to the detriment of long-term sustainability and human rights; for example the current engineered property bubble will have dire consequences for the economy in the future, while state-backed extreme energy-extraction like fracking is already posing serious threats to human health, potable water resources, climate change, and the industrialisation of the countryside. The collusion between state and capital is global in nature, as illustrated by two upcoming international summits that will see power brokers carving up common resources and selling them off without any public consultation; in the case of housing this will happen at MIPIM in London in October and in terms of environmental commons, is currently happening through the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), set to be codified into UK law with the Infrastructure Bill.
In housing, as in the environmental movement, there is a concerted and growing grass-roots resistance to the complete disregard for people and planet. In order to succeed, networks from both movements need to start co-ordinating strategies and tactics, share information and research, provide mutual support and find common targets from their respective angles. This unity of purpose created one of the defining moments of the ‘90’s anti-globalisation movement; in Seattle in 1999, during the WTO summit, separate marches of environmentalists, trade unionists, human rights activists, etc converged, united and took action to close down the summit just as state and corporate leaders were unilaterally agreeing the privatisation of national resources. With the latest summits on global privatisation, we are once again called upon to defend what we still have, and actively implement what could be.
In case you missed it, or want to relive it, here are some videos from the Sunday of the Radical Housing Weekender. Many thanks to Obi and the Occupy News Network who livestreamed the event and uploaded all this to YouTube – top work!
Featuring Jon Broome, a leading self-build architect who worked with Walter Segal; Rob Morris, co-founder of the Drive co-op in North London and active member of Radical Routes; and London Community Neighbourhood Co-op, an ambitious a live/work/community space in Westminster based on sustainability, affordability and accessibility.
Looking at the causes of the housing crisis and start thinking about some of the solutions.
Part One: Danny Dorling is Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford. His recent book, All That Is Solid (2014), argues that the solution to the housing crisis lies not in the construction of more homes, but in addressing the root cause: inequality.
Part Two: Liz Davies is a housing lawyer and Chair of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. She is particularly interested in homelessness and social housing allocations, and is co-author of Housing Allocation and Homelessness (2012).
How we can better organise across tenure and locality to develop a join-up opposition to housing injustice, and what kinds of organising and action work best for us?
Defend Council Housing, London Renters, Squatters Legal Network and Lambeth Housing Activists discuss their diverse tactics and experiences of organising in the face of the housing crisis.
Part One: Defend Council Housing opposes privatisation of council housing and is campaigning for the fourth option – direct investment. DCH is a tenant led campaign.
Part Three: Lewisham and Southwark Tenants
Run for and by private tenants, we exist to improve the housing condition and rights of all private tenants in Lewisham and Southwark.
Part Four: Squatters Legal Network.
Sharing the events of the weekend, including the Saturday events in Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, New Cross, and Barnet, as well as the sessions throughout the day.
The post covers a host of links giving background to Labour’s Rent Reforms announced on the 1st May in the lead up to the local elections soon and the general election next year. The general critique: “too little too late”, a half-hearted attempt to win some votes.
A Few Comments:
“The moves to ban letting agents fees being charged to tenants are welcome, but 3 years is still not a very long tenancy (London Renters have been demanding secure/lifelong tenancies which used to be the norm for council tenants), and the moves to limit rent increases are very weak (and won’t bring rents in much of the country down to anything like affordable levels).”///////
“We’re also a bit worried about the introduction of a 6 month ‘probationary period’ for tenants, which could potentially make us more insecure not less.”//////
“In my view, reforming private renting (if it happens and however partially) will be welcome, but only answers part of the problem. I thought the feeling at the RHN Weekender event on Sunday was very clear: private renters demand better conditions, but recognise the need for this to happen alongside investment in other forms of housing, particularly council housing. So far, I see little sign of the Labour Party having the political courage to challenge the home ownership orthodoxy and express the same pride in council housing as it does in the NHS.”/////
Labour Party Press: “Ed Miliband launches election campaign with rents pledge”
(The policy detail is hidden at the bottom of this document)
Owen Jones in The Guardian: “The foaming Tory response to Labour’s rental reforms stops any rational debate” (1 May 2014)
Inside Housing: “Miliband to announce Labour’s PRS plans today” (1 May 2014)
(comments worthwhile too; note: need to sign-in to access)
“Labour talks of reforming renting” (2 May 2014)
Members of Southwark Tenants:
We are really pleased to announce…
The Weekender is on the 26th and 27th April. It’s a collaboration among groups from across London, who work on a whole range of housing issues including private renting, access to welfare, squatting, co-operatives and social housing.
The housing crisis grows steadily deeper, and yet those is power fail to take the necessary action to secure the future of the city. This weekend will bring people together to build a movement of practical solidarity, to resist social cleansing and reclaim the city for the people who live here.
Here’s the flyer – this and the poster version are also available on the Resources page of the website. Do feel free to download and print them off, and get in touch if you need a higher resolution version.
It’s set to be an action-packed two days. On Saturday 26th, there are events planned all round London, organised by local groups who are in the Radical Housing Network. Events are set to take place in Lewisham, Lambeth, Brent, Camden, Hackney and Haringey, and include films, info-stalls, discussions, games, and actions. If you’d like to get involved in your area, or if you’d like to propose something in an area that’s not already covered, get in touch!
On Sunday 27th, we’ll all come together in central London, for a day of discussion, action planning and strategising. The day will include:
More details will follow soon!
We hope to see you there!
This week is the annual MIPIM conference- the world’s biggest property fair, where our cities, lives and communities are bought and sold.
This year, activists, campaigners and citizens from across Europe are fighting back. Today is the European Day of Action against MIPIM, and the Radical Housing Network is pleased to be a supporter. A People’s Tribunal is taking place in Cannes, with people coming from across Europe, including the UK, to put the developers of MIPIM on trial for the damage they have done to our cities.
From the European call-out:
At the annual real estate spring party “MIPIM” in Cannes businessmen will not be totally alone this year. For the first time in 25 years of undisturbed deal making they may meet some of their final “customers”, victims or resistors, shouting in a square of Cannes. The “European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City” organizes an international protest against the huge speculation projects, which normally get prepared and celebrated at this annual meeting of the who-is-whos in the global property market.
Here’s a very cool video explaining more about MIPIM:
Last week, we went to City Hall, to tell Boris and the GLA to stop selling our city at MIPIM. Check it out:
What has MIPIM ever done to us?
Today we release two case studies on the disastrous effects of the pacts between MIPIM developers and politicians on the lives and communities of Londoners.
Read the murky tale of developer Lend Lease’s relationship with Southwark, which gave birth to one of the most appalling instances of community displacement, coupled with financial mismanagement and barefaced lies. A revolving door between Southwark employees and Lend Lease, coupled with the fact that Lend Lease has paid for Southwark to attend MIPIM, provides a striking illustration of the networks of power that are leading to the sale of our cities from under the noses of citizens.
Or try the story of the South Kilburn estate – one of a number of “regeneration” projects managed by the Brent Housing Partnership which have seen local residents “decanted” to make way for luxury apartments. Perfectly adequate homes have been demolished, and in many cases nothing has been put in its place, as money runs dry and building plans stalled. The pattern will be familiar to communities across the country.
Today we head to City Hall, at 2.15pm, to demand an end to the sale of our city, which is forcing prices up and communities out.
Next week, people from London will join those from cities across Europe in Cannes, where MIPIM takes place. A tribunal will be held, with these London case studies forming one part of a Europe-wide picture of the role of MIPIM in the housing crisis. It is time to join the dots.
Date: March 6th, 2014
Location: City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2AA
Contact: Rob Ronan- 07761789947 (Interviews available on request)
On Thursday 6th March housing groups and residents from across London will demonstrate outside City Hall to express their anger at Mayor Boris Johnson and over 20 UK councils participating in the MIPIM conference which is fuelling the housing crisis.
MIPIM is the world’s biggest property fair and will take place from 11 to 14 March in Cannes in the south of France. The fair has a €1600 entry fee per person and brings together 20,000 investors, developers, local authorities, and banks.
Boris and councillors will be meeting potential business partners in Cannes for the selling of public land and to approve ‘regeneration’ plans for more hotels, offices, luxury housing, shopping centres in UK cities.
As London councillors will be setting off for MIPIM on Thursday there will be a ‘speak-out’ of people’s difficulties in finding affordable, secure housing in the UK. This will be followed by a presentation of three reports about the disastrous impacts of corporate housing developers benefitting from lucrative public contracts. A competition is being held to bring the most ‘For Sale’ signs in protest at policy to marketise housing which makes profits for speculators, landlords and developers, and ignores the housing need of the communities experiencing ‘regeneration’.
Nic Lane from ‘Brent Housing Action’ says: “We, the people who have been affected by deals made at MIPIM by our “representatives” knew nothing of these deals until it was too late. Residents all over London are being forced out of their communities because of rising rents, and the building of unaffordable ‘affordable’ housing schemes to replace council housing.”
Liliana Dmitrovic of ‘People’s Republic of Southwark’ added: “We are coming to City Hall to show that our land, our cities, and our homes, will not be sold by politicians to line the pockets of developers. These are the individuals responsible for the housing crisis, and we believe that everyone deserves a decent home.”
The ‘London not for sale’ demonstration will be part of protests across Europe in response to a call from ‘European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City’, which is supported in London by the ‘Radical Housing Network’.
Notes to Editors
1. Link to Mayor Boris Johnson’s keynote speech at the MIPIM conference last year
3. Follow #londonnotforsale for updates
MIPIM is the world’s biggest property fair, where our cities and our land are up for sale. It takes place in Cannes, bringing together about 20,000 investors, developers, local authorities, and banks to figure out how to carve up our cities and sell off our land.
The companies which attend MIPIM, and our government “representatives” who share their champagne, are responsible for the eviction of communities, the gentrification of our neighbourhoods, and the housing crisis itself.
This year, on March 12th, people in cities across Europe are taking action to denounce the sale of our cities. The actions have been called by the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City, and is supported here by the Radical Housing Network.
People in London are organising, and plans are brewing. We don’t want Boris Johnson and local councils selling our homes, because we have the rage that comes from our experience of corporate control. We are for quality, secure, truly affordable housing for all, and we will get it.
Join us, 6th March, 2.15pm, outside City Hall. Bring stories of your life in the housing crisis, or your struggle against it.
Bring For Sale signs – a prize will be awarded for the borough with the most!
Follow #londonnotforsale for updates
Get in touch for flyers and posters to share.
In December housing rights activists from a number of European cities met in Paris to discuss ideas for joint actions in 2014. One of the main outcomes was a general plan for decentralised action at the occasion of the international real estate fair MIPIM.
MIPIM 2014 will take place from 11 to 14 March in Cannes in the south of France. This is one of global capitalism’s major annual events for all aspects of the real estate business, including the buying and selling of land, the planning, construction, financing, facilitation and management of housing and commercial property around the world. Some 20,000 people will take part, with an entry fee of €1600 per person. At MIPIM the planet is for sale.
Some of those attending the MIPIM real estate market will come from public municipalities and councils around the world. They will be seeking to sell public land and infrastructure, directly, as part of development projects or in “private-public-partnerships” (PPPs), the collaborationist approach of UN-Habitat’s “Manifesto for cities”. They will be approving ‘regeneration’ plans that respond to the interests of speculators: hotels, offices, luxury housing, shopping centres. Here, they will make contact with possible business partners to sell the commons in order to escape their financial crisis. The ordinary people who will be affected often know nothing of these deals until it is too late. We are coming together to disrupt this process.
The inhabitants of capitals across Europe will be targeting political representatives travelling to MIPIM to sell off our cities. Over 20 UK and London councils are already confirmed, including the Greater London Authority, with overall responsibility for housing in London. A teaser list of councils, developers, estate agents, banks and investors attending is below, along with a link to Boris’ keynote speech at last year’s MIPIM.
Please scan the list for any corporations you are struggling against, and let us know the projects they are involved with, and demands you have of them. Our actions will be successful if we can bring together diverse groups already organising against attendees, and make the links across the city and internationally. We will be acting not just on our own behalf, but also in solidarity with organisers in Southern Europe, whose domestic housing policies are controlled solely by the Troika and international big business. If we have enough local case studies we will present a dossier at a tribunal in Cannes during MIPIM in addition to the London action.
The Radical Housing Network is pulling together a coalition to take action against our political representatives selling off London – we are calling meetings for all constituencies who are affected by transnational real estate, especially those whose enemies are named below.
Contact londonnotforsale[at]gmail[dot]com for further information, or to get involved in organising for March.
Harrow Estates- Redrow PLC
Albany Homes Developments
Morgan Sindall Group PLC
One Housing Group
Pembroke Real Estate
Great Portland Estates
London District Housing Association
M and G Investments
United House Group
University of Oxford
British Property Federation
British Airways Pension Fund
CLS Holidays PLC
Curson Real Estate
ICM Wealth Management Ltd.
Langham Estate Management Ltd
Capital and Centric PLC
Logicor Europe Ltd.
Royal Mail Group
Residential Land Ltd.
Terence O Rourke
Transport for Greater Manchester
London and Continental Railways
City of London
Greater London Authority
Leeds City Region
Scottish Cities Alliance
South Gloucestershire City
We are a network of groups fighting for housing justice, launched in London in 2013.
Housing: Groups within our network work on a wide range of housing issues, including but not limited to, private renting, social housing, squatting, access to benefits, homelessness, and co-operative housing.
Radical: We feel we are not represented by mainstream politics, and seek to organise a movement for housing justice from below, across tenure, rooted in people’s everyday housing needs. We support a diversity of tactics, including direct action.
Network: The network is a horizontal association; a “group of groups”. We connect and cooperate with each other, across tenure, within and beyond our local neighbourhoods.
1. We believe everyone should have a decent home. We fight all forms of discrimination in access to housing, including on the basis of tenure, gender, race, ethnicity, class, age, ability, sexuality, immigration status, nomadism, ability to pay or where people live.
2. A decent home:
• is physically comfortable
• is secure
• has access to schools, work, healthcare, cultural facilities, transport, fresh affordable food and green space
• allows people to have control over their indoor and outdoor environment
• is genuinely affordable
• allows people to develop communities and support each other
In defining a decent home, we wish to empower residents and communities to make decisions and have control over their housing. We are opposed to the imposition of bureaucratic standards, which have been used to disempower, demonise, and displace communities.
3. We believe that the housing crisis is part of deeper systemic problems. Therefore its solution will only be possible through grassroots struggle, and through systemic change.
4. We reject the policy of marketisation of housing during recent decades.
This is manifested in:
• rising costs of housing
• sell-off of council housing
• encouragement of profiteering – speculation and buy-to-let
• increase in overcrowding and street homelessness
• destruction of housing co-ops, and other social housing solutions
• criminalisation of squatting
• welfare reform policies
• reduction of security, increasing eviction and displacement
• empty homes
• decreasing quality of housing
• gentrification and displacement
• Promote solidarity and mutual support among groups fighting on housing issues in London, by joining together across tenure and locality to challenge the divide and rule tactics of the powerful.
• Encourage the sharing of practical resources, knowledge, skills, and materials.
• Facilitate the exchange of ideas and information.
• Develop and promote a stronger conception of the alternatives to the profiteering housing market.
• Increase grassroots opposition and solidarity in the face of the housing crisis.