Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/845/20179
End the housing crisis!
■Rent control now
■Build council homes
Helen Pattison, East London Socialist Party
"Social housing not social cleansing" shout the Newham E15 mums on their regular campaign stalls. Rising private sector rents and cuts to social housing stocks makes it feel like social cleansing is exactly what's taking place. It was over a year ago that Newham all-Labour council closed Focus E15, a homeless hostel housing 30 young mothers and their babies, along with 130 other residents.
The housing crisis shouldn't be a shock. The Tories have been whittling away social housing provisions throughout this government. In 2013 it was reported that contractors could have their obligation to provide social housing as part of new developments waived if it would make the project 'unprofitable'. The same obligations weren't being met in 60% of cases anyway.
Now redevelopments of empty buildings will similarly have this requirement dropped. Add this to local council cuts and closures such as Focus E15 and the problem is set to increase. The Olympic Park was supposed to relieve the pressure on housing by bringing to the borough 11,000 homes, a third of which would be affordable. But the government's version of 'affordable' (80% market rate) is well above average Newham incomes. Residents being told to uproot themselves and move to Luton, Birmingham or Belfast continue to make poorer communities feel like they aren't welcome in London.
To add insult to injury Newham council has just passed on an opportunity to help relieve the problem. West Ham football club is moving into the Olympic Stadium and its old ground at Upton Park is being turned into an 800-home 'village'. The council has outrageously agreed that this can be completely free of social housing.
Genuinely affordable homes (or better yet council ones) are desperately needed in Newham. With the general election around the corner you'd think politicians would push for at least some social housing to be included in this high profile development! Instead a private developer is boasting that there is none.
We need a huge fight - including standing Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates - for council house building and a rent cap in the private sector. The housing crisis has been developing for decades. In that time successive government and local councils have been pitifully slow in building houses. When they have set quotas they have been minimal and still not been met. New developments are treated as investment opportunities for businesses rather than homes for local people.
We're not willing to take this attack lying down. Local campaigns have been popping up across London. Residents are occupying social housing threatened with becoming luxury flats. In some areas teams of people have prevented evictions. Unite the Union, alongside TUSC and various housing campaigns, organised the March for Homes in January. It's time for a concerted fight against rocketing rents and for good quality, affordable council housing.
In The Socialist 25 February 2015:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Reviews and readers' comments