Friday, 21 August 2015

Destroy Power Not People - On The London Front Line Fighting Gentrification

Destroy Power Not People    

Which is a really good slogan that I'm warming to, as I think over in my own mind the many experiences and situations of squatting in versus buildings (45 in all) throughout London, mostly in central London and currently in north London, that slogan begins to make more and more sense.

October last year and I started taking an interest in a young group of squatters, who had taken over a derelict and deserted former NHS eye hospital in Marylebone and set-up home. On my first visit I discovered there were in fact 60 people having taken up space in the empty building. This was the beginning, the start of an unforgettable voyage of discovery and a trip around staying in (squatting) some of the most expensive real estate property in London worth billions in hard cash.       

The group had been brought together by a young man who had become somewhat of a celebrity having made a name for himself by climbing onto the domineering and ugly statue of Winston Churchill, that hangs around as if permanently loitering in Parliament Square, this during an Occupy Democracy week of action.

And that comrades, brings me to where I am today - living, participating - in a very active and what I consider a live squat, here in the heart of capitalist London on the front line or gentrification; opposing, occupying and resisting the social cleansing that's attempting to transform a city once often referred to as the metropolis in the 1970s. The times have indeed moved on since then and very much so to the detriment of working people who built a city, defended it during times of war, always the providers and labours that manned great factories, the great docks an integrable part of a past and bloody empire. As long as I can remember, I have always seen London through the description given by Charles Dickens in general, as a place where the majority are working people, but in my own opinion, always serving the owning and controlling class or elitist order.

In posts that are yet to come, I will narrate some more of my story regarding the crew that I move and live with, they have all the makings and indeed the ability to make a real difference by continuing to oppose gentrification of this city.                                       
Housing, or the lack of it has always been an interesting and intriguing subject for me over the years and now after almost five years of austerity, along with the disproportionate and gross attacks on the living standards of working people, the most vicious attacks on benefits which have continued to hit the very poorest sectors of the working class under both Labour and Coalition governments and now a Cameron-led Tory administration, has led to an explosion in homelessness in the UK.
Homelessness Among Young People

There has been a surge in homelessness among young people in the U.K., as the real number of homeless exceeds the government's "official figures" by three times, according to a  study by Cambridge University.

The survey also revealed that the availability of data on homelessness among young people has decreased since 2009 and discussed and noted the rise of what has been called "sofa surfing." With nowhere else to stay, 35 percent of the 2,011 youngsters who participated in the survey admitted to having sofa surfed at some point, on friends’ sofas or in cars, tents or open spaces.

The problems created by the shortage of affordable housing here and right across Britain can be traced to the 1970s - when the Conservative government abandoned and cancelled the construction of new council houses and stopped subsidizing social housing tenants in favour of enriching landlords and banks.

This policy continued into the 80s when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government introduced a “Right to Buy” scheme, which enabled council housing tenants to buy their council houses.

Britain's current Conservative government claims to be reforming what it has deceptively called “affordable housing.” But in reality, many argue the new program makes it easier for housing developers to opt out of creating a small percentage of housing dedicated to lower rent in their schemes.

Extending the “Right to Buy” scheme to housing association tenants will be subsidized under the current plan by “forcing councils to sell ‘high value’ homes, speeding up rent rises, social cleansing and the gentrification of Britain’s cities.”  

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