Call for an End to Housing Greed: Come to the National Demonstration Against the Housing Bill in London, Sun. Mar. 13

10.3.16

Kill the Housing Bill: a poster for th e national demonstration on Sunday March 13, 2016.Where to begin in discussing Britain’s housing crisis? Since the Labour victory in 1997 we have been disastrously misled by governments prioritising an endless housing bubble as an alternative to anything resembling an actual functioning economy. The only break in this divisive and unfair policy came after the global banking crash of 2008, but since the Tories got back into power in 2010, via a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the bubble has been back with a vengeance.

The latest phase of the revived bubble is, as is now taken for granted, promoted via interest rates that are permanently near zero, making savings appear pointless, and housing the only attractive investment — and also, of course, via the permanent wooing of foreign investors from every part of the world, who are somehow persuaded that the overpriced towers rising up everywhere in London are good value for money. With the addition of a shortage of supply, dating back to the enforced decline of social housing under Margaret Thatcher, who sold council homes but refused to allow councils to build new properties, and chronic under-investment for 30 years, it becomes possible to understand how housing is now out of reach for more and more of London’s workers — even professional couples with generous financial support from their parents.

As the Guardian reported in an article last September, “Revealed: the widening gulf between salaries and house prices”:

In 1995, the median income in London was £19,000 and the median house price was £83,000, meaning that people were spending 4.4 times their income on buying a property. But by 2012-13, the median income in London had increased to £24,600 and the median house price in the capital had increased to £300,000, meaning people were forced to spend 12.2 times their income on a house.

At these kind of prices, of course, few workers can actually afford to buy in London, a situation unprecedented in living memory, and one that has no justification except  to enrich the already rich — and the entire mortgage industry — at the expense of everyone else.

In addition, the cost of renting in London has also gone through the roof, as the Evening Standard highlighted last July, in an article entitled, “Rents in EVERY London postcode are ‘unaffordable’ for workers on Living Wage.”

The scale of London's housing crisis - figures published by SpareRoom.co.uk in July 2015.The Standard article drew on research by SpareRoom.co.uk establishing that workers paid £9.15 an hour — the London Living Wage at the time, which is now £9.40 an hour — had to spend 56.1% of their income on rent, and also noted that apprentices were completely unable to afford rent anywhere in the capital. I’ve also done my own calculations, and have worked out that anyone on George Osborne’s delusional living wage of £7.20 has to pay a shocking 71.3% of their income on rent.

Not only does this divert a huge amount of money into comparatively few hands, but it also strangles London’s economy in general, as less and less people have any earnings left over to spend on the goods and services that a huge section of those working are employed to make, sell and provide. Without money circulating, and as those priced out leave London in greater numbers, the wider economy in the capital will start grinding to a halt.

While this is happening, the government is also determined to destroy social housing, which delivers the only genuinely affordable rents available — with the exception of those few individuals who bought their rental properties years ago and are not motivated by the relentless greed that is the norm nowadays. However, the social renting sector has already been undermined by the government’s insistence that all new social tenancies should be set at what ministers, with breathtaking cynicism, have defined as affordable, which is 80% of market rents; in other words, not affordable at all for most people.

In addition, the government has been attacking social tenants who receive benefits, introducing the reviled “bedroom tax” — whereby millionaires with more rooms than they can count penalise social tenants for having what can be twisted into the notion of being a “spare room,” and also introducing another breathtakingly cynical and unjust policy, known as “pay to stay.”

Via this disgusting innovation, council tenants who earn more than the median wage will be made to pay market rents, doubling, tripling or even quadrupling what they have to pay, and meaning that, as the Observer reported last month, according to a report commissioned by the Local Government Association, “almost 60,000 households in England will be unable to afford to remain in their council properties from April next year.”

When this was floated last summer, Sky News published a disgraceful story entitled, “Crackdown On ‘Rich’ Council House Tenants,” claiming that “pay to stay,” directed at “anyone earning over £40,000 in London or £30,000 outside the capital,” will make sure that “[b]ig earners living in council houses or flats and paying cheap subsidised rents are to lose the perk in a Budget crackdown.” Elsewhere in the article, the plan was described as “a purge on rich council house tenants.” What is so disgraceful about this, as anyone who does the tiniest amount of research should realise, is that £30,000 outside London and £40,000 in London is actually the median income for a couple, meaning that “rich” and “big earners” are completely incorrect descriptions, as the median income is what 50 percent of people earn more than, and 50 percent earn less than, and those on the median income cannot, with any honesty whatsoever, be described as either “rich” or “big earners.”

Much of the government’s latest assault on social housing in particular is contained in the latest Housing and Planning Bill, where “pay to stay” was introduced, and it is the object of a national demonstration this Sunday, March 13, in London, organised by the Kill the Housing Bill campaign, which points out that, as well as introducing “pay to stay,” the proposed legislation “[f]orces local authorities to sell ‘high value’ properties on the private market when they become empty – the biggest council housing sell-off in generations,” “[a]bolishes new secure lifetime tenancies in council housing, replacing them with 2-5 year tenancies,” and “[d]oes nothing to address the housing crisis, and instead replaces obligations to build social housing with Cameron’s unaffordable ‘starter homes’ — requiring an annual income of £70,000 in London.”

See Kill the Housing Bill’s video below, via YouTube:

Campaigners will assemble at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3TL, at noon on Sunday and will then march on Parliament to oppose the Housing and Planning Bill and, as the Kill the Housing Bill campaign describes it, to “demand: secure homes for all, rent controls, and homes for people not for profit.” The campaigners add that the bill, which is currently in the House of Lords, will “make the UK’s housing crisis much worse, send rent and house prices soaring and spells the end of council and social housing.”

The Kill the Housing Bill campaign is supported by Defend Council Housing, Radical Housing Network, Focus E15 campaign, Momentum, People’s Assembly, People Before Profit, GMB Union, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Communication Workers Union (CWU), Bakers Union, Unite Housing Workers, London Gypsy Traveller Unit, National Bargee Travellers Association, Leeds Hands Off Our Homes, The Green Party, John McDonnell MP and many other organisations and individuals, including other MPs, members of the House of Lords and celebrities, and, the campaigners note, the march and rally “will be attended by council tenants, home owners, private renters, architects, students, migrants groups, women’s campaigns, trade unionists and many more.” It is also hoped that, as well as John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, and a longtime supporter of social housing, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett, the Green Party leader, will be able to attend, and to speak at the rally outside Parliament at 2pm.

Speaking of the campaign, John McDonnell said, “People are desperate for a stable and decent home they can actually afford to live in but the Tories’ Housing Bill will make the housing crisis drastically worse. Labour is opposing it in Parliament but I’m also opposing it outside Parliament by supporting the Kill the Housing Bill demonstration on the 13th March. Millions of people across the country are struggling to afford to rent or buy a home but the Government is callous in its disregard for people’s right to secure themselves the right to a decent home. This bill demonstrates the worst attack on social housing provision seen in decades. It will result in more genuinely affordable social housing units being sold off which is scandalous when we have such a severe housing crisis on our hands. Under this Tory Government homelessness is already sharply on the rise and thousands are being socially cleansed from our cities.”

Caroline Lucas said, “I am proud to support the Kill the Housing Bill campaign in their fight to stand up and defend the right to a secure and truly affordable home for everyone. The Government had an opportunity to utterly rethink the housing model but instead they have put another nail in the coffin for social housing. This Bill is being used to pull the rug from underneath those who rely on our already limited stock of social housing, destroying the very bricks and mortar of the welfare state. It is also a sure fire way to extend — not end — the housing crisis.”

A Kill the Housing Bill campaign spokesperson added, “The Tories’ Housing Bill aims to destroy council housing, and will hit everyone on low or middle incomes trying to rent or buy. It condemns millions to a lifetime of insecure, expensive private renting. Everyone deserves a decent home, but landlords, developers and the rich will be the only ones to benefit from this Bill.”

For more information, see the website of the Kill the Housing Bill campaign. Also see Shelter’s assessment of the Housing Bill and this commentary by Architects 4 Social Housing. For further information, please contact the organisers by email, or call Joe Beswick on 07873 557040 or Katya Nasim on 07791 018631.

Please also check out Our House: A Pop-Up Community Centre, in which housing activists have occupied 221 Brompton Road, Kensington, SW3 2EJ, stating, “We have occupied a building in the heart of the most expensive part of London to host a community-led occupation in protest at the Tories Housing Bill, the housing crisis and to highlight the insanity of empty properties when thousands are homeless.”

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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16 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, a detailed analysis of London’s housing crisis, and a call for support for a march and rally on Sunday, called by the Kill the Housing Bill campaign, to defend social housing from the malevolent intentions of the Tories, as put forward in their latest wretched housing bill. If you’re in London, please come along to defend social housing; in other words, to defend the right to genuinely affordable housing for all.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    The Guardian has a relevant article today which includes reference to young people’s housing problems. ‘Five markers of adulthood millennials have had to give up on’ features young people discussing the following: 1. Living alone, or owning a home; 2. Finding a long-term partner, and living together; 3. Working in a full-time, permanent job; 4. Having children; and 5. Saving for the future. See: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/10/five-markers-of-adulthood-millenials-have-had-to-give-up-on
    There’s also a US article, ‘The US cities luring millennials with promises to pay off their student debts’: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/10/the-us-cities-luring-millennials-with-promises-to-pay-off-their-student-debts

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    The Guardian’s also running a special feature on homelessness right now: http://www.theguardian.com/society/homelessness

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Alan Milburn, the chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, warns that the UK faces a “permanent generational divide” because of what the Guardian calls “young adults facing an intimidating mix of evaporating jobs, unaffordable property and rising debt”:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/11/uk-faces-permanent-generational-divide-social-mobility-tsar-warns

  5. damo says...

    All of it right now just makes me wanna vomit ,this country is just a repulsive place run by and for repulsive people ,parasites and vampires who are so twisted and warped ….litteraly warped and insane with greed everything of everything has a moneitary value to them ….everything…..they will never be satisfied …never….we are all in a dark ,dark płace right now ….i pray for a chink of light some hope ….change must happen

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Did you make it to the Kill the Housing Bill march, Damo? It was a good event, and I’m thankful that a few thousand people turned up on a sunny Sunday, but where was everybody else? 60,000 families will be affected by “Pay to Stay” and may not be able to afford to stay in their homes, but where were they? Hugely important political issues have become fringe concerns, even to those affected by them, hence the lukewarm protesting about the NHS, generally – but there were plenty of people shopping, of course, and taking photos of the marchers on their smart phones, because both apparently constitute some kind of definition of one’s identity.

  7. damo says...

    I couldnt mąkę it andy this time but im glad people went i find people brainwashed appathy sąd and pityfull ,people it seems have become like the liveing dead shuffling towards there doom seeing nothing ,hearing nothing,saying nothing,feeling nothing just standing there shrieking into the smart phones and takeing pictures ……they would have been laughted at and called out 20 years ago i just dont know wot the fuck is going on its as though people have become so brainwashed and so dumbed down that they are not capable of anything let alone free thought even people who used to go on marches in the 90s are now complacent ……people just arent Awake anymore

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, there’s definitely something very worrying going on, Damo – both a fundamental distraction on the part of many people, which reminds me of America, and also has a lot to do with what’s pumped out as culture and, of course, the mind-eroding ubiquity of the “smart” phone, and the paralysis of those who used to care, or who should care, but who have somehow been rendered powerless. So we’ve lost the working class and much of the liberal middle class. There’s not much left, is there?
    I wonder if, at some level, people have somehow understood that these are the end days – hence the widespread refusal to accept and confront what’s happening.

  9. damo says...

    I hope and pray thease arent the end days but it almost feels like something Very fucked up is on its way its like the powers have gone completely mad a race to the bottom this relentless killing not just of people but animals ,habitats environments everything its insane ….wouldnt you say andy that there is some kind of mass madness sweeping across the world yet the populations are distracted and appeased by nonscence,gibberish we 20 years ago would have laughed at the people and culture of today….screaming,shrieking,gurning,gibbering,head bobbing,eye rolling,hand flapping,societys have become village idiots ,simpletons to be appeased and controled ….and to what end…..?????

  10. damo says...

    37 years ago euston films made a series called the quatermass conclusion starring john mills and simon macorkadale about the world decending into a primordial madness …i watched the series again recently …Very prophetic it could be about whats happening now …..its on youtube …the quatermass conclusion

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I think so, Damo. It’s getting worse, of course, as now we have a stampede to leave the EU because of idiotic obsessions about sovereignty and hysteria about immigrants and now, of course the wretched tsunamis of refugees whose plight is completely at odds with our inability to care, to empathise, to sympathise. The pulpits are empty, or full of charlatans, and our fellow citizens have become flint-hearted, in a way that would, I’m sure, have appalled most of their ancestors.
    So what is it? The manipulation by the media, surely, but also the end result of making materialism and the worship of (worthless) celebrities the focus of existence, and of toys that promote relentless self-obession – the smart phones and the social media. Clever people set up a worldwide web that means we can all share information, but instead we just get empty self-reflection – selfie culture, FB statuses and tweets that mostly are like public masturbation.
    And partly our cynical politicians promote more of all this, but in other ways they’re also part of the same blind, self-obsessed problem … No one is really at the wheel …

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Damo. I found episode 1 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkiHNnudxr8
    I must admit I missed it at the time, which surprises me, as we tended to watch quite a lot of telly in the late 70s – on our three available channels!

  13. damo says...

    I havent taken enough selfies, tweets,twits,snapchats,Ooh god help..help me i havent got enough ….likes…..the truley mad i find social media very ,very sinnister esp facebook you get drawn in you become needy with it addicted its like cyber dihorea endlessly shitting out trivia or bannality ….it brings out narsisium and vanity the endless selfies ,endless boasting ,endless gloating look at me ,see how fabbulass my life is ,look,look…..look…..at me …im at a party,im surrounded by a sea of ……friends….look im skydiveing,sailing,sking,snorkling….shitting……but look at……me…….while almost promoteing fear ,fear of percived failings …why am i not surrounded by a sea of friends why am i not popular and succesfull with a fabbulass life …….how vile is that…..sorted,happy people dont need to endlessly cyber boast and gloat showing endless photos of themselves and there so called fabbulass lives all thease thousands of years of human evolution resulting in selfies our ancestors whould be horrified

  14. damo says...

    People are so needy now ,so obcessed that people have thease endless albums of photos on facebook ,photos of the most banał events LOL,LOL …photos of them hoovering washing up at the bus stóp …look look look look at…….me…..imsurrounded by people i must be…..liked…….look im haveing a dump…….brainwashing ,the facebook moonies,the needy and the insane

  15. damo says...

    And wot people dont understand ,everything they say ,do,or post is bring monitored,tracked…..big brother is watching every move you make.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Damo. Yes, the Facebook Moonies. I think it would be a good project to ridicule the banality of the selfie/status update culture – you’ve provided some inspiration for it! The Daily Sh*t, for example!
    I do, however, think it’s less problematic that people are being watched, because after all, our leaders are only hoovering up info. No one’s actually employed to look at it, because that would cost, in human labour, and the one thing the neo-liberals agree on is trying not to actually employ people if they can help it!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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