The Government’s Housing and Planning Bill, now passing through Parliament, will exacerbate the UK’s housing crisis – forcing tenants out of homes, raising rents, undermining security of tenure and devastating what remains of social housing. Earlier today (Tuesday 5 January 2016), I joined demonstrators outside the House of Commons for Kill The Housing Bill, to hear what they had to say.
As academic, campaigner and author Glyn Robbins told protesters:
“For council and housing association tenants, for the first time this Bill aims to introduce means-testing. This used to have a dread meaning for working-class communities. … For the first time, council and housing association tenants will be expected to tell the council, effectively the government, how much they earn, and their rent will be adjusted upwards accordingly, to either market or near-market rents. I work on a housing estate in Islington. I spoke to a couple earning barely more than the minimum wage, but their collective income will be slightly over £40,000. Their rent as council tenants is about £160 a week; it will rise to about £650 a week. And you can imagine what their immediate reaction to this was: we’ll have to move. Or we’ll have to stop working. What kind of indictment of a Tory policy is that?
“Of course, the other option available to them, thanks to the renewed Right to Buy, is that they buy their home – another loss of a genuinely affordable home in Islington and across the country.”
Dominic Rafferty of media and entertainment union BECTU was with representatives from Trade Unionists for Housing, which links trade unionists with grassroots campaigners. As he put it:
“We’re in a worsening housing crisis in London. I think it’s a workplace issue – that’s our slogan: housing is a workplace issue – because the housing crisis is intrinsically linked to low wages, to rising transport costs, to rising utility costs, which affects low-paid people all across the country and low-paid people in London in particular. And we think that trade unions, as representing low-paid workers, can have an essential role in addressing these problems, and can use their resources and influence to raise housing issues and campaign on behalf of their members for cheaper housing. I think we need rent controls, we need more stable tenancies, we need to stop evictions and demolitions from council housing, we need to build more social housing, we need to address the horrendous homelessness problem in this country, which is getting worse.”