Photos: On the March for Homes, Thousands Defy the Rain to Demand Secure and Affordable Housing for Ordinary Londoners

1.2.15

The 'March for Homes' in London on January 31, 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Click here to see the whole of my photo set on Flickr.

What an excellent event the ‘March for Homes‘ turned out to be.

Despite hideously inclement weather — it was bitterly cold, and the rain was almost freezing — an estimated 5,000 people marched to City Hall from the Elephant & Castle in south east London and Shoreditch in east London on Saturday to call for secure and genuinely affordable housing for all.

As I explained in the text accompanying my photo set on Flickr:

The protest had real passion and energy, which to be honest, was unsurprising, given the extent of the housing crisis in London, with mortgages unaffordable for ordinary working people, rents spiralling out of control, unscrupulous landlords unfettered by any kind of legislation to protect tenants, and developers making more and more unaffordable new properties for a marketplace swimming with foreign investors, vying with rich Britons to fleece ordinary workers and to drive the unfortunately unemployed out of London altogether.

I wrote my thoughts about the London housing crisis in detail in an article on Thursday, which I recommend for those who want know more of what I think about the single most severe problem currently facing millions of Londoners — the unacceptably disproportionate cost of their housing. It deserves to be a hot election topic, but it remains to be seen if the Labour Party will rise to the occasion — beyond their pledge to scrap the hated bedroom tax — or, if not, if campaigners for restraints on the private rental market, those in social housing and those seeking to preserve it, trade union representatives, members of the Green Party, left-wing Labour Party members and others interested in the importance of social housing can build and sustain a campaign that places housing at the heart of policy-making, where, along with jobs for all (a generally undiscussed topic), it deserves to be. Personally, I’d like to see another ‘March for Homes’ take place in the spring, before the election, when, with good weather, it could be a huge event.

Below I’m cross-posting a powerful article in the Guardian, published on the day of the protest and written by Jasmin Stone, a representative of one of two organisations who dragged the housing crisis into the headlines last year — the Focus E15 Mothers, who occupied flats on a boarded-up council estate in Stratford in September. The other organisation was the New Era 4 All Campaign, consisting of tenants on an estate in Hoxton who fought back successfully against a corporate takeover in November and December. I wrote about both those campaigns here and here.

But first, a video of the day’s events, made by Reel News, via YouTube, featuring the Focus E15 Mothers and the New Era Estate campaigners, and culminating in the occupation of part of the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, in south east London, which, as I explained in one of my photos, is “currently being emptied prior to demolition and its rebirth as another regeneration project that will be a disaster for local people on ordinary incomes, who will not be able to afford the so-called ‘affordable’ rents in the new properties, set at 80% of market rents.”

Why march for homes? Because the housing crisis goes far beyond us Focus E15 mums
By Jasmin Stone, Guardian, January 31, 2015

We live in a rich country, yet London is blighted by homelessness and ordinary people being priced out of their own area; things have to change

The Focus E15 campaign began unexpectedly in August 2013 when 29 young or expectant mothers from the Focus E15 hostel – myself included – were served notices to leave. We knew that if we wanted homes we could afford, we would have to move out of London – to Manchester, Hastings or Birmingham. That’s why we started to fight, but we soon realised that our stories were not unique; they were the tip of the London housing crisis iceberg.

After Newham council cut funding for the hostel we started writing letters to the council and East Thames housing association who managed it. We were told that there was no accommodation in London, which meant that the only choice we had was to get on trains to places we’d never been, hundreds of miles away from our families and support networks, and start our lives again there.

Soon after this news, we met members of the Revolutionary Communist Group handing out leaflets about the bedroom tax and told them about our situation. They invited us to their weekly street stall on Stratford Broadway, a site which has since become the backbone of the campaign over the past 16 months. Because of our street stall, people know where to find us and support for the campaign grows each week.

For more than a year we have been battling with Newham’s Labour council, one of many Labour-led councils that continue to turn their backs on their traditional support base during the housing crisis. When we confronted Newham mayor Robin Wales with our situation, he told us: “If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can’t afford to live in Newham.” A year after our eviction we launched a political occupation of four flats on the nearby Carpenters estate, to highlight the more than 600 homes left empty for years, at a time when people are being forced out of the borough.

Following the action, Newham agreed to repopulate 40 homes on the estate, showing that when letters and polite requests don’t work, direct action does. Since the occupation we have been helping families get housed, stay housed and stop evictions. Sometimes this means joining them in a meeting or finding them a lawyer, sometimes it means peacefully preventing bailiffs from dragging them out on to the street and demanding the council rehouse them locally and immediately. As a campaign we have been disgusted to see the breadth of social cleansing taking place across the capital. It is obvious for all to see: giant glass buildings that no working-class person could ever hope to afford are replacing council estates, sold off to the highest bidder.

Everybody deserves a decent, secure home to live in. But even for those not forced out of London we are being made to compromise, with expensive private rentals, short-term contracts and terrible living conditions. Meanwhile, even offers of “affordable housing” still charge 80% of the market rate, some as high as £2,400 a month, more than most people’s monthly wage. We are living in one of the richest countries in the world, surrounded by homelessness, hunger and cold. People can’t afford to heat their homes in the winter and never have so many relied on food banks. This has got to change.

Recently, Zineb, a mother of three employed by Newham, came to us at the street stall. She had been evicted from her home and had spent the previous night sleeping on the floor of a police station with her children when the council explained that they could not house them within reach of her work or her children’s school. After a small protest to help her share her story with the media, Newham was able to offer the family a flat in the borough.

We meet people like Zineb every week, people who are struggling with skyrocketing market rents, fuel poverty, unimaginable overcrowding and forced relocation outside of the city they’ve always called home. That’s why our campaign can’t simply start and end in Newham and we will be leading the east London leg of the citywide March for Homes today. It is important we stand together in solidarity and remind one another that our struggles are not isolated. No one will represent you but yourself, so join us and stand for decent homes for all. This is the beginning of the end of the housing crisis.

A link to the photos is also below:

The March for Homes, Old Kent Road

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — 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).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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15 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Zarina Bhatia wrote:

    If I lived in London, would have joined.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Zarina. That’s good to hear.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    What we need in the world is a lot less capitalism and a lot more socialism

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, absolutely, Jan. What we’re seeing now is capitalism getting increasingly savage. A mass socialist upheaval is absolutely necessary if those of us who are not super-rich are not all to end up in some medieval dystopia.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Gilburt wrote:

    Love this one in particular, Andy x

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Ruth!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

  9. Andy Worthington says...

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Do check this out! This is a statement from the occupiers of empty properties on the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, who took them over on Saturday, at the time of the march. They need your support! https://fightfortheaylesbury.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/statement-from-the-aylesbury-estate-occupation/

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Please sign, “Put our homes before profit,” a Change.org petition by the residents of West Hendon Estate, fighting Barnet Council and Barratt to prevent the destruction of their community. Existing tenants could be forced out of the borough – or even out of London – and leaseholders are being offered way below market rates for their properties through compulsory purchase orders. Jus toe example of the social cleansing – class war – that is happening across London.
    https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-put-our-homes-before-profit

    When I signed the petition, which has over 73,000 signatures, I wrote:

    People in social housing are being treated as disposable by greedy developers and politicians. This deplorable situation must be brought to an end!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    These are the opening paragraphs of a very good Guardian article from three weeks ago:

    A Conservative council has been accused of “social cleansing” and gerrymandering over an attempt to force families to sell their homes for less than half the price of planned replacement apartments.

    The London borough of Barnet’s use of compulsory purchase powers to buy flats as part of the £520m rebuilding of the West Hendon estate by Barratt Homes is being challenged at a public inquiry by residents who say they are being forced out of the area.

    They claimed Barratt’s offer of £175,000 to buy a two-bedroom flat and £115,000 for a one-bedroom flat would allow just three of the 36 owners affected in the first phase of the development to stay in an area where many had spent most of their lives. Two-bed flats in the replacement scheme by Barratt and its joint venture partner, Metropolitan Homes, are expected to sell for up to £415,000.

    Hundreds of council tenants are also facing being rehoused several miles away from their community because only 12.5% of the 2,000 new homes that will replace the 679 residences being demolished, will be classed as affordable – a net reduction of 199 homes classed as affordable or social on the site. Another 12.5% will be available for shared ownership with the housing association. The rest will be sold on the open market.

    “We are being forced out of our homes, our housing torn down, our presence eradicated, in order to make way for luxury developments, from which we are excluded,” said Karim Khalick, leader of the leaseholder group, People Power West Hendon, in a statement to the inquiry. “What can you call that, other than social cleansing?”

    See: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/20/barnet-council-social-cleansing-barratt-homes-west-hendon

  13. SQUASH NewsRound: January – February 2015 – Squash Campaign says...

    […] with police but no TSG were called in. Since pictures tell it best, here are links to Guy Smallman, Andy Worthington, and Urban […]

  14. Appeals Court Rules That Tories' Hated, Useless Bedroom Tax ... - News4Security says...

    […] know by now, the Cameron government also has contempt for the Lords, so let s make Saturday s march even more impressive21 than the March for Homes22 that took place exactly a year ago. See my photos of that march […]

  15. Appeals Court Rules That Tories' Hated, Useless Bedroom Tax … | Kit4Security says...

    […] know by now, the Cameron government also has contempt for the Lords, so let s make Saturday s march even more impressive21 than the March for Homes22 that took place exactly a year ago. See my photos of that march […]

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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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