Homes for people — not for profit

Adam DC reports on the March for Homes

Focus E15 Mothers leading the east London section of the march (Photo: Adam DC)

Focus E15 Mothers leading the east London section of the march (Photo: Adam DC)

Up to 4,000 people marched in the cold and wet from east and south London on Saturday (31 January) to demand decent homes for people living in the capital.

Around 2,000 marched from Shoreditch, an area where rents have been rents ramped up massively over recent years. Developers and speculators are continually looking at ways to gentrify and install their rich “city clients”. Inevitably this means moving out those already there.

But resistance is something the East End has a history of and this fighting spirit has been exemplified by the struggle of the residents of New Era Housing. After months of fighting against the takeover of their estate by US multinational Westbrook Partners and their Tory business partner MP Richard Benyon they won – the estate is instead being taken over by a housing group, that says it will keep rents affordable.

The east London march was headed by the Focus E15 mothers, a group of women and their children who were moved out of their secure housing by Newham council. They have since occupied an estate in Stratford, shaming the council who, after evicting the tenants on the estate, left 600 homes vacant after a deal to purchase the land fell through.

There were dozens of different organisations and activist groups on the march: Defend Council Housing, Diggs, the campaign group for renters, Anti-bedroom tax and austerity campaigners, anti-eviction activists, along with anarchists, feminist housing activists, socialists and a number of trade unions. Even a few Labour councillors were spotted, and individual campaigners often with harrowing stories to tell. One man who didn’t wish to be named, said “I was evicted by my [private] landlord, for informing the council about the terrible conditions in my flat”.

This type of story shows the need for rent controls and better scrutiny of private landlords by local councils. Not only are they ripping residents off, but in some cases they are endangering our health, and even our lives.

Other campaigners spoke about the need to build more affordable homes and more council properties. But even “affordable homes is a joke in London” commented Carole, an activist from Hackney, “they call 80% market rate affordable, but with house prices and rents being so high in some areas, its just impossible for most people, but especially the youngsters to even get close to a mortgage, or even an affordable rent.”

The demonstration ended with speeches and chants outside the offices of the Mayor of London. A small group decided it would be an opportune moment to put into practice their politics by occupying the newly built apartments at One Tower Bridge London, just next to City Hall.

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