Fighting ‘No DSS’

no dss

A recent investigation by the BBC found that just 2% of all rental properties listed on the website SpareRoom.com were available without a ‘no DSS’ clause. ‘No DSS’ is a dated term which refers to the old Department of Social Security, now replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); it bars anyone claiming housing benefit from being able to even apply for a private rental. The BBC figure tallies with the experience of FRFI comrades in Manchester: we have found one private letting agent listing 57 of its 58 properties as ‘no housing benefit, no DSS’. The problem is not new: in 2012, the Manchester Evening News reported people claiming some form of benefit were excluded from four in five rentals in the region. The degree of exclusion is growing: membership surveys by the National Landlords Association reveal that the numbers willing to let properties to recipients of Universal Credit (UC) or Local Housing Allowance (LHA) has fallen from 46% in 2010 to 18% today.

 

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Reduced overall benefit cap: thousands face homelessness

68,000 families with 200,000 children have now been hit with the reduction in the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC) that was implemented over a three-month period to January 2017. These are among the poorest families in the country – yet on average they are having £58 a week taken away from them. The measure, which hits single parent families in particular, is one of the most punitive cuts in benefits implemented by the Tory government, and will inevitably lead to mounting rent arrears, court action, eviction and homelessness for thousands. Robert Clough reports.

 

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The market cannot ‘fix’ the housing crisis

No eviction

On 7 February shares in Britain’s biggest housebuilders soared as the government published its White Paper on housing; estate agent Savills saw a rise of 3.8%. The White Paper ensures that the drive for vast profits for multinational housing parasites will continue by intensifying the grab for public land, speeding up planning permission and throwing out planning regulations on quality and size. Key to the process will be the willingness of local councils to collaborate with private companies in delivering homes for market rent.

 

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Overall Benefit Cap reduction hits poorest in north London

cap rents not benefits

Responses by Camden and Islington councils to Freedom of information requests show that the reduced Overall Benefit Cap (OBC) is hammering the poorest sections of the working class. The measure, which limits the total benefits a family living in London can receive to £23,000 per annum, hits 885 families in the two borough, with over 2,500 children. Housing benefit is cut when a family’s benefits exceed this level to keep within the limit. For a single childless person living in London, the benefit cap is £15,410 per annum.

The figures show that in Islington, 309 single people without children living in private rented accommodation will receive an average deduction of £35.34 per week, an annual deduction of £1,837.68. This is because the Local Housing Allowance for a single bedroom self-contained flat is £260 per week, or £13,520 per annum, allowing a single person to retain only £1,890 each year from their Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance. Their only option is to move out of Islington – social cleansing of those out of work.

 

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Greater Manchester council cuts

Greater Manchester is set to welcome its first Mayor into office later this year as the centrepiece of the Devolution Agreement imposed on its three million inhabitants in 2014. However, no matter what grand promises will be offered during the upcoming mayoral election campaign, the fact is that 2017 will witness the continuation of brutal cuts to public services, as Labour-controlled councils in the region continue to do the government’s dirty work.

Manchester City Council announced late in 2016 it would be implementing a cuts package totaling £30m. Despite a proposed 8% hike in council tax, the council still seeks to trim £12m from the social care budget, directly affecting some of the city’s most vulnerable. This will be accompanied by savings in the deployment of school crossing wardens – jeopardising child safety – and cuts to parks and recreation budgets, affecting many public spaces in the region. The council undertook a ‘public consultation’ regarding the impending cuts. Its supposed aim was to ‘use what you tell us as part of our budget setting process’. Yet, with just 1,700 residents taking part and the limited scope of options offered, the exercise was less a consultation and more an attempt to frame any proposed cuts as having public approval.

 

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Housing: No respite for the working class under London’s Labour Mayor

Homes for Londoners

In December 2016, London Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan launched ‘Homes for Londoners’ – his much-touted draft of plans to ease the capital’s housing crisis. In May, while running for Mayor, he described the election as ‘a referendum on housing’, and his manifesto promised that 50% of all new builds in London would be what he called ‘genuinely affordable’. The destruction of London’s council housing estates – so-called ‘regeneration’ – would only go ahead, he pledged, with majority resident support, and only where there was no loss of social housing.

These were just some of his lies. His Affordable Homes Programme 2016-2021, and its accompanying Draft good practice guide for estate regeneration, are a hotch-potch of broken promises, weasel words and sops to the middle classes and better-off sections of the working class who aspire to own their own homes and whose votes Labour is desperate to retain. Meanwhile, it will accelerate the dismantling of social housing, making it easier for private developers to push through their plans and harder for residents of working class housing estates threatened with demolition to resist.Cat Wiener reports.

 

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Housing In Brief

Bristol: private housing plans generate community fightback

Following a spirited campaign by local housing activists, with support from the RCG, in December 2016 Bristol City Council’s planning committee deferred granting planning permission for 135 luxury flats until plans were amended to include social housing. Now, developers are seeking to undermine this setback by appealing to national government at public expense.

Protests outside the council’s Planning Committee meeting in November 2016 marked the culmination of the first stage of campaigning that began six months before against property developers ducking their obligation to provide social housing. Under pressure, the committee – against the advice of its officers – decided that it could not rubber-stamp plans to develop Easton’s Chocolate Factory in their current state, and requested that the developers amend them. The site, located in a working class and largely black area of Bristol, was due to be turned into luxury apartments, of which only six would be sold at the slightly discounted ‘affordable’ rate.

 

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Who owns England’s green and pleasant land banks?

William Blake’s poem, Jerusalem, the anthem of conservative sentiment, gives a surprisingly true vision not just of England but of the whole of the United Kingdom. The majority of the UK’s 60 million acres are lightly populated and comprise vast swathes of empty countryside. Urban plot makes up just 6% of the land and is where 90% of the population of England, Wales, Scotland and the north of Ireland live and work. The rest is 42 million acres of ‘agricultural land’ and 12 million acres of ‘natural waste’ – mountains, bogs, moors, estuaries and so on. Only 5% of England remains ‘common land’.

 

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Housing In Briefs - FRFI 254 Dec 2016/Jan 2017

Autumn Statement: smoke and mirrors

The measures announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Autumn Statement will do precisely nothing to resolve the housing crisis for the working class. The promise of £1.4bn to build 40,000 ‘affordable homes’ – with an additional £3.15bn for 90,000 in London – is the same old sleight of hand. Firstly, it begs the question: ‘affordable’ for whom? ‘Affordable’, ‘submarket’ and ‘intermediary’ rents are all euphemisms for anything up to 80% of market rents – ie unaffordable for the majority of people in most of Britain. In London so-called ‘intermediate housing’ requires a minimum salary of £57,000 a year. In southeast London, as the 35percent.org campaign has discovered, Southwark Labour Council’s new planning policy for the Old Kent Road ‘regeneration’ now allows developers to decide for themselves what constitutes ‘affordable housing’. Secondly, there have already been massive handouts of government money to private builders to tackle the housing crisis. In the words of economist Paul Mason, this has simply resulted in ‘a glut of luxury apartments and a shortage of homes for ordinary people’.

 

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Newcastle Labour Council: cutting to the bone

On 12 October, Newcastle Labour council opened its latest cuts budget to public consultation. The package details a further £70m of cuts to public services over the next three years, with £30m to be cut during 2017-18. Overall, Newcastle’s budget will be slashed by £291m between 2010 and 2020. Along with all other local authorities, Newcastle will rely entirely on business rates and council tax for its income by 2020.

In 2010 Newcastle council received £164m of support from central government. The council has cut further and deeper than has been demanded of it, using a reduction in funding of £164m to justify ripping £291m of resources from the city’s residents. Every Labour councillor in Newcastle has voted for every cut passed in Newcastle since 2010. Now they can hide behind a rule change agreed at the 2016 Labour Party Conference which makes them liable for expulsion for abstaining on, let alone voting against a legal budget.

 

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Salford's housing crisis

Salford building

Salford, one of the most deprived cities in the country, is at the frontline of Britain’s current housing crisis as it struggles with public sell-offs, demolitions and rising rents. From a high of some 25,000 properties in the 1970s, Salford’s last remaining council houses were surrendered to private hands in a deal with Salix Homes in early 2015. This move, at a time of unprecedented housing demand, escalating rents, and falling incomes is seen by many as further proof of the abandonment of working class communities by Salford City’s Labour-run council.

With all social housing in the city now firmly within the control of housing associations – which function in essence as private providers – there is increasing anxiety for many tenants. Indeed, these providers continue to rewrite the definition of social housing to reflect changing priorities within the sector. For example, City West Housing Trust, Salford’s largest provider of social housing, has indicated that it intends to move away from its social housing commitment as it seeks to ‘maximise returns’. Salix Homes has stated that it is to ‘work to change the view that social housing is a home for life towards being a resource for a particular time’, signalling the end of secure tenancies. Of course, there is little financial incentive for them in offering concessionary rents in a period of high-return private markets. Instead, housing associations are concentrating on the more profitable area of ‘affordable rent’ which can be as much as 40% above social rent.

 

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Savills: helping capital buy up public land

The estate agent Savills acts as an instrument for the corporate takeover of London’s council housing stock. Its major shareholders are City and international investment companies. Other shareholders are international corporations, combining banking, investment and insurance businesses. Most of its board of directors either currently serve on the boards of or were drawn from the directorships of companies including: Goldman Sachs (Asia); HSBC Holdings; Sky plc; Dresdner Kleinwort; Citigroup; and the London-based hedge fund Rubicon Fund Management. Trevor Rayne reports.

As surplus funds have poured into property ownership around the world so Savills’ profits have risen; profits are up 141% from 2011 to 2015 and total shareholder return is up 170% over the same period. Profits in 2015 rose 21% on 2014’s figure to £121.4m. In 2015, 56% of Savills’ profits were made outside the UK, (Savills Annual Report 2015) and in the same year Savills won the UK Property Industry Superbrand of the Year award for the eighth consecutive year and the award for Best Real Estate Agency in China and Vietnam.

 

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Autumn Statement – no end to benefit cuts

Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge in July 2016 that she would build a ‘fairer Britain’, helping those who had been ‘left behind’ and were ‘just about managing’ was a lie as the Autumn Statement on 23 November showed. Those who are ‘just about managing’ – a euphemism for millions of working class people living in poverty or on the edge of it – received a pittance: a reduction of the taper rate on universal credit from 65p per pound to 62p per pound that is earned above the basic income limit, a marginal tax rate of 74.2%.

 

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Bristol: the fight for affordable housing

Anger at plans to develop two new complexes of totally unaffordable housing have prompted many people in Bristol to step up the fight for social housing in their city.

The developers in Easton and Fishponds, two working class and largely black areas, openly flout Bristol City Council’s own guidelines by refusing to include any social, or even ‘affordable’ housing in their plans for hundreds of new homes. Generator South West, the developers of the Easton site – a derelict chocolate factory – claim that including on-site social housing would make the development ‘unprofitable’ for them – despite the price of land in the area increasing by 25% in the last three years alone. As is so often the case, neither the council nor the company have permitted their viability assessment for the development to be made public.

 

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Overall benefit cap: terrorising the poor

This is an updated version of an article published in October/November 2016 issue of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (No 253)

‘We need to be heard as one, not individually – there are 88,000 of us.’ (Steve, a single parent with four children, whose housing benefit is to be cut by £70 per week by the benefit cap, talking to FRFI)

From 7 November, according to DWP calculations, 88,000 families, each with three or more children, will start to lose an average £60 per week in housing benefit because of a reduction in the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC). When the OBC was introduced in April 2013 it was set at £26,000pa; it will now be cut to £23,000pa for families living in London, and to £20,000pa for those living outside. 80% of those affected will be single parent families (67% women, 13% men). Some larger families will lose all their housing benefit. Single people or couples without children have their benefit capped at two-thirds the level for families with children: many in temporary accommodation (which can cost £250 per week) will be hit by the reduction.

 

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Savills: scouting for capital

Cressingham
The banner here was made by Andrew Cooper with young people in Brixton from threatened housing estates for a youth housing march from the centre of Brixton to Cressigham Gardens (threatened with demolition) with the RCG and the rapper Potent Whisper.

Savills presents itself as ‘a global real estate services provider’, with 700 offices and associates and 30,000 staff operating in the UK, the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.  It functions as a scout for international capital, identifying land and property where surplus funds can be profitably invested. In January 2016, Savills delivered a report to the British government on the future of council housing estates in London and it has been commissioned by London boroughs to survey and advise on their council housing stock and estate management. Savills presents what it claims are solutions to London’s housing crisis that have to appeal both to local authorities and expand the role of private finance in housing provision. The housing crisis and land prices provide opportunities for profits with the sale of public land that Savills and the corporations it serves cannot resist and towards which London’s councils are lured. TREVOR RAYNE reports. 

 

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Housing in briefs

Boundary House mothers fight social cleansing

Families housed in inadequate temporary accommodation, many of them single mothers, are leading the fightback against Waltham Forest Labour council and private management company Theori Housing (see FRFI 252) with the support of the Focus E15 campaign and the RCG. Having been socially cleansed from East London and now living in Boundary House, which is managed by Theori in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire they are challenging the legality of their temporary accommodation.

Boundary House was never designed to house families. Damp and cockroaches fill these bedsits, with narrow windows only a few feet from the ground, which can’t be locked and pose a safety risk to small children. Yet the Director of Housing for Waltham Forest Council says standards at Boundary House are 'legally acceptable'.

The residents are demanding safe and decent homes, and an official investigation into the suitability of Boundary House as family accommodation. They want the council to break off its contract with private management company Theori. Join the protest outside Theori on Friday 28 October, 11am-5pm, 840 High Road, Leyton E10 6AE.

 

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Who will build homes for the working class?

WalthamForest Fe15

In 1979, 42% of the population in Britain lived in publicly-funded housing; today the figure is less than 8%. One and a half million households are on housing waiting lists, while 630,000 homes in England lie empty. In the last year alone, 80,000 local authority and housing association homes have been lost to the private sector. British capitalism in crisis is no longer willing to meet the costs of state welfare for the mass of the working class. The decimation of council housing over the last 50 years has forced the poorest sections of the working class back into the insecure, substandard and overcrowded accommodation which has always characterised its living conditions under capitalism. Cat Wiener asks: ‘Who will build homes for the working class?’

Housing crisis: the capitalist norm

Today, evictions in England and Wales are at their highest levels ever; homelessness is increasing, with rough sleeping up by 30% in the last year alone, and thousands of households living in shoddy temporary accommodation. In the private sector, overcrowding, vermin, damp and cold are rife, and harassment, theft and negligence by private landlords are commonplace. The most vulnerable, such as migrants and young people, are easy prey for unscrupulous landlords renting out garages, sheds and even stairwells.

 

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Pay more to stay – no way

From April 2017, 130,000 council tenants whose annual household income exceeds £31,000 (£40,000 in London) will have to pay 15p extra rent for every pound by which their income exceeds these thresholds. Councils must hand the surplus that they receive over to central government. The measure is voluntary for housing associations, but as they can keep the extra money, it may be lucrative for housing associations in London and the South East. The 15p per pound taper was a grudging concession by the government which originally wanted tenants whose incomes exceeded the thresholds to pay a full market rent; for London tenants this would have meant an average hike of £1,000 per month.

The government claims that this measure will ensure that the rents of ‘high income’ tenants are not subsidised by the ‘taxpayer’, and that it is only right that they should pay more. Yet ‘household income’ is defined as the joint income of the two highest-paid household members. A couple each working full-time on the government’s National Living Wage, as it is likely to stand in April 2017, will be earning over £31,000; on the current Living Wage Foundation’s living wage of £8.25 per hour outside London they will be earning over £34,000. These are not ‘high income’ tenants by any stretch of the imagination: but when it comes to defining who is poor and who is rich the government has a variety of yardsticks. A household on £85,000 is deemed to be too poor to buy a home, and so can get support to do so under Shared Ownership or Help to Buy. Tenants eligible for the Right to Buy extension will be eligible for a discount of over £100,000 regardless of their income, an amount which will be a huge subsidy for the better-off.

 

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Victory for Aylesbury Estate leaseholders

On 13 September leaseholders on south London’s Aylesbury Estate won a significant victory against Southwark Council and the Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) over plans to demolish their homes with minimal compensation. In a damning judgment delivered by Inspector Lesley Coffey on behalf of the Department of Communities and Local Government, the gov-ernment rejected the compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) on their properties.

Coffey cited an abuse of the leaseholders’ human rights by the council and a disproportionate impact on black and ethnic minority residents. This ruling will provide ammunition for all those fighting against the demolition of their homes.

NHHT plans for the Aylesbury – one of the largest council estates in the country – would involve razing 2,700 council homes, to be replaced with nearly 3,000 homes for private sale and 2,288 for ‘affordable’ – ie 80% of market – rent. Southwark Council says it will appeal against the ruling and in the meantime demolish the estate around the leaseholders’ homes. Now is the time to step up the fight to save the Aylesbury.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 253 October/November 2016

 

 

Overall benefit cap: terrorising the poor

From 7 November, according to DWP calculations, 88,000 families, each with three or more children, will lose an average £60 per week in housing benefit because of a reduction in the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC). When the OBC was introduced in April 2013 it was set at £26,000pa; it will now be cut to £23,000pa for families living in London, and to £20,000pa for those living outside. 80% of those affected will be single parent families (67% women, 13% men). Some larger families will lose all their housing benefit.

There are some exemptions: where the parent(s) qualify for working tax credits (ie, work more than 16 hours a week if single, or more than 24 hours a week if a couple); where the family receives carer’s allowance, or where one of the family members is on a disability benefit. However, those in receipt of Employment Support Allowance in the work related activity group are not exempt even though they are incapable of working. Nor are single parents exempt, even if they have a child aged under three and are therefore not required to seek work.

 

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Hands off the Anatolian People’s Cultural Centre!

Hands off the Anatolian

At 6.30am on 6 April, the Anatolian Peoples’ Cultural Centre in north London and the homes of two activists from the centre were raided by a Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism squad. The activists were arrested and released later the same day on police bail, under which they have to present themselves three times a week at a police station; the Cultural Centre remains closed.

The Anatolian Peoples’ Cultural Centre has been in operation for 16 years. Its membership is drawn mainly from refugees from the political struggles in Kurdistan and Turkey, many of whom continue to actively follow politics in the country they have fled and to participate in legal anti-racist, anti-imperialist, socialist political activity in London. However, the Cultural Centre itself is not engaged in political activity; it has charitable status and funding from the local council, and organises community activities, such as educational courses, music and theatre performances, outings and excursions, as well as being involved in programmes to educate young people about drugs and deter them from gang participation.

 

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Housing for all: News in brief

Exposing Labour councils’ attacks on the working class

Throughout June and July the RCG, along with comrades from Focus E15, Architects for Social Housing (ASH) and Class War, as well as other housing activists, have been exposing the role played by Labour councils in the destruction of social housing. We joined Class War outside the Savills-sponsored London Real Estate Forum in Mayfair, where leaders of Labour councils hobnobbed with property developers to sell off the capital’s housing estates. A few days later we demonstrated outside the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane as Labour leaders from Southwark in south London and Newham in east London were arriving for a prestigious Municipal Journal awards ceremony. These are councils with some of the most appalling records on housing, environmental health and services. We took part in the Open Garden Estates weekend of 18/19 June organised by ASH in solidarity with working class housing estates opposing ‘regeneration’ projects that would see their homes demolished and replaced by private units for sale or rent, and we tracked down notorious Labour council leaders Peter John of Southwark, Lib Peck of Lambeth and Robin Wales of Newham to their power-hungry ‘Governing for Britain’ conference on London’s South Bank at the beginning of July. Whatever they do and wherever they go, we will be there to expose the real anti-working class nature of Labour councils, their betrayals and their lies.

 

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Housing associations: private monopolies

boundary
Boundary House residents outside Waltham Forest housing office - the Labour-run council is guilty of social cleansing

Housing associations own or manage nearly 60% of social housing across Britain – 2.86 million homes compared to 2.05 million homes owned by local authorities. Although some are registered charities, and all claim a social purpose, they are in fact turning into monopolies keen to jettison any obligations to their tenants. They actively contribute to the housing crisis facing the working class because their building programmes all but exclude the provision of any new social housing. They aim to match their official description: private registered providers, and to become gigantic and greedy landlords breathing contempt for their working class tenants.

 

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Focus E15 campaign: fighting slum ‘temporary accommodation’

The latest government figures show that 51,940 households in London, containing more than 90,000 children, are in temporary accommodation –a rise of 8% since this time last year. What the statistics do not show is the increasingly appalling reality of such accommodation, as councils farm out their housing responsibilities to unscrupulous private landlords, often outside London. The vast majority of households accepted by local authorities as homeless are single mothers and pregnant women. Guidelines state that no-one should be in temporary accommodation for more than six months, yet in London more than half of households remain there for up to two years; some for even longer. The Focus E15 campaign has been exposing the role of Waltham Forest and Newham Labour councils in east London in decanting homeless families to wholly unsuitable accommodation that is unsafe, overcrowded and far from extended family, jobs and support networks.

 

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Focus E15 campaign - Exposing Newham’s hypocrisy and lies

Focus E15

At the end of April, Newham Labour Council in east London announced it had purchased the Focus E15 hostel from the East Thames Housing Group for an undisclosed sum. In an article in the Newham Recorder, Labour Mayor Robin Wales stressed that the council had taken this step solely in the interests of ‘helping Newham’s most vulnerable residents’ and avoiding the ‘significant risk’ of the building being ‘lost to private developers’. The RCG and all of us working in the Focus E15 campaign are well used to this kind of hypocrisy, after nearly three years of fighting for social housing in the borough, but this was breathtaking.

Not only has Newham already handed over huge tracts of public land for private development, but this is the council that in 2013 cut its funding stream to the hostel’s mother and baby unit, leaving 29 vulnerable young women and their children facing eviction and relocation to towns and cities miles from their families. It was through the fightback of the young mothers that the Focus E15 campaign was born. It won its demands only by confronting the hostility, dirty tricks and harassment of Newham Council. After the campaign occupied empty flats on the boarded-up Carpenters Estate to highlight the outrage of hundreds of homes left empty, Robin Wales was forced to issue an apology for the way the mothers were treated. As Jasmin Stone and Sam Middleton, two of the leading members of the campaign, put it in an open letter:

 

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Housing Crisis - time for a real fightback

housing campain2

‘When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.’ (Thomas Jefferson, 1776)

On 12 May, the Housing & Planning Bill became law. This followed seven months of parliamentary scrutiny, with the bill ping-ponging between the Houses of Parliament, as the Lords proposed amendments only to have them rejected by the government. On 11 May the Lords withdrew the last of their 13 amendments and the next day the Bill received Royal Assent, virtually unchanged since its introduction in October 2015. The Act is calculated to dramatically worsen the housing crisis which is blighting working class lives. Cat Wiener reports.

 

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Resistance Begins at Home: The Housing and Planning Act

FRFI is pleased to publish this guest article by Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing, a working collective committed to building active resistance to the Housing and Planning Act and the demolition of social housing.

London’s housing crisis is at a crossroads. The Conservative Government’s Housing and Planning Bill has passed to an Act. We have a new Labour Mayor, elected on a manifesto promise to build 50,000 new homes a year on demolished council estate land. David Cameron will soon launch his Blitzkrieg campaign on 100 so-called ‘sink estates’ across England, many of which will be in the capital. The London Land Commission is compiling a statutory register of brownfield land suitable for redevelopment that includes existing local authority housing estates. And the estate demolition plans drawn up by real estate firm Savills that threaten the council homes of over 400,000 Londoners are ready to be implemented through London Labour councils. It seems necessary, therefore, to take stock of where we are, where we are going, and what we need both to do and stop doing in order to start doing something about it.

 

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Newham Labour council: mired in debt

In organising to defend social housing in Newham, East London, the Focus E15 campaign has consistently come up against indifference and outright hostility from the Labour council and its mayor Robin Wales. Newham is one of London’s most deprived boroughs, rated by London’s Poverty Profile as among the worst four for pay inequality, unemployment, overcrowding and a range of other indicators.

The council has long been a byword for social cleansing and contempt for the working class. Now financial mismanagement can be added to the list. New research raises serious concerns about Newham’s financial conduct, specifically its portfolio of so-called ‘LOBO’ loans.

 

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The Doomsday Book: Mapping London’s housing crisis

The London Housing Commission

On 7 March, the London Housing Commission held a launch for its Final Report to Government on solutions to London’s housing crisis. The Commission, whose chair, Lord Kerslake, is also the chair of the Peabody housing association, was set up by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) a thinktank that last March published a report on the crisis titled City Villages: More homes, better communities. Josh Goodman, the Director of IPPR, chaired the launch, which was hosted by Savills, the estate agent which this January published its own report to Cabinet, Completing London’s Streets. In attendance at this launch, which was held at the Geographical Society in the plush surroundings of Burlington House, were Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan, the respective Conservative and Labour candidates for London Mayor, who were there to pitch their candidacy to the 200 ‘high-profile experts’ from the housing sector in the audience. It was quite a cosy party. One would think that the three hours of its duration would go some way to deciding London housing policy over the next ten years.

The Final Report proposes a series of recommendations to government, in the return for the granting of which the London Mayor, of whatever political party, promises to carry out the government’s building plans. Among the requests in this New Deal is that central government give the Mayor the power to force local authorities in London boroughs to change their plans if they are not identifying enough land or housing. In return for which, the Mayor promises to double the supply of new homes to London to 50,000 per year by 2020, identify sufficient land to deliver this number of new homes every year for the next decade, and earmark a significant proportion of public land for affordable housing and new privately rented housing.

 

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The Austerity Lie

The Conservative government is in disarray. Iain Duncan Smith has resigned over proposed budget cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) for disabled people. The Tory Party is hopelessly divided over Europe and its austerity programme to beat the crisis has proved to be a big lie, aimed at making the rich richer at the expense of the poor. But there is no opposition to take advantage of the situation. Instead Labour councils are implementing savage cuts to services, hammering those already at the receiving end of welfare cuts – poor and disabled people. Robert Clough reports.

Duncan Smith’s six-year tenure as Work and Pensions Secretary, apart from a failing attempt to reform the benefits system by introducing Universal Credit, was characterised by a relentless attack on poor people:

 

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