“Housing for the 99%” was the call last May from a couple of private tenants, angry at spiraling rents and cuts to housing benefit and concerned that the resistance didn’t meet the scale of the attacks on people’s right to housing. In less than a year since, there has been an explosion in housing activism in London and further afield.
Where there were once just two private tenants’ groups in the capital, there are now eight and counting, with boroughs including Hackney, Islington, Lewisham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets all seeing new groups set up. Next month these groups are joining forces for a day of action highlighting the extortionate fees being charged by letting agents, and their role in pushing up rents.
Meanwhile, social tenants have joined forces to resist the introduction of the bedroom tax from next month, with last weekend seeing around 50 protests across the country.
But there are also efforts to join up housing struggles and avoid divide and rule tactics with, for example, social tenants being pitted against private tenants, many of whom have been forced into private accommodation by a chronic shortage of social housing. The government is set on a race to the bottom, with social tenants being hit by increasing rents and attacks on secure tenancies reflective of the dire state of the private sector.
This coming week sees the launch of Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) in south London, an attempt to replicate the successful model of London Coalition Against Poverty’s Hackney and Haringey housing action groups, which use a direct action casework approach to supporting members to solve each others’ housing problems – whatever their housing situation. The group’s first meeting is at 7.30pm on Wednesday 27 March at Kings Cafe, 120 Denmark Hill, Camberwell, SE5 8RX.
Based on recent trends, it will be the first of many more!