Emily M explains the implications of the Housing and Planning Bill and reports from a London demonstration against it. Follow Emily on twitter: @millyrosered
On Sunday 13th March, thousands of activists met at Lincoln’s Inn Fields to demonstrate their opposition to the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill.
The changes to the Housing and Planning Bill will include an end to secure tenancy agreements for social renters, higher rents for council tenants and it to be mandatory for landlords to check tenants’ immigration status. The housing market and rental market in London is out of many individuals affordability.
The bill will enable inner-city councils to sell off social housing to wealthy landlords for profit. The government say that the bill will provide the ‘right to buy’, but campaigners point out that the majority of tenants will not be able to afford to pay to stay in their homes and communities. The bill is another part of the Tory agenda paving the way for London to a playground for the rich and socially cleansing poorer individuals by excluding them from the property and rental market in the city.
Housing campaigners in London, including the ‘Radical Housing Network’, had held a number of actions in the lead up to Sunday. For example, they occupied a pop-up shop in London’s wealthy Kensington, “Our House: A pop-up community Centre,” which was open to the public to find out more about the housing bill through a number of creative events such as workshops, film screenings and creating banners for the day. On Friday, Activists across London distributed thousands of copies of their satire version of the Evening Standard – “London Standard Evening” a paper emphasising the inequalities among Londoner’s housing, commuting etc. and inviting commuters to join the National Protest against the Housing Bill.
Sunday came and thousands turned up to demonstrated against the Housing Bill. The march was diverse, young and angry. We were all united by the anger at the unjust housing bill and current living conditions we experience. A rally in Lincoln’s Inn Field called for the bill to be scrapped and for affordable and social housing to be accessible in London. Campaigners also expressed their anger at the private rental market and the ever-increasing rental prices under private landlords. Berlin has put caps on Rent. So why can’t London?
The march left Lincoln’s Inn Fields and progressed through Aldwych and over Waterloo-bridge into Lambeth. In Lambeth there have been continuous attacks on social housing and the surrounding community, people are no longer able to afford to live there. Protesters started shouting “Shame on you Lambeth Council, don’t your children need houses too?” The march continued onto Westminster Bridge where activists sat down to block the bridge in rebellion and to also enjoy the first day of sunshine we have seen for a while. The march progressed on to Parliament Square for a rally.
All in all, the day was bright and angry but optimistic about the future for defeating the Housing Bill. There are meetings scheduled for this Saturday 10am at SOAS to discuss the ways forwards for the Kill the Bill campaign, and its planning strategy and future actions.