Category Archives: RHN

Winning!

Up against powerful vested interests and a government that supports (or shares) them, campaigning for a better housing system can often feel like fighting a losing battle. But not this week!

On Monday, the government quietly dropped its controversial ‘Pay to Stay’ plans to impose unaffordable market rents for social housing tenants on incomes above a stingy minimum. This policy was introduced earlier this year as part of the regressive Housing and Planning Act, which members of Radical Housing Network (RHN) joined with the Kill the Housing Bill campaign to organise against.

kensington-occupation march-march

We occupied a building in Kensington and helped build a march of thousands in protest against the Housing Bill

Then in yesterday’s budget, it was announced that letting agents will be banned from charging fees to tenants. Letting agent fees can often be £500 or more, making the already high costs of moving house impossible for renters to afford.

RHN members have for years have been calling for the law in the rest of the UK to be brought in line with Scotland, where this form of profiteering is already outlawed. As Hackney renters’ group, Digs, wrote yesterday:

“To be a renter is very often to feel totally powerless. But today’s announcement shows what can be achieved when communities get organised and turn up the heat on those who hold power.”

town-hall-group

F*ck fees! Digs’ action against letting agents’ fees, discrimination and other dodgy dealings in July 2013

These changes come hot on the heels of other local victories across London. Following concerted campaigning on the Aylesbury estate in south London, Southwark council have been prevented from evicting leaseholders after the government refused to grant compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to force them to leave. In west London, the local council recently refused a planning application by housing association Affinity Sutton which would have seen the Sutton estate demolished, resulting in a loss of social housing. And last week, RHN’s meeting was hosted by the inspiring campaigners on the Butterfield estate in Walthamstow, who shared how they have fought off evictions and attempts by their landlord to make huge rent rises.

Of course, there’s still a long way to go. Social housing is still under attack on many fronts, and millions are stuck renting sub-standard insecure and unaffordable homes from private landlords, while Southwark council are appealing against the decision to block their CPOs on the Aylesbury estate (you can donate to the residents’ crowd-funder to fight it here).

But this week shows that by organising together we can win victories that make real differences to people’s lives – and the bigger we can build our movement, the more we will win!

Student Housing – the facts

Check out our infographic on the reality of student housing. No wonder grads had to ask MIPIM delegates for spare change, or camp out in Unite’s offices.

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.

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Timeline of RHN Direct Action 2015

Call for participation with the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City

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.

Savilles
Harrow Estates- Redrow PLC
Exemplar
Knight Frank
Helical Bar
Barclays
Wilmott Dixon
Albany Homes Developments
A2 Dominion
Travelodge
Blackrock
Morgan Sindall Group PLC
Muir Group
Muse Developments
British Land
Neat Developments
Capita
One Housing Group
Cowell Group
Pembroke Real Estate
Generation Estates
Great Portland Estates
Kier
Skanska
London District Housing Association
M and G Investments
UBS
United House Group
Quadrant
University of Oxford
Axa
British Property Federation
British Airways Pension Fund
Presidential Capital
Pricewaterhousecoopers
CLS Holidays PLC
Bloomberg
Reed Elsevier
Genesis
Goldman Sachs
Hamptons
Curson Real Estate
Shaftesbury PLC
ICM Wealth Management Ltd.
Hilton
Jeffries International
Land Securities
Langham Estate Management Ltd
Landmark
Capital and Centric PLC
Carillion
Logicor Europe Ltd.
Royal Mail Group
Residential Land Ltd.
Terence O Rourke
Transport for Greater Manchester
London and Continental Railways
Lendlease

UK Councils
Bath, Somerset
Bolton
Bristol
City of London
York
Derby
Glasgow
Greater Lincoln
Greater London Authority
Leeds City Region
Leicester
Ealing
Hounslow
Scottish Cities Alliance
Sheffield City
South Gloucestershire City
Cardiff City
Wakefield
Coventry
Southwark

Principles

Who we are

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.

What we believe:

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

We exist to:

• 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.