Housing

Sheikh Jarrah in suspense

On 2 August Israel’s Supreme Court proposed a compromise in the Sheikh Jarrah court case. A Jewish settler group, claiming ownership on pre-1948 authority, seeks to evict Palestinian families from houses in the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem in which they were settled by the Jordanian authorities when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, before 1967. The judges proposed that the Palestinian families pay a token annual fee to the settler group and in return get permanent and inheritable rights to live in the houses. The settler group demands that the families give signed recognition that...

Unlocking land profits, locking out tenants

A review of Estate Regeneration and its Discontents: public housing, place and inequality in London, by Paul Watt. This is a most important book, and a powerful indictment of the Tory and Blairite housing agenda. The objective of council housing was to give everyone a decent place to live, as a right, at a rent they could afford, and with security of tenure irrespective of income. In that it was largely successful. To the Tories and Labour’s hard right housing is a commodity, nothing more, to be used for the maximisation of profit irrespective of the consequences. Regeneration is part of this...

Push back on evictions!

Around 400,000 households have been served an eviction notice or have been told they may be evicted. And the ban on evictions during the pandemic, dating from March 2020, ended on 31 May. Unemployment is still up because of pandemic job losses, and the Bank of England forecasts a further rise in autumn when the Tories plan to scrap furlough. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that a further 450,000 households are in arrears with rent. The “community union” Acorn and the Labour left group Momentum aim to mobilise people to stop these evictions. Solidarity supports their campaign.

Tenants' organising and feminism

An interview with Jo Hiley, ACORN and Labour activist in Sheffield Why get involved with ACORN? I’ve been involved with ACORN since arriving in Sheffield in late 2017. I knew they were proactively organising at a local level with something of a left analysis, and wanted to get a sense of how that was working. By the time I ran for chair last year, ACORN was at an interesting point in its UK life; following the 2019 general election result it was considering its role as a vehicle for radical change at the national level. It had also rapidly expanded its number of branches and started looking at...

Rent strike!

Glasgow rent strike, 1915 Over recent weeks, more than 5000 students across 45 UK universities have withheld rent payments and demanded a 40% reduction in rent, refunds for those not taking their places in halls, and greater financial support for students. Sky high rents have long been a problem for students and rent strikes have been a regular feature at university halls since 2015, when students at University College London launched the Cut the Rent campaign, winning £1.85 million in rent rebates, bursaries and rent freezes. The coronavirus pandemic, however, during which students have...

Making buildings safe in future

Jon Wharnsby, North East London area secretary for the Fire Brigades Union, spoke to Solidarity. Under the cover of resolving the issue of dangerous cladding, the Tories are hitting working-class people twice over. On one hand, there’s an arbitrary limit of 18m on the height of buildings for which grants will be available. Home-owners in buildings below that will have to take out thousands in government loans. On the other hand they’re paying out £3.5bn to companies to do the work on taller buildings, so we’re all paying as tax-payers too. There will be a levy on developers but it will only...

Manctopia? Remaking Manchester for capital

The population of city centre Manchester is set to double in the next five years. 105 complexes of flats are planned. Already tower blocks, usually of little architectural merit, are being built on any available land regardless of the effects on the local environment. Where the land is not free, historic buildings are often demolished or left to rot until they become impossible to save. Until the 1990s, few people lived in the city centre. Now it is becoming “Manc-hattan”. A number of traditionally working-class areas on the fringes of the city centre are being redeveloped as part of a plan to...

Stop the evictions, pause rent bills!

In April the government implemented a ban on landlords evicting tenants. Though eviction orders continued to be lodged, none have been acted upon by the courts. This scheme was due to end on Sunday 23 August, and now has been extended only to 20 September. The Scottish government has extended the ban to March 2021. The housing charity Shelter estimates that 227,000 people are in rent arrears, which amounts to 2% of private tenants. Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords' Association is quoted in the Financial Times saying that: “The overwhelming majority of...

House the homeless, cancel rents

The government plans to cut off funding from the end of June for councils to get on-the-streets homeless people inside. More than 60 homelessness organisations have signed a protest letter: bit.ly/noone-out. The emergency ban on evicting tenants is also due to end on 25 June. The London Renters’ Union, Labour Tenants United, the New Economics Foundation and others are calling for outright cancellation of rents for at least three months: more here.

Cancel rent!

A new group, Labour Tenants United, is supporting calls for rent cancellation already made by groups like the London Renters’ Union and the New Economics Foundation. The government has legislated for a “holiday” on mortgage payments during the emergency, and looks likely to extend it. • For more on LTU, see LabourList

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