Housing Action 'homes for all' organised by Waltham Forest trades council, photo by Senan

Housing Action ‘homes for all’ organised by Waltham Forest trades council, photo by Senan   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Linda Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

“At last,” sighed one woman coming out of a shop as she was surprised by lively demonstrators, “somebody’s doing something!” This was a typical remark of workers the length of Walthamstow high street as our ‘Homes for All’ march weaved its way to the market square.

Upwards of 150 gathered to express outrage at the terrible housing crisis affecting thousands in our borough – as well as across London. Young or old, single people or families, low wage or professional wage, longstanding residents or recent migrants, all are facing a grim future of sky-high rents and insecurity.

Housing Action, a campaigning arm of the local trades council, whose banner led the procession, decided enough is enough. Having been involved with stopping forced private evictions and supporting council tenants, we decided it was time for trade unionists and housing activists to join forces.

Rent control

The campaign fire truck organised by the Fire Brigades Union, and percussion group Rhythms of the City, supported by a donation from the local National Union of Teachers (NUT) branch, led the way. It was noisy, visually impressive and colourful with union banners like Unite housing branch and campaigns like John Walsh and Fred Wigg towers who face ‘regeneration’.

Youngsters sang out chants: “The rents on the homes go up and up, up and up” to the tune of the wheels on the bus.

Nancy Taaffe, a former candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition whose main policy in the local elections was rent control, gave it large from the mic on the fire truck (a childhood dream!). She explained why we were protesting, and urged all to get involved to stop evictions and press the Labour council to introduce a rent cap.

At the rally campaigners and speakers from various groups like the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the Greens, NUT activists and some Corbynistas gave a flavour of what is happening locally and how they are fighting back.

Council homes

George Galloway was in the square by chance promoting his mayoral campaign and agreed to climb the fire truck to speak. He described how millions of homes have been transferred from the public to the private sector since Thatcher.

The march got a fantastic response as we strolled through the borough. Almost 70 people bought copies of the Socialist.

At the next Housing Action meeting we will seriously discuss the next steps. We are determined that talk will be a guide to action – to defend homes, stop social cleansing and to fight for truly affordable rents with security of tenure. The march was only a start!