It’s the Radical Housing Network week of action! It’s been a mad few days – here are some updates…
Saturday 14th February
Saturday was “Love Council Houses / Love Your Estate Day”.
In Lambeth, with Lambeth Housing Activists, a stall and a film screening in the day ended with a bang as one of the borough’s many threatened estates was occupied. The Guinness Trust Estate near Loughborough Park is being evicted, to make way for Guinness to demolish the blocks and build luxury apartments which will go on sale at full market rate. Of course none of the tenants being evicted can afford to buy the new flats and are facing leaving London, jobs, schools, friends and their community to find somewhere affordable to live. But many residents are saying no and refusing to go.
The occupation is building by the day, and the occupiers would love support with people, publicity and stuff – check out the wishlist if you can help!
Tower Hamlets Renters went on a walking tour of the borough’s council housing, discussing its history, politics and future. The tour took in
1. The Boundary Estate: Europe’s first social housing project funded by the state, although interviews and references were required to ensure only the ‘deserving’ working class became tenants.
2. Sivill House: built under a Tory government after they were re-elected in 1951 having pledged to build more social housing than the previous Labour government. They built 100k a year for 13-years.
3. Keeling House: the first council block to be listed, however, badly built it lay empty for years as it decayed until it was sold off. Flats now go for £500k with rents for a two-bed around £2,300.
4. The Minerva Estate: built in 1948 by the post-war Labour government which built 1m homes in five years!
Lewisham People Before Profit celebrated the last large-scale council house building project in the borough of Lewisham with a photoshoot and leafleting of Deptford Wharf. Virtually everyone we spoke to signed our petition calling for all new housing in the borough to be Council housing until there are no families in emergency B & B accommodation – there are currently 600 homeless families and countless other people who aren’t entitled even to emergency accommodation.
Unfortunately a bereavement meant we didn’t have the lovely RHN posters, but we made a quick substitute with “Big Money is Moving In” placards.
This follows on from the action three weeks ago when we built a “House of Cards” at the Town Hall drawing attention to the problems of homelessness and the unwillingness of Lewisham Council to enforce its own targets for “affordable” homes:
At Our West Hendon there was a special Love Your Estate dinner, as well as a screening of the Spirit of ’45, and a cheeky action plastering Barratts with our messages…
South London’s other occupied estate, the Aylesbury, hosted an activity day, including a practical barricading skillshare, a teach-in on the politics and history of regeneration in Southwark, and a planning discussion on the ‘poor doors’ campaign in Whitechapel.
The Aylesbury is next in line for the kind of all-out social cleansing Southwark Council is known for, most infamously on the Heygate estate were thousands of low-income homes have been lost and are being replaced with luxury developments. Read the statement from the occupiers here.
Sunday 15th February
While momentum at the Guinness Trust occupation kept building, the Aylesbury Occupiers teamed up with Brick Lane Debates for a community debate: Is this the beginning of the end of the housing crisis?
Speakers from FocusE15, Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, Our West Hendon, Hackney Digs and more came together to discuss tactics for building a broad-based grassroots housing movement, with direct action at its core.
Monday 16th February
Barnet Housing Action Group held an anti-eviction protest at Sweets Way Estate, resisting the eviction of four families, some of the last remaining residents in this site of social cleansing. The Bailiffs got scared off – showed up and drove away.
The FIGHTBACK has begun!!
Residents moved on to Barnet House Council Office, getting it under lockdown for two hours: but Barnet residents and newly homeless were refused entry by security.
Two newly homeless people and a witness secured entry for a meeting with Housing Officers….who have promised (on video) that each affected family will be contacted for a meeting this afternoon and be offered suitable housing locally. More actions planned this week – help wanted, including anyone with legal/advocacy experience!
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth held a protest at Lambeth Town Hall. Lambeth council is threatening to use powers under the Localism Act to force homeless families to accept private sector accomodation outside the borough or face homelessness. As in other boroughs across the city, they have found a way to evade their obligation to provide council homes for homeless families
The police turned up with tasers to scare the local residents away, but with the support of the Pensioners Action Group who happened to be passing, HASL occupied the offices for over two hours.
Meanwhile up in Tottenham, Haringey Housing Action Group handed out leaflets and chatted to residents, raising awareness of the same issues around homelessness and the Localism Act that HASL are trying to tackle in Lambeth. The new powers are a direct engine of social cleansing, and members of HHAG have reported being offered accommodation on the other side of the country, even though the council claims this is not their policy.
There was also demonstration outside court for the Aylesbury Occupation. Although the occupiers were slapped with an IPO (Interim Possession Order – a sneaky way to shut down protest) they won’t be giving up easily. Get down there at 6 this evening for a public meeting to plan next steps.
A demonstration at the Guinness Trust offices took place at 9am, but no sign of the Guinness folk! We’ll be going back every day at 9am – come down and support.
Join Tower Hamlets Renters for a screening of Si Se Puede, or get down to the Aylesbury to plan the forward movement for the occupation at 6pm, and then join the Guinness Trust occupation meeting at 7pm.
And the rest of this week?
See the listings here, and follow twitter for the most up-to-date info on actions across the city.