Tenants, housing interest groups and trade unionists from across EastLondonLine’s boroughs will march to City Hall this Saturday demanding solutions to the capital’s housing crisis.
Over 100 organisations and individuals have declared their support for the march. It is organised by Defend Council Housing and the South London People’s Assembly, including Hackney Digs, New Era 4 All, Tower Hamlets Renters and Lewisham People Before Profit.
March for Homes, which will begin in both Shoreditch and Elephant and Castle, is calling on the Mayor of London and local councils to provide “decent, really-affordable, secure housing for all Londoners” through increased council house building, private rent controls and an end to the demolition of housing estates.
Dianne Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and acclaimed film director Ken Loach have signed March for Home’s open letter claiming “government policies” are “blighting the lives of Londoners” and “undermining” tenant’s rights.
March for Homes say that over 344,000 people are now on council waiting lists, while unregulated private rents have risen by 13 per cent a year since 2010, with tenants spending an average of 40 per cent of their income on rent.
According to government statistics revealed by housing charity Shelter, only one new affordable home has been built for every five social houses sold through the right-to-buy scheme since its introduction in 2012.
Extracts from Polly Toynbee and David Walker’s book, Cameron’s Coup, reveal that the “number of people in work who also draw housing benefit is set to double between 2010 and 2018, as rents rise. More than £1 in every £7 from the social security bill now goes to private landlords.”
Research from data company Lonres, researchers Dataloft and buying agents Property Vision reveal that “around 54,000 homes are either planned or already under construction in the most expensive areas of the capital. Most of them will be priced close to or over £1 million. However, just 3,400 homes worth more than £1 million were sold in these areas in 2014.”
Lewisham People Before Profit have constructed a make-shift house from banners and estate agents placards outside Lewisham Town Hall. They told ELL their reasons for joining Saturday’s march:
A spokesperson from The South London People’s Assembly said: “Areas like the Elephant and Castle, where the South branch of the march begins, have seen whole communities destroyed and replaced with wildly unaffordable tower blocks as council housing is demolished and the land sold off. The same thing is happening in Lewisham.”
He added: “Others are finding themselves priced out of the areas they grew up in and are being forced to move far from their families and support networks. Anyone moving around the city will have noticed the increase in street homelessness. At the same time there are thousands of properties standing empty, so it’s not acceptable to say that there is no space.”
Glyn Robbins, a Tower Hamlets housing activist and member of Unite, told ELL: “When we began the process of organising the march we were thinking in terms of hundreds, now we are thinking in terms of thousands. I have been involved in housing campaigns for 20 years and I can’t remember a time when people have taken the streets like this to campaign for housing.”
“There is a desperate housing situation in Tower Hamlets. There is a lack of availability for all kinds of housing… acute over crowding and people’s lives are being seriously damaged. Housing was a non-issue in the 2010 elections and we need to make sure that is not the case this year.”
Elieen Short, co-organiser of the march and chair of Defend Council Housing told ELL: “The amount of support the march has received is a very good measure of how widespread the housing crisis is in London.”
“The array of people from all sorts of backgrounds and politics working together around this issue has been really inspiring. This is a housing movement and out of this we are giving people more confidence that we can and will fight… In terms of our communities, do we want pubs and shops lining our streets or do we want luxury apartments? If you’re concerned about what London looks and feels like then you need to a part of this.”
March for Homes will take place at midday on Saturday 31. The east leg will run from Shoreditch Church and the southern route from St Mary’s Church, Elephant and Castle, with both culminating at City Hall.