Aylesbury Estate, Occupation 2015
A place to live is one of the most basic of human needs, next to taking food that is. Unfortunately, housing has now become a source of income for those who can afford to ‘buy to let’ or ‘buy to sit’ (buy and then leave empty). Using housing as a way to make money has meant that rents and house prices are ever increasing, spiralling out of control in places like London.
Therefore, for the most of us, paying for housing has become an increasingly difficult situation.
In London, people spend on average more than 50% of their income on rent or mortgage payments and rising. Together with low wages and benefit cuts, the cost of housing is yet another attack on the working class, as the government, banks and corporations make us pay for their never ending crisis.
The Housing Crisis
In many towns and cities, the housing crisis has given rise to a host of campaigns that are challenging the current situation. Some campaigns focus on anti-eviction work, for example, the E15 mothers who successfully stopped the relocation of the young mothers out of London. They continue to campaign against individual evictions and against social cleansing. Others are fighting the demolition of whole estates as housing associations and councils sell their properties to private developers. A pivotal moment has now been reached in the history and long story of social housing provision in this country.
Squatters On The Front Line
Then at the other end of the housing spectrum, but not at the end of the rainbow, there are the many homeless people and, in particular, the squatters and crews who have become increasingly vocal and active during the course of this last year: the Aylesbury estate squatters, squatted Elephant and Castle Social Centre and the many anonymous homeless people who have been illegally squatting residential properties. Squatters and Homeless Autonomy (SHA), my own crew, have endeavored to do whatever we could to force the issue of housing up the agenda, the lack of it, the homeless crisis, at a time of intense difficulty for many, including children of which there were 100,000 without family homes this Christmas just gone. We Know of two cases where children, innocent and blameless have sadly died this year because they and their families were homeless.
This From The Tory Daily Express
“The boy, known as Donald, was born prematurely on July 6 in Poole, Dorset, where his mother had escaped to from Kent to flee an abusive ex-partner.
Donald’s destitute parents were evicted from the house they were renting and couldn’t scrape together enough money for a deposit for a new place, forcing them to rough it in their car.
But Poole Borough Council were unable to support the mother, who is known only as Jane because she was not from the borough.”
Historically Council Housing
Historically council housing is public housing rented to households who are unable to afford to rent from the private sector or buy their own home. It has been called council housing due to the role of district and borough councils managing the housing with a record second and next to none other. More recently Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), including semi-independent and not-for-profit housing associations, have played a larger role in providing and managing housing, consequently council and RSL housing is collectively known as ‘social housing’.
The underlying principle of council house provision is that the private sector was deemed unable to provide adequate housing for all and so state intervention was required to ensure there was good quality affordable housing for low-income households.
We have no intention to write a definitive history of social housing in this post, but merely to highlight what is going to be lost if the crooks who run government manage to make the last push through the lobbies of the commons to the Housing and Planning Bill and make it law.
The bill will extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing association homes, oblige local powers to sell ‘high-value housing stock’ and phase out secure tenancies for council tenants. Acting both as tool of division between housing association tenants and legal groundwork for the mass privatisation of council housing, the Housing and Planning Bill is worrying, malicious and vindictive in equal measure.
What’s To Be Done?
It’s quarter to twelve - or I should say, we have just 5 days before we are robbed of the social housing that generations before us fought and supposedly won for working people. To take away such a resource as public housing when there are so many in need is like breaking someone's leg and then saying, make your own way to accident and emergency - only on arrival you discover they have sold off the health service. If you can’t pay you don’t get cured - or housed.
We are under no illusion. If they can do this to our housing, then they will privatise without hesitation the NHS and any other loose and dangling parts of our welfare system.
Now, more than ever, we need to fight back. It has already started. Just look at what a group of young mothers have done, the E15 mothers, or all the other examples given - squatting is breaking the political silence. SHA has taken if you like a leaf out their healthy book and we will stand with anyone who is prepared to take whatever actions are necessary, including direct actions and any other activities that put roofs over people's heads - and enable them to house themselves.
There Is No Time To Lose
The People's Assembly, the TUC, can have all the marching around our capital city they like. And to be fair to them we have to say, they have had some Humdingers when anarchists, youngsters or squatters are involved, but marching from A to B, just what has it achieved - if anything positive, beyond hollow “movement-building”, please let us know.
Making the newspapers, refining the art of doing that, playing at being a spin-doctor may have a place in some scrapbooks, but it’s not the same as addressing a crisis of homelessness. It has its place, so we are not knocking that - far from it as suffering and resistance must be made known, love and compassion will always have a place in a civilized system and society.
In the new year, we all have to do some thinking. We have to have discussions whilst at the same time waging that fight back. It is very necessary - now more than ever - to carry on and wage a war that destroys our class enemies.
For our part as homeless squatters, we will continue to fight gentrification, we will continue to stand up for the street homeless - where it is possible we bring them in from the cold as we believe that it's better to give them the skills to squat. We will continue to have contact and support the working class communities where we live and encourage others to stand up...Together we can put the meat on the bones!
In The New Year
For the new year, we are making plans already. These include getting out and about amongst the homeless community and carrying regular reports on this page. Homeless London is an effort by SHA members to directly facilitate the self-empowerment of the homeless. We are currently working on spreading squatting skills, legal information and the ways in which street homeless people can stay in close and quick communication with one another. We want to support the collective action of street homeless people to defend, house and protect themselves.
We will be supporting the Demonstration On January 5th, Against The Housing and Planning Bill.
Finally, our apologies for the length of this post, and a very big thank you to all our friends who have joined us on this Homeless London Facebook page, such support means so much to us.
Out with the old, in with the new: may you be happy the whole year through. Happy New Year Comrades and friends all!
The Homeless London Team - members of SHA.