Class War on the Homes Front

From Aurora 35, June 2015

New Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis wants the demolition of London’s housing estates and their replacement with owner occupied ‘city villages’. It’s a scheme the Tories have long favoured; earlier this month 13 London Boroughs met property developers and speculators at an exclusive trade fair at Berkeley Square to make deals to pull down the estates and build homes for sale or private rent. Tenants are, of course are kept out of all meetings. Cash strapped councils are eagerly looking for ways of saving money. By persuading them to sell their estates and land, the Tories are giving them a solution that will be extremely costly for the rest of us.

By destroying council housing the Tories are ‘socially cleansing’ working class people out of the capital. Most can’t afford to buy, especially not at London prices which have hit a new record high (over £500,000 for an average home). The result will be even greater pressure on the private rented sector. This will mean higher rents and more street homelessness (which has risen 55% in the past four years). At the same time Housing Associations will be forced to sell off their best “properties”. This will further reduce the number of homes available for working people.

The Tories promised that schemes such as this would result in affordable housing. But they have either turned a blind eye to developers who have ignored these rules and refused to build affordable homes, or they’ve changed the rules to suit the developers and help them maximise their profits. Since December, for example, the Government has exempted anyone who turns an empty building into private housing from paying for further affordable units. One of the first super rich companies to benefit by millions of pounds were the redevelopers of a luxury block of flats in Mayfair, bought by Abu Dhabi’s investment fund. More of the same is to follow if the government gets its way.

But some tenants are saying no. Groups like the Focus E15 Mothers and the New Era Estate residents are campaigning against social cleansing. Both have won victories against property developers, but this fight will be a long one and the stakes are high. On the one hand is millions in profit for developers and landlords, on the other people are fighting for the very homes they live in. If the developers win, the poorest and most vulnerable will pay the highest cost.

Housing is a basic human need, one that capitalism has turned into a money making crisis. Under socialism, rents and mortgages would be abolished immediately, and housing organised by communities themselves. In the meantime if communities are organised and united they can defend themselves, as the women of Focus E15 and the New Era Estate have bravely shown.

[For more see Aurora _33_ “Housing Special” SAE to London address or on website]

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.