March against evictions marks Focus E15 second anniversary

by New Worker correspondent

AROUND 1,000 people assembled in Stratford Park, east London, at midday last Saturday to mark the second anniversary of the founding of the Focus E15 group with a march and rally against evictions.

The campaign was started in 2013 by mothers from the Focus E15 hostel in Stratford who faced eviction and were told they would be sent out of London.

They challenged Newham Labour council and the Mayor, Robin Wales, and fought to stay in their community.

In September 2014 Focus E15 campaigners occupied four flats on the Carpenters Estate, which had been emptied by the council and boarded up for years.

This direct action proved that there are decent council homes, ready for people to move into, locally. Robin Wales was forced to issue an apology.

Last Saturday’s march included a very wide mix of people from different backgrounds and generations, many of them colourfully dressed and equipped with banners, placards, drums, whistles and ready to make a noise.

Their demands included an end to evictions — asserting that decent housing is a human right — the building of more council homes, the capping of rents and the repopulation of the carpenters estate.

The march circled the main shopping centre in Stratford, pausing outside the Newham council office at Bridge House to make their message clear.

end low income

They wanted an end to low income people being forced out of London and their homes demolished to make way for the building of luxury estates that few local people can afford to live in, but which are bought up by speculators from around the world because they know the prices will continue to rise.

And they also paused outside the offices of Foxton’s estate agents — one of the chief factors in driving up housing costs and rents in the area way out of reach of ordinary people.

Young anarchists from the march moved quickly to occupy the Foxton’s office and remained inside for about 20 minutes holding up banners and chanting their demands.

The occupation ended peacefully as police ushered the anarchists out of the office to rejoin the march.

The Focus E15 campaign is also fighting plans to allow developers Galliard to take over the nearby Boleyn Ground to build more luxury, unaffordable flats.

The march ended at the Carpenters Estate with a rally and speeches. Jasmin Stone, one of the original Focus E15 mothers, said:

“The housing crisis continues, with no major political party offering viable solutions; 126 families are evicted every day across the country.

“We continue to demand the repopulation of the Carpenters Estate, an immediate end to decanting and evictions of residents from the Estate, long-term and secure tenancies for all, and of course, social housing, not social cleansing.”

In the two years the Focus E15 campaign has gone from strength to strength, with a weekly street stall in Stratford, and occupations of East Thames Housing Association show flat, an open top bus with petitions for Boris Johnson and regular challenges to Labour Mayor Robin Wales “all contributing towards to the growing national profile of housing activists.

Meanwhile, according to a report from the housing charity Shelter, local authorities will be forced to sell off their most desirable council homes as they become vacant to fund the Tory extension to the right-to-buy scheme to 1.3 million tenants.

Nearly 113,000 council homes could be sold off across England to help finance the Government’s controversial plans to extend the right-to-buy

The proposals have been widely criticised by housing associations and critics have questioned whether homes which are sold off will actually be replaced. Shelter said that even if the homes are sold, there could still be a funding shortfall of around £2.45 billion over four years.