Lewisham renters have put up banners across the borough demanding that the government cancels renter’s debts, protects renters from eviction, and suspends rent during the pandemic.
The London Renters Union (LRU) established the Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay Campaign on May 15 in response to the coronavirus rent crisis that has put renters in debt with their landlords.
Lewisham is one of three LRU branches campaigning for economic change, followed by Newham and Hackney.
Nadia Inha, a Lewisham resident, and LRU member said that the issue was a serious one. Within two days a tweet of Ihna’s about the banners in Lewisham had been seen by over 20,000 people.
Inha said: “Lewisham renters were already struggling to get by before the pandemic – rents have gone up by over 40% in the past nine years, making the area increasingly unaffordable.”
She added: “Since the pandemic hit, we’ve heard from lots of self-employed people, lots of hospitality workers, students who were working part-time jobs and they’ve just suffered a total loss in income. We also know that Lewisham’s population is almost 50% BAME, with many residents also from migrant communities. I think housing insecurity, structural racism and people’s lack of access to government support has probably paid a part in that. Those things are all interconnected.”
The union has heard from thousands of renters who have been laid off or have lost large amounts of their income during the pandemic and cannot pay their rent.
Inha said the LRU issued a letter explaining how renters can ask for a rent reduction from their landlord. The letter has been downloaded 10,000 times.