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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2020

Self-isolation class divide: decent homes for all!

photo IDuke/CC

photo IDuke/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Holly Eaton, West London Socialist Party

The nation has been told to stay home. But that doesn't mean the same thing for everyone.

The BBC's coverage of how people are rising to the challenges of self-isolation has included affluent professionals ensconcing themselves in their spare rooms or hotels, and allocating different bathrooms to infected and non-infected family members.

What about those of us who don't have enough rooms, let alone spare rooms, extra bathrooms or spacious lounges? The advice to stay at home, work from home, home-tutor children, self-isolate and shield the vulnerable is a considerably different challenge for those living within the confines of small, already heavily used spaces.

Successive neoliberal governments have created huge overcrowding for hundreds of thousands of households - 600,000 in England alone, says the National Housing Federation.

Over the past 20 years, overcrowding has spiked, with all of the increase in the rented sector.

Homeowners have around 60% more space than those who rent, and over half have two or more spare rooms.

According to the English Housing Survey, around 14% of renters are overcrowded, compared to 1% of homeowners. Overcrowding is at the highest rate ever among council and housing association tenants.

Now, with coronavirus spreading, having a spare room in which to self-isolate could mean the difference between life and death. Yet it is low-income social renters who are singled out for the bedroom tax, imposed on spare rooms by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government in 2013.

Overcrowded households immediately need free, self-contained accommodation made available so people can self-isolate if necessary - and the bedroom tax must be scrapped straight away. But beyond that we also need an entirely different approach to housing.

A company called Under the Doormat is temporarily offering over 300 empty luxury homes in London for free to NHS staff who need to stay near work. They can't rent them out at a profit because of the pandemic.

These are just a fraction of the homes that are sitting empty. Just think what we could do if the all the resources were under democratic workers' control!

Homes, and the space within them to live and flourish, should not just be a privilege of the wealthy. A socialist system would prioritise building housing for all - for its use-value as a home, not as a commodity to make profit for the wealthy.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 31 March 2020:

Coronavirus news

NHS workers speak out: austerity has left us unprepared

Schools: union oversight needed to end chaos in provision under coronavirus

Councils must use resources now for emergency response

NHS supply chain worker: privatisation has cut equipment quantity and quality

Self-isolation class divide: decent homes for all!

Fully fund hospices to care for vulnerable children

Scandalous conditions in food distribution centre

Coronavirus news in brief

World War Two

All in this together? The 'Blitz spirit' myth

What we think

PPE, tests, full pay - for all now

Labour must resist 'Covid coalition': Workers need their own voice and party

Emergency legislation: Trade unions must be on guard against attacks on workers' interests

Food supply and the coronavirus crisis

Capitalism means empty shelves, food insecurity, and soaring profits - the case for a socialist alternative

Workplace news

Key workers should make bold demands

Essential workers deserve more

Working in Mike Ashley's empire: After lockdown we won't forget how we've been treated

Hull construction workers force bosses to shut down site over health and safety fears

Bosses concede to walkouts in Northern Ireland

Bus drivers halt sackings - now restore our pay

Postal workers walk out over health, safety and junk mail

Working from home during the pandemic

Leicester: Nylacast worker exposes truth

Refuse collection workers strike


Fight for safety, staffing and services - Covid chaos for benefits claimants

More than ever, we need accountable union leaders


Help us continue to fight for workers and socialism

Building the Socialist Party

Readers' opinion

Going viral - Socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis


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