Homes for people not for profit!

by Daphne Liddle

SOUTH London housing campaigners rallied on Wednesday morning outside the home of Trace Newton, a vulnerable, disabled 56-year-old housing co-op resident due to be evicted by Labour controlled Lambeth Council from her housing co-operative home as part of the councils plans to close housing co-operatives and clear the properties for privatisation.

The heavy-handed and uncaring decision to evict this woman has been bitterly criticised by many, including four local Parliamentary candidates. Kate Hoey, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate, and serving Vauxhall MP from 1989, has been a constant critic of the council’s policy, and was vocal in her condemnation of Trace’s eviction: “This is a disgraceful way to treat a long-term Lambeth resident who has a home that is among the best examples of a tenant-improved property. I will be standing with Trace and her supporters to stop the bailiffs from carrying out Lambeth’s attempt to wipe housing coop residents off the map — a policy they said they were against!

“If this was a Conservative council I am sure members of the Labour Party would be the first to criticise it and not be cheerleading the misery of others!”

On Wednesday the bailiffs were forced to withdraw due to the numbers of protesters and at the moment Trace Newton is still in her home.

This attempted eviction is typical of policies being carried out all across London and other major cities in Britain as rising housing costs are forcing the low paid out of their homes to make way for the building of luxury flats in landscaped estates that are attracting buyers from all over the world as investments which will continue to rise in price — and to be rented on short term leases and sky high rents. Few of these residences are bought by people who want to live in them.

These policies are having a devastating effect on local communities. The people displaced from council homes and housing co-operatives cannot possibly afford to live in the new properties. Those who are old, ill or otherwise vulnerable have to be rehoused immediately by the local authority — though many authorities do this by sending them far away from London.

Those who are not vulnerable have to shift for themselves and for some it means ending up sleeping on pavements. It also means people on council waiting lists will have to wait even longer.

But the people on these estates are fighting back. The Focus E15 young mothers fought the demolition of the council flats they lived in, refused to be dispersed and despatched to the other end of the country and started a whole new movement to defend social housing.

The residents of these threatened estates are showing the same fighting spirit as their predecessors in the 1930s — though now these residents have a much greater ethnic diversity.

It is a phenomenon that has been deliberately triggered by the Con-Dem Coalition to keep house prices rising in an artificial bubble and make it appear as though the economy is expanding when it is not. That bubble must burst sooner or later but the extreme fundamentalist capitalists who are running the western world can think only in the short term.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is promising, if elected in two weeks’ time, to build 200,000 new “affordable” homes by 2020. That is not enough.

He is also promising a cap on private rents — linked to basic inflation rates and threeyear tenancy contracts for private tenants. This is something we have been demanding and will help to make private rents more affordable and cut the housing benefit bill for the Treasury.

Pundits in the Daily Telegraph complain this will make private renting less attractive to landlords — as though their greed were something commendable.

Buying up homes to rent them out so you can live a life of luxury by extracting high rents from low-paid workers without doing any work yourself is pure parasitism.

What we do need is many hundreds of thousands of new decent council homes run by accountable local authorities. When that is done we can and should abolish private landlordism.

In the meantime all unoccupied properties in these new private luxury estates should be taken over by local authorities to house those in need at the same rent rates as normal council homes.