Marching against the housing crisis, photo by Paul Mattsson

Marching against the housing crisis, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Paul Kershaw, Unite LE1111 housing branch

The new housing act will destroy social housing and smash up working class communities while doing nothing to help the desperate housing crisis if fully implemented. Over two hundred people attended the Axe the Housing Act ‘summit’ on 22 October to discuss how to fight back.

Speaking about the ‘Butterfields Won’t Budge’ campaign, the Socialist Party’s Linda Taaffe explained how tenants had won by organising a fightback and refusing to move. The charity that had owned their homes sold them to a private landlord to make a killing and tried to push out the tenants but they took a stand with regular street meetings and a bold campaign.


Niall Mulholland, an activist with the London Co-op Housing Group, was on the panel during the main session and explained how housing co-ops had successfully seen off the act. But co-op activists remain vigilant and committed to the campaign, recognising the need to link-up with other tenants.

Niall’s call for the London mayor and councils to immediately take over empty properties for cooperative and other social housing got a strong round of applause.

Islington councillor Mick O’Sullivan explained how the council had called a meeting to explain the need to fight the act and 600 had attended.

They plan more meetings and resistance. Tenants from other areas said they wished their Labour council were more like Islington instead of sending out alarmist letters to tenants saying that there is nothing they can do.

In Greenwich, where the Labour council has jumped the gun with its pay to stay letters to all tenants, local Unite activists and Socialist Party members are campaigning with tenants for the council to do what the Labour conference agreed and “pause”.

We say that councillors who attended this summit should all publicly pledge not to vote for implementation and link up councillors who are prepared to fight.

Jeremy Corbyn has attracted enthusiasm for his anti-austerity stand and his support for council housing but Labour councils undermine this when they carry out ‘regeneration’ involving reductions in social housing or implement cuts.

The Socialist Party has called for Labour councils not to pass on Tory cuts, and for the Labour leadership to pledge to underwrite councils that refuse to cut when in government.

A Green Party councillor echoed this when he called on Labour to reimburse councils that do not sell high value council homes as the act requires. By translating broad anti-austerity statements into a programme of action the Labour Party could build massive support in working class communities.

Housing associations are not required to implement the hated tenant tax – ‘pay to stay’. The workshop on housing associations called for them not to implement it. The workshop agreed the proposal by the Socialist Party’s Suzanne Muna to meet again to discuss building a campaign.

Suzanne is also a Unite executive member and secretary of the London Unite housing branch, and will be considering how best to take up the increasingly commercialised and unaccountable nature of associations. Introducing the workshop, Suzanne had outlined the profile of the sector highlighting the weak points that could be targeted in campaigning.