Marching for decent housing for all

On Sunday 13 March, the RCG joined the national demonstration in central London against the Housing and Planning Bill.

The Bill, currently going through Parliament, is the latest assault by successive governments on the very concept of social housing (see this article in FRFI 248). Under its provisions, Right-to-Buy will be extended to the tenants of housing associations, with massive discounts. These discounts will, in a double whammy, be funded by forcing local councils to sell off their highest value properties. The Bill will also introduce a ‘pay to stay’ rule for council housing, where households earning above £30,000 ((£40,000 in London) will be forced to pay anything up to full market rent. It will strip away security of tenure in council housing, and even the limited definition of ‘affordable’ housing will be transformed to mean homes for sale – the government’s vaunted ‘starter’ homes that ‘start’ at £450,000. In addition, the ‘Planning’ aspect of the Bill will force councils to identify and make available public land for private development.

The RCG held our customary ‘open mic’, with an impromptu speakout on Waterloo Bridge after Class War and others broke through police cordons to protest against a car from the yuppie estate agent Foxtons. From then on the march spilled out over the whole road, temporarily bringing traffic to a halt. 

There was a justifiable anger against the vicious, greedy conservative government over the Bill amongst all those on the march – many of them social housing tenants drawn into political action for the first time. However, as the speakers from the RCG, and from Architects for Social Housing pointed out at the opening rally, the Housing and Planning Bill is just one part of the sustained assault on social housing.  As those of us who have been involved in campaigns over housing in Labour boroughs such as Newham, Southwark and Lambeth know to our cost, much of the destruction of working class estates is already being carried out under Labour council ‘regeneration’ plans.  That is why the RCG carried a placard denouncing Labour’s social cleansing in London, and why Class War handed out posters of the many many Labour councils involved in social cleansing in London. 

So we have to ask: will the Labour supporters who carried banners on the march and the Labour MPs such as Diane Abbott and John McDonnell who spoke at the rally at the end actually stand up for social housing and against the sell-off of working class estates? Will they call for non-implementation of all aspects of the Bill? And will they support the local campaigns from Focus E15 in Newham to Save Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth in their stance against their own local councils? The fight against the Housing and Planning Bill is a vital one, but it is just one battle in the war to defend secure, affordable and decent housing for all.

Video of RCG speaker Nicki Jameson at the opening rally: