MIPIM Occupied!

Students demand ‘Give Us Back Our Fucking Rent’ and occupy student housing provider as controversial property fair returns to London

Students staged two eye-catching protests on 19th October against the growing ‘financialisation’ and unaffordability of student housing, at the MIPIM property fair in London. The actions were called by the Radical Housing Network and RENT STRIKE!, an organisation which has grown out of the successful UCL student rent strike this year.

Students in gowns and mortar boards accosted property investors and developers outside the conference centre, with charity buckets and t-shirts demanding: “Give Us Our Fucking Rent Back“. Students, angry about the effects of big finance on their homes, approached unsuspecting delegates and asked for contributions to a hardship fund.

Elsewhere, near the University of London, students occupied the sales offices of private student housing provider Unite Students, taking control of the building with tents and banners, chanting “If we can’t afford our rent, we’ll use your offices instead.” This action was part of the rapidly escalating rent strike campaign, coordinated by the collective Rent Strike, which at UCL succeeded in securing well over £1 million in rent subsidies for students from the university last academic year. The rampant privatisation of student accommodation is pushing students into poverty: as student debt is sky-rocketing, a crisis of mental health is taking its toll amongst young people.

Unite Students are taking up an increasing share of the student property market (currently 70% of Kings College accommodation is owned by Unite). In 2015, Unite Students made £355 million profit while charging up to £353/week for their halls.

The property fair, notorious for dodgy deals between councils and developers, returned for the third year to London, from 19-21 October. Previous years have seen extensive community opposition, with clashes between protestors and police.

The protests focussed on the ‘financialisation’ of student housing. Student halls, traditionally provided by Universities, have become increasingly privatised. They are now a highly sought after asset for investors, with £5.2 billion invested in the sector in just the first five months of 2015, the majority from North America.
Research by the NUS suggests that the effect of this has been to push prices rapidly upwards, with the average student halls costing 95% of a student loan:

  • Students are left with on average £851 annually for food, living costs and academic expenses
  • The average rent for a studio (bed-sit) in student halls is £1212 per month, significantly above student loan value
  • The average rent for student housing rose 97% between 2002/3 – 2012/13

A spokesperson for the Radical Housing Network said:
“MIPIM represents a housing system that puts an obsession with profit over people’s right to a decent home. The UK is currently in the midst of an acute housing crisis, and yet MIPIM and the system it props up benefits only the global rich, while destroying our communities, and pushing ever more people into housing hardship.

“For as long as our towns and cities are being carved up over champagne and caviar, we will be here, saying no to MIPIM, yes to housing justice!”

A spokesperson for Rent Strike! said:
“The financialisation of student housing is pushing more and more students into poverty and hardship. Student halls are now international assets traded by financiers, and are no longer the affordable places to live we need while we get an education.

As MIPIM returns to London, we decided to spoil the show, demanding: give us back our fucking rent!”

These actions were taken in coalition with housing groups across Europe in a month of action throughout October. The European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City is coordinating action in ten cities across the continent.


  •    MIPIM UK is taking place at Kensington Olympia on 19-21 October
  •    NUS’s report on the unaffordability of student housing is here
  •    Information on the student housing sector can be found in this report by Savills
  •    The Radical Housing Network is a coalition of community groups fighting for housing justice in London
  •    Rent Strike! is a student organisation working to build resistance to unaffordable housing
  •     The  European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City is a coalition of groups in 17 countries across Europe fighting financialisation and evictions.

MIPIM – Give us back our f***ing rent!

by Harriet Vickers, Housing Action Greenwich and Lambeth, Katya Nasim and Becka Hudson, Radical Housing Network @radicalhousing  

We’re in the midst of a global housing crisis – and MIPIM is the command centre. A motley crew of private developers, speculators, politicians and councils gathered today in West London at property show MIPIM, only to be met by graduates holding collection boxes, saying ‘Give Us Our F****ing Rent Back!’, just one of the eye catching protests for housing justice that took place across the city.

MIPIM is an exclusive marketplace where public land and property that should be used to provide truly affordable homes is secretly sold off – or even given away. With a ticket price of £500, and with many deals being done around champagne-laden dinner tables few people know exactly what is said between universities and investors. When these deals do become public the consequences are stark with private halls costing students an average of £1212 a month – more than their student loan.

With a session entitled ‘Student Housing: Coming of Age’, our efforts this year focus on the ‘financialisation’ of student housing.

It is becoming routine that people who want to get an education in the UK must accept living in poverty whilst private companies bloat their rent and rake in millions a year.

Student halls are now prime investment opportunities, with £5.2 billion invested in the sector in just the first five months of 2015. Universities are acquiescing to this – selling so much accommodation that private landlords now make up 41% of all student housing provision and, as negotiated at events like MIPIM, this number is rising.

Whilst investors profit from the land-giveaway, ordinary people are being evicted, priced out of their communities, forced to live in poverty and made to live on the streets. Here’s why we protested MIPIM and what it means for students…

1.If the dodgy deals at MIPIM continue, only the very richest students will be able to get an education:

NUS research shows that the average student halls use up 95% of a student loan, leaving students with small amounts of cash to cover all living expenses, including food, clothes, travel and books. If student housing continues to be sold off at MIPIM, the only people who will be able to survive in higher education will be the richest people who can easily access significant extra financial support.

2. MIPIM is anti-democratic and unaccountable, and it makes student housing just like it: Over half of all universities don’t consult with students when setting rents, and almost half have no policies on supporting low income students with their rent. As they sell off housing to private companies with no accountability to students, these problems only gets worse, narrowing the scope for students to have their say and leaving them shut out of decisions that can drive them into poverty.

3.MIPIM means housing is bought only to be left empty. There are nearly 60,000 empty homes in London while almost 50,000 households are homeless, relying on temporary accommodation such as B&Bs. The number of young people sleeping rough in the capital has doubled in the last five years and the number of rough sleepers as a whole is higher than ever. Squatters and council tenants with a spare bedroom face sanction – while investors are free to leave their properties empty, waiting for the price to rise.

4.Developers say they’re giving students choice, when they are forcing them into poverty: At the moment, students are left with an average of £851 a year to spend on all living expenses after rent. Private accommodation already costs more than university owned alternatives. The more halls sold to private investors at MIPIM, the less money students will have to survive.

5.MIPIM means housing is used for greed, not need. The international property fair began over 25 years ago, and now meets regularly in Cannes, Japan and London. Investors buy up public land of all stripes for developments not intended as homes, but as piggy-banks for multinational investors.

There is an alternative. The anti-MIPIM demo was organised by the Radical Housing Network and UCL Cut The Rent.

The first is a network that brings together over 30 grassroots groups to demand that housing is a right not a privilege, and to fight against social cleansing and for decent homes for all. UCL Cut The Rent are the campaign for lower rent at University College London, whose success with rent strikes this year is galvanising cut the rent campaigns with students across the country.

Today, we forced delegates to face those affected by the housing crisis they are creating.

Today’s demo is part of a housing movement that’s building across Europe, linked to The European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City. Trade unionists, tenants, campaigners and students are coming together, join us to ensure no people are without homes, and no homes are without people.

We’re hiring! Part-Time Coordinator: application deadline extended to 28 August.

Are you passionate about housing justice? Do you want to work for a community-led grassroots network? With the fight for our homes more urgent than ever, Radical Housing Network is looking for a part-time coordinator to support the growth of the network as we look to develop sustained and effective housing campaigns. The coordinator will perform essential administrative tasks and help organise events and training for network members.

The ideal applicant will have strong administrative and communication skills and some knowledge of community struggles and housing issues. You will need to be organised and able to work independently. The role is a good opportunity for someone looking for flexible work within a motivated activist community.

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide solidarity network of over 30 housing groups founded on the principle that everyone deserves a decent home. We support a diversity of tactics from lobbying to direct action. We’ve organised occupations, eviction resistance and London-wide actions and protests against developers and politicians. With estate demolitions, evictions and soaring rents continuing unabated and the devastating Housing and Planning Act about to be implemented, we want to raise our game. For more about RHN please explore radicalhousingnetwork.org or find us on FB or Twitter.

Terms and conditions

The post is part-time 14 hours p/w (2 days pro-rata) and based in London. The rate of pay is £10.30/hr in 2016, rising to £10.70/hr in 2017.

Holiday is 5 weeks (pro-rata: 10 days) a year paid holiday (plus 8 bank holidays; pro-rata: 3.2 days). Up to 5 days a year paid sick leave.

Please note the role is offered initially for 12 months with possibility of extension (subject to funding).

Location of work to be negotiated – there is the possibility of working in Sylvia’s Corner, Focus E15’s space in Stratford. We may be able to support working from home. We will cover work-related expenses.

How to apply

To apply please send a CV and covering letter, referring to the Job Description and Person Specification below. The covering letter should be no more than one-side of A4 and should demonstrate how your skills and experience meet the person specification. You should also mention your motivations for applying the role and what you could bring to it.

The application should be sent to radicalhousingnetworkjob@gmail.com by Sunday 28 August.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview during the week beginning Monday 5 September. We will make a decision by Monday 12 September, and hope that the selected applicant will start as soon as possible after that date.

The application process is being managed by a Coordinator Steering Group, made up of three network members. If you have any questions about the role please email radicalhousingnetworkjob@gmail.com


Essential aspects

Administrative work:

  • Answering email enquiries
  • Oversight for website and social media (Twitter and Facebook). Regular social media and website updates, keeping London housing events/actions calendar up-to-date.
  • Email list administration, including moderation, adding new members and troubleshooting, and seeking ways of streamlining email load.
  • Ensuring monthly network meetings take place, are advertised, are minuted, and minutes are distributed.
  • Draft and send out monthly announcement email, ie digest of RHN and local events/actions/meetings etc plus summary of key news/policy stories.
  • Redirecting enquiries to appropriate people (including media enquiries).
  • Creating and maintaining resource pages for website.
  • Reporting to the steering group on a monthly basis, with a review every quarter.

Network building:

  • Taking a role in organising towards events organised by the network e.g. conferences, demonstrations.
  • Helping to organise or facilitate relevant trainings for network members’ development.
  • Supporting the activities of network members.
  • Responding to conversations on the email discussion list when they aren’t picked up by other members.

Addition tasks that may be done, time permitting

Administrative work:

  • Updating media contact lists
  • Recording useful links, case studies, details of active housing (and associated) groups and other useful information (e.g. cheap printers, activists, academics).
  • Monitoring key housing and political websites for new legislation being mooted, discussed or introduced, and sharing this information via website and/or monthly RHN monthly digest.
  • Assisting in funding renewal applications, seeking new sources of funding, and making sure RHN submits regular reports to existing funders (as required).

Network building:

  • Supporting the development of relationships with existing housing groups and between existing groups working on similar issues and/or in similar locations.
  • Helping create RHN materials e.g. flyers for events, generic flyers for different target groups (renters, bargees, etc) and ensuring that they are available for events and local member groups.
  • Assisting member volunteers representing RHN at talks/ events, prepare materials such as presentations and info sheets.
  • Assisting working groups (e.g. media, research, eviction resistance).



  • Organised, flexible, and able to work independently
  • Able to use a computer and applications (word documents, spreadsheets)
  • Competent with using the internet, web and social media (or a desire to learn)
  • An able communicator (verbally, written)


·         Knowledge of the housing sector, and community struggles

Why we need you to support our crowdfunder

by Jake, Digs – Hackney private renters group

This blog is mostly being written because the alternative, according to my to-do list, is to call my landlord and ask when he’s booked the bailiffs for our eviction. There are other reasons, like the need for a Radical Housing Network part-time coordinator, but these pale in comparison with not talking to landlords and not thinking about bailiffs. Unfortunately it seems that, rather than inuring you to housing crisis, being a housing organiser makes you think about place and community a hell of a lot, and what happens when you lose them. For young people such as myself, this connection to place is becoming almost mythical, as we anaesthetise ourselves to yet another change of borough. But we’re not quite doped up enough, and the loss of relationships, with friends, shopkeepers, doctors or favourite parks, contributes to our generally aggrieved air, along with my knowledge of the work required to placate yet another new jobcentre advisor. Of course it’s not just the youth who are precarious these days, but many older people have some experience of what it’s like to belong to an institution of some sort – a church, community centre, or trade union. As institutions with the capacity to organise have broken down, so has the power of communities to create the cities they want and need.


Schooled in precarity, indignant about rents, younger generations over the past few years have joined forces with older more settled communities to fight displacement and the sell-off of our city. This has been a potent alliance, bringing together private renters and squatters with council tenants and leaseholders fighting ‘regeneration’. Once a byword for long Old Labour meetings of (dedicated) white men, the housing struggle has become a housing movement, and is slowly beginning to reflect the breadth of those affected. With the passage of the Housing and Planning Act a few weeks ago, these fertile coalitions will soon need to come to fruition to fight what is likely to be the biggest sale of public housing stock ever conducted in the UK. As tenants and residents associations regroup, the Radical Housing Network’s eviction resistance group trains new local networks, and private renters continue along the road to a London private tenants’ union, we are preparing for the long haul.

In the Radical Housing Network, we have grown over three years to nearly 30 groups in London. Granted, some are smaller than others, but that’s exactly why we need the network. It’s committed to supporting member groups with trainings and contacts, and in educating ourselves on the latest ruses from the state and developers marketising housing, and our latest successes in stopping them. It can be hard to see out of the housing bubble sometimes, as our successes dwindle proportionate to its inexorable growth. But if we are to rein it in, we’re going to need new institutions that can both speak to people’s needs, and organise them to build community power.

In the vacuum, Radical Housing Network groups are trying to kick-start these new organising institutions. Without them, not many of us will still be in town in a decade, but with them we can turn renter grumbling into widespread and consistent renter power. With them, I know that when I’m evicted, I can land on my feet with a contact in the private tenant’s group in the borough I move to. Without networks to link housing struggles, our successes don’t teach us much, but with them, we grow stronger through mistakes and victory. The new part-time co-ordinator for the Radical Housing Network will free up time for organisers to spend more time skillsharing, strengthen our regions, and take care of ourselves in this often harsh city. Please help us raise the last £1,000 to pay them London Living Wage plus holiday.

Whatever Sadiq Khan proposes, the housing crisis will only really be over when more secure communities and precarious people fight together to defend their places. When we win, we can all become as settled as we like, and then we’ll have organisations up to the task of radically restructuring our city.

Donate to the crowdfunder here: https://www.youcaring.com/radical-housing-network-568231

Why we love council housing, and hate the Housing and Planning Bill


Right now, our government is trying to legislate the beginning of the end for council housing, whether that’s a home rented direct from the council, through a housing association or as part of a co-op.

Tomorrow, MPs will again meet to debate the Housing and Planning Bill, a debate which could end with them voting the bill into law. Not only will the bill force councils to sell off council homes, whilst even more are lost as right-to-buy is extended to housing association tenants, it will pave the way for more council estates to be demolished.

The government is smearing council estates as run down ‘sinks’ of crime, and trying to persuade us that the bill will make it easier for everyone to have a home. But we in the Radical Housing Network know that council housing is one of the best ways to provide people with safe and secure homes, and that the bill will worsen the housing crisis for the majority and only benefit investors, developers and the rich. Here’s why people across the network love council houses.

They’re *actually, actually* affordable

“For someone earning just above minimum wage, I have a secure family home at an affordable rent and don’t need to claim benefits. This is a proud tradition in the working poor.” Linda Taylor.

Council and housing associations tenancies are designed so that people can afford them, 70% of a property’s rent is based on average local wages. Private rents are based on how much a landlord can squeeze out of a tenant. Surprise, surprise then, that the average social housing rent across London for a two bed is £104 a week, whereas privately it’s £320 a week.

More social housing would actually save the government money too. Housing benefit costs us £24.4 billion a year, much of which is going into private landlords’ pockets, and homelessness and health problems caused by housing problems are expensive, as well as immoral. Management of council housing is paid for by rent, and extra profits stay as public money. Selling off public land to private developers may bring in a quick buck, but building council homes on it is an investment that will pay us back for decades, even centuries, to come.

You can settle in


Hackney renters group Digs protesting against private renters being discriminated against because they’re on benefits.

“I’d love council housing because it would provide me with my own secure and affordable flat, unlike the room I rent in shared accommodation, where I can be kicked out with two months notice and which costs the same amount.” Glenn McMahon, Tower Hamlets Renters.

Councils or housing associations have to have pretty good reasons from evicting you, such as not paying the rent or illegal activities, but a private landlord doesn’t even have to say why they’re kicking you out.

Council tenancies are given out based on need rather than wealth or anything else, and if you lose your job and have to go on benefits, you won’t be discriminated against and can keep your home. If you rent privately, it’s a different story, and many landlords or letting agents will turn you away.

You don’t have to lock yourself into a lifetime of debt

With the average house price for a first time buyer in London getting on for £400,000, and with KPMG figuring out last year you’d need to earn £77,000 to get on the property ladder here, for most people owning a home is a joke. But even if you do somehow manage to scrabble onto the bottom rung, you’re locked into a mountain of debt, and risk losing your home if interest rates shoot up, you lose your job, or for whatever reason you can’t pay.

They let people build communities

sweets way

Barnet Housing Action Group protesting evictions at Sweets Way Estate.

“Cheap rent and life long tenancies are what people need in order to thrive and be part a community. Social housing means children can access regular schooling, people can hold down jobs if they are not moving all the time and they can receive health care from local services if needed. This is what housing stability brings – it enables us to get on with life.” Ayesha Taylor, Focus E15 campaign.

A tenancy for years to come or for life means you don’t have to worry about being forced to move away from your job, family and friends just because rising property prices or rents in the area have got too much.

…and themselves

When times get tough, a secure home can be a life saver.

“I have been lucky enough to have a council/social housing tenancy for 30 years. It has been the bedrock of my life and has given me the safety and security I needed to beat addictions, attend further and higher education, bring up my daughter in a safe and secure environment (I was able to swap tenancies and move to escape a violent partner) and to manage my mental health when diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder. My home has always been my sanctuary, a place to be calm and to heal; a place I can shut the door on the world and feel safe.” Janette Walsh, Barnet Housing Action.

They’re quality (at least, more so than the private sector)

“My council home had three decent sized bedrooms, decent ventilation, a lovely back garden where me and my brother could run around, and it was always warm. When something broke, or if we got a leak, the council fixed it. Even though I grew up very poor, I never really experienced terrible housing conditions until I lived in the private sector.” Rebecca Winson, GMB Young London.

Council homes must meet certain standards to ensure they are safe and in reasonable condition, covering the dire stuff like dangerous electrics, to just making sure your bathroom’s been upgraded in the last 30 years. Private landlords don’t have to make sure their properties are up to the standards, but according to Shelter, if they did over a third of private rented homes would fall foul of them, and tenants and councils have few rights and powers to force private landlords to make repairs.

Council estates can be really nice, safe places to live

“Council housing can be wonderful places to live with strong communities. Every so-called ‘sink estate’ is an estate that was either badly designed or more likely has been poorly maintained and actively neglected.” Christine Clifford.

‘Sink estate’ Broadwater Farm.

Heard David Cameron talking about Broadwater Farm estate recently, saying it’s the one of the causes of the Tottenham riots, and full of ‘criminals’ and ‘anti-social behaviour? Our friends at Architects for Social Housing (ASH) have blogged about the estate, highlighting that since it’s regeneration in 1985 it’s had one of the lowest crime rates of any urban area in the world, and now has a community centre, neighbourhood office, children’s nursery and health centre, social projects, sports clubs and youth programmes, murals and communal gardens.

If you’re lucky enough to have a place in a council housing co-op, you have even more control in building your community.

“Housing Co-ops are vibrant, autonomous communities. Members are responsible for setting their own rents, rules and policies, they are self-governed and democratically run. It’s not always easy or straightforward but co-ops can provide great examples of groups of people living and working together.” Claudia, London Cooperative Housing Group.

They can help fix the housing crisis. THEY CAN HELP FIX THE HOUSING CRISIS EVERYONE.

The Kill the Bill campaign take it to the streets on the March for Homes.

Private rents taking nearly all of a pay packet. Homelessness going up and up and up. No hope in hell for the majority of owning their own home. Slum living on the rise, with people forced to live in smaller and smaller spaces, and in conditions so poor they cause ill health and even death.

Sounds familiar? It’s 2016, after decades of decline in council homes, but it’s also the early 1880s up to 1919, when councils started building homes after years of campaigning and action from tenants, workers and activists against dire housing conditions.

We need more council homes, not less. Homes that are built for the people that live in them, and for not landlords, investors, or developers. The Tories’ Housing Bill aims to destroy them, and will hit everyone trying to rent or buy on low or middle incomes. It condemns millions to a lifetime of insecure, expensive private renting.

That’s why we in the Radical Housing Network love council housing, and hate the Housing and Planning Bill. That’s why we’re protesting at the bill’s reading tomorrow, fighting evictions and demolitions, reclaiming public spaces, supporting tenants, and demanding that council homes are saved today and for the future.

PRESS RELEASE: Campaigners close pop-up social centre following successful week of action against Tory Housing Bill

Housing activists occupied the prime property – next to Harrods – to build support for the Kill the Housing Bill demonstration on Sunday 13 March, which saw up to 10,000 people take to the streets in central London.

Radical Housing Network, a network of grassroots housing campaigns, used the empty building – known as “Our House” – to host a community-led week-long programme of workshops, talks and performance in response to London’s housing crisis and its effect on communities. The week of action was reported by the Independent newspaper among others.

Today, the owners of the property, Brompton Estates, took legal action to evict the housing campaigners. Brompton bought much of the South Ken neighbourhood as part of a £41 million deal. In court this morning, Brompton were granted a possession order, and bailiffs are due at the property imminently.

Campaigners said: “We’re leaving today, but the fight for housing justice continues. This was a pop-up shop – we created a vibrant pop-up community. It’s been a fantastic, uplifting week of action. We’ve taken action against policy-makers, landlords and developers through mock-evictions and doorstepping local councillors. We’ve hosted practical sessions on mapping our struggles, eviction resistance and civil disobedience, and held lively debates bringing together local campaigns and beyond.

“But most of all, we’ve had fun and supported one another. Our ‘pop-up squat’ has been a space of refuge and resistance for all those affected by the housing crisis. We’ve held a community kitchen and brilliant Open Mic nights bringing together locals and activists from across the capital.”

The occupation involved radical campaigns such as Focus E15, Movement for Justice and Sisters Uncut, a feminist group taking direct action over cuts to domestic violence services. Other groups involved included Our Brixton, Architects for Social Housing, Brick Lane Debates, as well as local West London campaigns Grenfell Action Group and Save Earl’s Court.

“Our House” was situated in the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). RBKC ranks in the top four London boroughs in terms of inequality and housing costs.Almost 100% of the 6,000 council homes in the borough are set to be sold off under the provisions of the Housing Bill.

A Radical Housing Network spokesperson (one of the occupiers), said: “People have the impression that Kensington is all about millionaires revving their sports cars outside Harrods. Yet it is in fact a prime example of the ever growing, extreme inequalities in our society. We occupied this empty building in Kensington to protest the Tories’ Housing Bill which will make the housing crisis much worse.

“The Housing Bill aims to destroy council and social housing. Crucially, it will hit affect everyone: It means higher rents, less security, and less chance of a home you can afford. It’s vital for communities to come together to organise against this pernicious legislation.

“We’re fighting for decent housing for everyone. This is not the end – this is just the beginning.”


Notes to editors

PRESS RELEASE: Housing campaigners occupy prime property in Knightsbridge and open pop-up Community Centre in protest at Tory Housing Bill

The community-led occupation aims to build support for the national Kill the Housing Bill demonstration on Sunday 13 March in Central London.

Radical Housing Network, a network of grassroots housing campaigns, plan to use the occupied property – known as “Our House” – to host a week-long programme of workshops, talks and performance in response to London’s housing crisis and its effect on communities.

The occupation involves a number of radical campaigns such as Focus E15 and Sisters Uncut, a feminist group taking direct action over cuts to domestic violence services. Campaigners said the occupied site ‘was a pop-up shop – now it’s a pop-up squat’.

The week-long programme of events includes actions against policy-makers, landlords and developers such as mock-evictions and doorstepping councillors; and practical sessions on banner making and civil disobedience. The ‘pop-up squat’ aims to be a space of refuge and resistance for all those affected by the housing crisis, by hosting activities such as a kids’ kitchen and holding discussions bringing together local campaigns.

The owners of the occupied property, Brompton Estates, are taking the occupiers to court on Friday. Brompton bought much of the neighbourhood as part of a £41 million deal.

“Our House” is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). RBKC ranks in the top four London boroughs in terms of inequality and housing costs.¹ Within the borough, the gap in life expectancy extends as much as eight years.² Almost 100% of the 6,000 council homes in the borough are set to be sold off under the provisions of the Housing Bill.

A Radical Housing Network spokesperson (one of the occupiers), said: “People have the impression that Kensington is all about millionaires revving their sports cars outside Harrods. Yet it is in fact a prime example of the ever growing, extreme inequalities in our society. Homeless people live on the streets near Kensington Palace where Kate and Wills have a flat.

“We’ve occupied this empty building in Kensington to protest the Tories’ Housing Bill which will make the housing crisis much worse.

“The Housing Bill aims to destroy council and social housing. And, crucially, it will hit affect everyone: It means higher rents, less security, and less chance of a home you can afford.

“It’s vital for communities to come together to organise against this pernicious legislation – that’s why we’ve opened a pop-up community centre. We’ve already been visited by lots of local people who have come in to check out what we’re up to and to offer their support”.


Notes to Editors

  • Occupation and press contact: 07985669174
  • Journalists are invited to visit the occupation between 1- 3pm when there will be housing activists and campaigners available to take part in interviews.
  • Occupation ‘Our House’ FB Event – please visit for week-long programme.
  • The address of the occupation is: 221 Brompton Road, Kensington, SW3 2EJ
  • The National Demonstration Against the Housing Bill is on Sunday 13 March. The march assembles 12 noon at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Please see: FB event and website. 
  • For Radical Housing Network please see website, FB Page and Twitter @radicalhousing.

¹ http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/key-facts/overview-of-london-boroughs/



3 ideas for a rent strike

Following on from Ben’s call to action, here are some reflections on how to develop a genuinely effective rent strike, from Hackney Digs. If you’d like to share any thoughts on rent strikes, get in touch with rentstrikenow@gmail.com

rent strike

1. The safety net needs to be put up before anyone has to step out on to the tightrope.

At the presentation of the fantastic film ‘Si se puede’ at the PEER gallery in March, one of the speakers described how he had faced eviction and gone to his first meeting of the PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca). He powerfully recounted how he had been given two promises by those he met there: 1. You will never be alone and 2. You will never have to sleep on the street.

Some kind of solidarity infrastructure needs to precede any actual striking, and people who will not be in the firing line during the first wave of striking, or people who may not need to strike at all, need to sign up as volunteers and make specific promises to house others who may be evicted, (“I can take two people for 6 weeks”) so that people can be paired up ahead of time and reassured that they will be supported if they need it.

2. Identify and mass against a specific enemy

It would be far more effective to identify a single rich landlord, (ideally a Tory MP who receives millions in Housing Benefit), and to attempt to network amongst his tenants and persuade as many of them as possible to strike at one time. Obviously, the set of people willing at present to take action as drastic as striking is likely to be small. The chance of finding people in this small set who also sharing a common landlord is not great. The intersection in the Venn diagram: ‘shares enemy’ and ‘shares motivation to strike’ may have only a few members. However, if such an overlap can be found, and momentum can be built around it, there is an enhanced chance of scoring a concrete win in the short term: it is much more likely to be feasible to force a specific landlord to cut his losses (court costs, bad publicity, cash flow crisis caused by immediate loss of income etc.) and take a rent reduction (see below), and as New Era showed, there is nothing that builds confidence and momentum like victory.

3. Every tenancy is a social tenancy

When the PAH take over and squat bank-owned buildings to rehouse people as part of their obra social (social work) programme they fix a social rent and ensure that the people moving into the blocks immediately begin paying it. Normally this is set at between 1/3 and ¼ of the person’s wages. Although complete non-payment in the short term may be effective to force the landlord to the negotiating table, I think a powerful generalisable demand that will gain resonance, is the insistence that housing costs should never exceed 1/3 of a household’s income.1 It links housing costs to wages, is inclusive of all tenants and amounts to bottom up direct action enforcement of a completely respectable and totally achievable rent-capping policy. Perhaps strikers could pay their social rent into a separate bank account, with an assurance to the landlord that he will get it all straightaway, the minute he caves in and agrees to fixing rents at this level henceforth.

1. Or 30%? Or 25% – This may require specifying more precisely. Data is provided at p.61 of the GLA Housing in London 2014 report, (albeit from 2011-12 that is probably now out of date), but points out that there are various ways of counting household income: “ Looking only at the income of the household reference person and their partner and excluding benefits, the typical private renter in London spends 46% of their income on housing costs, compared to 41% for social tenants and 16% for owner occupiers with mortgages. But many private renting households include more than two earners, and taking the income of all household members into accounts brings the figure for private renters down to 38%, while taking benefits into account lowers it
again to 36%.

London: It’s time for a rent strike

By Ben Beach, originally published on Vice

There are two types of vehicles that strike a particular fear into the heart of London’s neighbourhoods: police vans and Foxtons Minis. Synonymous with gentrification, the Foxtons car represents the vanguard of the housing crisis, expanding sky-high rents into fresh territory; “discovering” an area before returning to the ubiquitous plasticky offices and their smarmy drinks fridges to market another slice of the city at exorbitant prices.

In an age when you can’t trust what politicians tell you, the fortunes of Foxtons’ share price offers an unintentionally honest barometer of current housing policy. Just hours after the Conservative election victory, Foxtons’ share price had surged by 13 percent. It seems reasonable to assume the housing crisis will soon follow the Labour Party in reaching “Defcon Fucked”.

When so many of us are already anxiously asking the question, “Where are we going to live?”, the triumphant rally of Foxtons makes clear which side of the property market will benefit from the present administration. With inheritance instead of wages once again the real decider of lifetime wealth, it’s probably not going be you. International real estate consultants Cluttons are predicting rent hikes of nearly 20 percent in the next five years – with a 25 percent increase in renters forecasted for the same period. With prices already unaffordable for so many, just how socially damaging this outcome will be is already apparent. We quite literally cannot afford to let these forecasts become reality.

The origins of the present housing crisis are as varied as they are complex. David Harvey suggests they can be traced back directly to the recessions of the 1970s and the neo-liberal economic restructuring that happened afterwards.

As manufacturing industries collapsed across Western economies, traditional investment opportunities disappeared, leaving phenomenal amounts of money all dressed up with nowhere to go. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher’s monumental privatisation of state-owned land and housing stocks, coupled with the removal of currency controls, saw this surplus capital flood into urban property markets. Instead of providing homes for everyone, the function of Britain’s housing switched, and it became an international investment opportunity promoted by successive governments, promising little risk and lavish returns.

The soaring inflation of property that resulted has become the basis for increasingly abstract financial jiggery-pokery; spawning secondary and tertiary markets in complex debt products, securitised on our homes and neighbourhoods. With these markets worth trillions of pounds, financial institutions are so tied up in them that any collapse in property prices risks triggering another 2008-style economic crash.

Put simply: the maintenance of the current financial system depends upon you having to pay eye-watering rent for an eyesore of a house.

A housing campaigner in Clapham, South London (Photo by Chris Bethell)

Away from the spreadsheets, the story of Hoxton’s New Era Estate provides a potent illustration of what the financialisation of our homes looks like in reality. Built in the 1930s by a charity intent on providing decent housing for all, New Era is home to 93 families living on an island of controlled rent amidst a sea of gentrification – making it a perfect target for investment. In 2014, notorious New York investment firm Westbrook Partners spotted the opportunity for some quick cash and bought the estate, planning to refurbish the flats and triple the rents from £800 to £2,400 a month. Unable to afford the astronomical increases, the tenants were handed eviction notices weeks before Christmas.

It’s difficult to imagine the full intensity of the stress and desperation that must take hold when you are a single parent, a carer for a stroke patient, a pensioner or a young family, suddenly informed that you are to be violently forced from your home, your support networks and your life. But it’s not difficult to understand why under the present government, cases like the New Era one are becoming the norm: Westbrook’s initial partner on the deal was Richard Benyon – a Tory MP.

In the run up to the general election the Conservative party received huge donations from scores of property moguls: Lord Fink – a director of a real estate investment company – has personally contributed more than £3.1 million, while a developer named David Rowland has contributed £3.4 million. Elite donors such as these are invited to partake in the “Conservative Property Forum”, a little known dining club with access to senior politicians. Presumably, for £3 million, they talk about something a little more substantial than the weather.

Little wonder then, that for all the talk of free market economics, state intervention in the housing market has seldom been higher. It has never been more apparent who really benefits from this. Between 2010 and 2014 alone, the social housebuilding budget was slashed from £2.3 billion to £1.1 billion, yet the government spent over £115 billion on subsidising the profits of private landlords through tax breaks, build-to-let schemes and housing benefit. The scale of government subsidy to the housing market is so vast that the entire country’s monetary policy is geared towards it: the Bank of England’s £375 billion quantitive easing programme is specifically designed to keep interest rates low enough to avoid any slowdown.

The current housing minister – alongside one in four MPs – is himself a landlord, working for a party significantly funded by landlords. Thinking that the government is going to directly undermine its own economic interests by lowering rents is farcical. If we want to see any meaningful action, we are going to have to do it ourselves.

While the contemporary housing crisis is particular to the present, Britain has faced periods of intense housing struggle before. In 1915, tenants across Glasgow found themselves facing astronomical rent hikes for their slum accommodation. The response was swift: housewives across the city bound together to declare a rent strike – they simply refused to pay their rent.

As landlords instructed bailiffs to evict the strikers, housewives spied on their movements across the city, operating en masse to prevent evictions taking place. If an eviction was successful, the strikers would immediately reopen the house, reinstating the family and their furniture and getting into fist fights with any policeman who attempted to intervene. As support for the strike swelled, soldiers were confined to their barracks out of fears they would defect. The result was that rent controls were introduced across the city.

Far from being an isolated incident, the success of the Glasgow rent strike saw the tactic added to a common repertoire of dissent in times of housing stress. Colin Ward, a noted housing commentator, believed that a society based on profit will never provide housing that working people can afford – precisely because that doesn’t generate profit . The answer, he claimed, was to take immediate action to force the hand of the state. He puts the widespread social housing construction that happened after the Second World War in part down to a massive, countrywide rent strike that happened in 1938.

The effectiveness of rent strikes in reducing inordinate housing costs makes them a tactic that increasingly cannot be ignored. The Sheiks and oligarchs who are putting their loot in British housing markets are doing so because of a favourable political climate that creates a stable environment for investment at a time of international uncertainty. Anything that undermines this sense of stability – even the simple threat of rent strikes – will likely have far-reaching consequences.

The notion of rent strikes is becoming increasingly plausible, in no small part because they’re already happening. Sick of conditions described as “unbearable”, hundreds of students at four Central London halls of residents have withheld rent over grievances ranging from appalling facilities, cockroaches and rodent infestation to incessant noise from building works .

While two of the halls comprised largely of SOAS students ended their strike having successfully won compensation from their landlords, UCL management have resorted to threats of evictions and exclusion from the university. But it is increasingly likely this will backfire, with groups including the Radical Housing Network pledging to shut down UCL’s all-important open day to prospective students on the 3rd of July unless the strikers’ demands are met.

The success of the protesters at the New Era Estate shows that these struggles can be won. As Lindsey Garrett, a resident and single parent, stated at the beginning of the campaign, “When you’re a mother, if you’re backed into a corner you have no choice but to fight your way out.” The residents did just that, publicly forcing Westbrook to sell the estate to a social housing provider – who immediately froze the rents.

Leaflets arguing for a rent strike at a recent London demonstration (Photo by Chris Bethell)

In Spain, the PAH movement sought to bring an end to the housing crisis afflicting the country through resisting evictions, shutting down banks and re-occupying empty homes. Since the beginnings of the movement several years ago, the grassroots campaign has gone from strength to strength: one of its key activists has just been elected mayor of Barcelona on a platform on halting evictions.

This could happen in London, too. Lindsey Garrett has stated her intention to run for mayor in 2016 on a housing platform. If a large-scale street movement uses rent strikes to win against landlords, it is not inconceivable that she could win office and back up the street mobilisations with decent policy.

At a time when the situation is already intolerable, it is clear that the only action from a government of landlords will be to accelerate the housing crisis rather than solve it. But as the nascent social movement that has developed over the last five years begins to display a more mature range of strategies, the housing crisis could soon be over.

If we want to build a democratic movement sufficient to the task, we need to start a conversation in earnest. Today it is announced that the rents now average £1,500 a month in London and have increased by 12.5 percent nationally – there is little time to waste.


Timeline of RHN Direct Action 2015

Right to Buy is theft

The Conservatives’ plan to extend the so-called ‘Right to Buy’ has exposed their choices very clearly. They tell us there’s no money, but want to spend up to £8.5 billion on the biggest social housing giveaway in living memory.

Social housing is not theirs to sell. Generations of taxpayers’ money has created the social housing stock we currently have, and this comes just two months after the Tories’ plan to hand out homes for free to handpicked people – slammed by experts as a ‘breathtakingly stupid’ idea.

A sell-off will benefit no-one but the few. It is a charter for buy-to-let landlords, housing loan sharks and a tiny minority of tenants well-off enough to afford property (which is eye-wateringly expensive even when discounted.) The Tories talk about localism, but they want to order councils to flog off their most valuable houses forcing those on low-incomes further from city centres.

Last time they introduced Right to Buy, they forced councils not to spend money gained through Right to Buy on replenishing social housing. The fallout from past Tory and New Labour housing failures has led us to a crisis where 1.8million people languish on social housing waiting lists; for all the talk of a “property owning democracy”, home ownership is now at a lower level than before the introduction of Right To Buy.

They talk about helping people with mortgage deposits, but millions of people can’t even afford a rental deposit. This government has seen rough sleeping go up by over half, hundreds of thousands of working families made homeless, and its MPs have blocked a vote on stopping landlords from evicting tenants at random.

It is scandalous that homes lie empty, either abandoned, unaffordable or hoarded as assets by plutocrats.This is the real cause of the housing shortage and removing even more housing from the public sector and democratic control can only worsen the crisis.

On housing, the Tories are not for ‘working people’ but for unscrupulous landlords. And Labour have shamefully spent a great deal of time giving Tory policies a free rein. We say that decent shelter is a universal human right, one attainable in the world’s sixth richest economy. We will resist any attempts to sell our homes by any means necessary. We call on all parties to reject this transparent wealth transfer and invest in the good quality, genuinely affordable social housing that people so desperately need.

Radical Housing Network
Generation Rent
Lambeth Housing Activists
Lewisham People Before Profit
Lambeth United Housing Co-op
People’s Republic of Southwark
Save Earl’s Court Supporters Club
Trade Unionists for Housing
Michael Edwards, UCL Bartlett School of Planning
Bev Woodburn, Unite the Union Community Branch
Louanne Tranchell, Hammersmith Community Trust
Ben Beach, Concrete Action
Sibylle Mansour, Brixton Housing Co-op
Mary Robertson, University of Leeds


A beautiful house has been occupied on the Sweets Way estate in Barnet. Come down to check out the estate, chat to some local residents, and help create a community space!


The Sweets Way estate is in the process of a total decant, with about 15 households left of almost 160. The houses are in perfect condition, but are due to be knocked down by developer Annington Homes to double the density with only 33 ‘affordable’ units. Residents have no right of return. The estate has been used as temporary accommodation for Barnet Council via Notting Hill Housing Trust, in some cases for up to 6 years. The residents are at the beginning of their political action together, and are currently coming together to discuss their collective demands of the council.


This is yet another case of developers manipulating the class composition of an area to increase their profits. Residents who have been in Barnet for decades are being forced out, aided by council policy to force up rents to 80% of market rates. They are looking for support in this battle, so if you can get on the Northern line we are only 26mins from Kings Cross.

Here’s our wishlist if you can help out with bringing anything. Check Barnet Housing Action Group and the Radical Housing Network sites, as well as @SweetsWayN20 twitter for updates.

First and foremost, it is the solidarity of people coming and helping out that will win back the homes in this community.

Can donate any of the following?

  • lightbulbs
  • lampshapes/lamps
  • bucket
  • Electric heaters
  • flipchart/paper
  • blackboard paper
  • chalk
  • towels
  • cutlery
  • cleaning supplies
  • space heaters
  • furniture – table chairs beds
  • sleeping bags/bedding
  • cleaning stuff
  • sponges/liquids/sprays
  • blue tac
  • extension cables
  • torches
  • paint and brushes

VIDEO: the children of Sweets Way speak up