Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/162/7835
Hands Off Housing
Build decent affordable housing not yuppie flats
Across the country residents are being forced to fight back against attempts to privatise and yuppify council housing. George King from south London and Bill Hopwood from Newcastle show how successful campaigns to defend public housing can be built.
THE LONDON Borough of Southwark is one of the poorest areas in England and Wales. An estimated 62% of residents claim some form of benefits. It has suffered from decades of under-investment in housing repairs due to inadequate government funding.
Now greedy New Labour want to see Bermondsey turned into a 'new Hong Kong' with £200,000-£500,000 yuppy flats in the South Bank and Riverside areas.
How will local people, particularly youth, be able to afford to live in the borough? The New Labour council, following Blair's housing green paper, is selling all its 55,000 properties to a new housing partnership company who will then lease the housing stock to eight or more new 'social landlords'.
Consultation is meant to have started but hasn't, but there is a ballot of tenants on the transfer. Southwark Socialist Party is making the fight to reject the ballot our key campaign this year.
We have produced leaflets for our Saturday stall, used petitions to discuss with residents, attended council lobbies and recently helped build for a successful 'Defend Southwark Council Housing Campaign' meeting.
The experience of the successful struggle in neighbouring Lewisham, where the Socialist Party and its councillor Ian Page played a key role in the campaign to fend-off a housing transfer scheme, won't be lost on many of the best campaigners in Southwark.
NEWCASTLE COUNCIL is proposing to demolish over 3000 working-class homes, mainly council but some privately owned. Virtually all of Scotswood is threatened with destruction. 1,000 homes in the East End are similarly threatened.
The council plan to knock down good houses, many with gardens, to make way for yuppie villages. The areas up for demolition suffer from unemployment and some linked problems. Although the council talk about these issues, they fail to deliver basic services for working-class people.
Newcastle council are more interested in grand schemes to boost the city's image rather than providing services for people. They are building 2,500 executive homes and encouraging more office and retail development. It's a property developers' charter.
One of their main aims is to increase council tax revenue by having more houses in the higher tax bands.
Residents are fighting back. Over 500 people attended a meeting in Scotswood. The council claim it will consult but already residents have spent years being consulted and then being ignored. This campaign is being built to force the council to listen.
The Socialist says
§ Build a million affordable new homes to ease the housing crisis immediately.
§ Nationalise the construction industry, banks and financial institutions, under democratic workers' control and management.
In The Socialist 16 June 2000: