Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Housing - Turned It Into A Money Making Crisis

Shelter, housing is a basic human need, one that capitalism has turned into a money making crisis of unparalleled proportions and nowhere so than in London. Housing and Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis wants the demolition of London’s housing estates and their replacement with owner occupied ‘city villages’. It’s a scheme the Tories have long favoured; 13 London Boroughs have already this year (June) met property developers and speculators at an exclusive trade fair at Berkeley Square to make deals to pull down the estates and build homes for sale or private rent. The thirteen London Boroughs that have taken part  are Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Kingston, Lewisham, Richmond, Southwark, Wandsworth and Westminster. Tenants are, of course, kept out of all meetings. Cash-strapped councils are eagerly looking for ways of saving money. By persuading them to sell their estates and land, the Tories are giving them a solution that will be extremely costly for the rest of us.

By destroying council housing, the Tories are ‘socially cleansing’ working class people out of the capital. Most can’t afford to buy, especially not at London prices which have hit a new record high (over £500,000 for an average home). The result will be even greater pressure on the private rented sector. This will mean higher rents and more street homelessness (which has risen 55% in the past four years). At the same time, Housing Associations will be forced to sell off their best “properties”. This will further reduce the number of homes available for working people.

In addition, Brandon Lewis has made it now easily done to convert old factories, warehouses and offices to be converted into housing. First introduced in 2013, temporarily permitted development rights have enabled offices to be converted to new homes without having to apply for planning permission. It has meant that between April 2014 and June this year, almost 4,000 conversions were given the go-ahead. These rights according to the ministry were set to expire on 30 May 2016 – potentially introducing a raft of unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy that would have hampered the conversion of underused office buildings and slowed down the delivery of thousands of new homes to be sold on the open market and keeping at bay any interference from hostile local authorities and totally ignoring the chronic shortfall and deficit of good quality council housing, that would if only available, start to make an indent and address the needs of London's 4 percent currently languishing and forced to suffer as they remain in an unpleasant place and situation - on the council waiting list.

Lewis announced that these permitted development rights will now be made permanent. In addition, those who already have permission will have 3 years in which to complete the change of use and the rights will in future allow the demolition of office buildings and a new building for residential use.
In addition, new permitted development rights will enable the change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to new homes.

So when the Tories made an election pledge to extend the right to buy to housing associations, nobody thought they’d really be stupid enough to actually do it. But it has gone ahead, and housing associations have reached a back door deal to push it through.

What will it mean? Well, much less social housing for sure. There are 2,343,000 housing association properties and it is the biggest sector providing social housing. It is estimated that 24,000 tenants a year will be able to afford to buy their homes with an average discount of £63,271, which is 35% below market price. The government’s theory is that it will increase the number of homeowners (which they’re desperate to do since home ownership is dramatically declining) and (somehow) double the number of homes available, if replacement homes are built, though it’s very vague on this last point, the key word here being ‘if’. The National Housing Federation (NHF) has calculated that if all housing association tenants who could buy their own homes did so, the cost would be £11.2bn.

Monday, 12 October 2015

From Brixton To Holloway, Hackney to Elephant and Castle, Property Developers Are Closing Down Our Shops And Pub

This is a post from the Rabble blog about my squatting crew “Squatters and Homeless Autonomy” (SHA) and an eviction that we endured and survived last week.

Yesterday (Monday 5 October) TSG riot cops alongside bailiffs came in force to evict the Mamelon Tower squat in Kentish Town, North London, which had been occupied by “Squatters and Homeless Autonomy” (fakebook page). The Met’s finest meatheads met impressive barricades and concerted resistance and it took six hours for them to enter the building. Six people were arrested for “affray”. A noise demo took place yesterday evening outside the police station where they were being held. We will post further updates and calls for solidarity as we get more news. We repost below the statement by SHA on yesterday’s events, and also the statement they published when they first squatted the building.

SHA statement 6 October

Yesterday the occupied Mamelon Tower was evicted by TSG and court enforcement officers after a standoff lasting over six hours. Beginning around half-past nine, bailiffs were soon stopped by a barrage of resistance inside and out. Unable to break barricades on several doors, they and local police drafted in two TSG units. In full riot gear, TSG broke into the building, immediately arresting all but one of those inside. It took the riot cops a further four hours before managing to evict the final occupier, who had climbed onto a ledge in resistance.

Squatters and Homeless Autonomy deeply value the solidarity expressed by locals of this working-class area. Tea and coffee, food and a willingness to resist police and bailiff thuggery were abundant. Working-class unity is the basis for effective and empowering resistance against gentrification, empty buildings and rising levels of homelessness. The actions of local people during the Mamelon Tower eviction were a fierce display of this community resistance. Squat and fight for autonomous spaces!
SHA Statement 27 August

Gentrification is class warfare. Whether it is libraries closed by Tory cutbacks, council estates demolished and replaced by yuppie flats, or pubs and local shops forced to close due to soaring rent prices, make no mistake: the destruction of working-class areas is intentional.

Squatters and Homeless Autonomy have occupied the Mamelon Tower in Kentish Town to oppose the eviction of tenants there and the replacement of working-class culture with yuppie flats. Historic pubs, such as this, have always maintained the connections within working-class areas. In an age of isolation, knowing your neighbours is the first step to resistance; and the closure of buildings such as this is an effort to divide us and make this resistance impossible – replacing our power with their profit.

The developer at the Mamelon Tower, Macneil Ltd., has a net-worth of over four million pounds, and will make hundreds of thousands more from selling the “authentic north London experience” wrapped up in an upmarket flat to toffs all around.

But grassroots resistance to gentrification is happening. Tenants and squatters are resisting evictions at the Guinness Estate, where young people refuse to cooperate with the pigs. Past demonstrations Reclaim Brixton, Reclaim Camden and Reclaim the Beats have shown the vigour with which we can fight back. The Queer Punks Collective fought against the destruction of queer culture by an overtly straight gentrifying force with the occupation of the recently closed Black Cap in Camden. The upcoming Reclaim Shoreditch demo on September 26th promises to show yet another example of fierce community resistance. All around London, an angry dissatisfaction is growing.

We are using the space at the Mamelon Tower as both an organising and community space. A public library space will be opening here soon, and the first anti-gentrification coffee morning and cinema evening will be taking place tomorrow, Friday 28th, from 2:00pm.

From Brixton to Holloway, Hackney to Elephant and Castle, property developers are closing down our shops and pubs, bailiff scumbags are evicting our friends, Bullingdon boys are closing our schools, libraries and hospitals. Let’s give them the “authentic north London experience”: let’s evict them from our city.

The Socialist Way

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