- Created: Thursday, 12 July 2018 09:33
- Written by Ben White and Séamus Padraic
In June 2017, Lorraine Foreman and her family were issued an eviction notice from her private landlord, who had decided to sell the house they were living in. She immediately sought help from Nottingham City Council (NCC), but was told that she and her three children, one of whom is disabled, would have to relocate to another city. She responded by organising with the RCG and other members of Nottingham Housing Justice Forum to fight for social housing within the city. After a year-long battle the family moved into a permanent council home, which they had previously been told simply did not exist. Ben White and Séamus Padraic recount how this victory was won, and the complicity of Nottingham’s Labour-run council in the housing crisis in the city.
In the fight for social housing for Lorraine and her family, Nottingham City Council have acted as a barrier every step of the way:
- It took a protracted struggle, including a militant protest outside the full council meeting, to get access to a temporary house in the city. Up until then, Lorraine had been assured that no temporary housing was available. She and her family were threatened with either being moved out of the city or being forced to share a single room in a hostel, without any cooking facilities.
- The temporary house that was provided was totally unsuitable for the family. Lorraine has osteoarthritis which badly affects her knees and yet had to spend six months sleeping on a sofa. She twice fell down the stairs, once ending up in the hospital. It also took a huge toll on her eldest son’s mental health, who has acute special needs.
- In April, the NHJF received a tip-off regarding potentially empty council homes in the Wollaton neighbourhood of Nottingham. The campaign submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request inquiring about empty properties around that area. Lorraine had previously been assured that no such properties were available. However, just two days after submitting the FOI request, she received an offer of permanent, secure social housing – in a vacant property in Wollaton.
- Citing the need to do repairs, council house management company Nottingham City Homes refused to give Lorraine an exact moving-in date. Nine weeks after she had received her offer, still in temporary accommodation, the NHJF decided to picket the surgery of Housing and Planning portfolio holder, Jane Urquhart. After the campaign publically informed Urquhart of its planned protest, Lorraine finally received a moving-in date of Tuesday 19 June. According to neighbours, maintenance workers arrived at the property for the first time that morning.
In Lorraine’s view, speaking at a public meeting in June 2018, throughout this whole process NCC simply tried to ‘sweep me under the carpet.’
This battle against NCC – which comprises 93% Labour councillors – highlights exactly how complicit the Labour Party is in the housing crisis. Whilst Lorraine and her family can now celebrate moving into their new council home, for the vast majority of working class people in Nottingham the dire reality of the housing crisis continues unabated. In 2016-17, Nottingham City Council was approached once every 25 minutes on average by a household needing help with homelessness. As of December 2017, the number of households on the housing register stands at 6,500, and in the past year alone the estimated number of rough sleepers in the city has increased by almost a quarter.1
But rather than build and maintain social housing to meet the needs of the city’s population, NCC is investing in the construction of private homes for sale. For example in The Meadows, a traditionally working-class neighbourhood, the council has chosen to demolish 146 old properties to make way for a new development of private housing. This is part of the council’s £18m investment in what they call the “regeneration” of the area. This situation is mirrored in towns and cities across the country. The NHJF’s victory shows that if people fight back, they can win concessions from the state, but they must be prepared to confront Labour-run councils that stand in the way.