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

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‘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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