With the Housing Bill about to come into effect, conditions are looking bleak for the working class. The Bill follows a plethora of attacks on poor people, the most notable of which are the benefit cap and the bedroom tax, not to mention the 2012 ban of residential squatting. Last year saw a record number of tenant evictions (averaging 170 per day), unprecedented numbers of people using food banks (over 1million last year) and a steep rise in homelessness and record numbers sleeping on the streets (an increase of 30% in one year). Some Londoners living on council estates have already been told by local authorities to relocate to Stoke or Wales. The ruling class are implementing gentrification as a means of social cleansing in order to sanitise London, creating a bland haven of steel and glass. No more squats, no more council estates, just high-end shops and unaffordable luxury flats for the wealthy to hoard as assets.
The Housing Bill is the latest onslaught against the working class. Several of the clauses in the bill are particularly problematic for those living on council estates: the obligation to build council homes will be replaced by an obligation to build starter homes, capped at 450,000 in London. Buyers will need to be earning double the average wage in order to buy these ‘affordable’ homes. All existing housing estates will be designated as ‘Brown Field’ sites (a term used for formerly industrial land that needs to be cleaned up before it can be redeveloped) and put up for sale, redevelopment or demolition.
Despite the obvious impact that the bill will have, the Left still hold strong in their fervent belief in the Labour party, and Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to ‘take the bill back’ (despite the fact that he has voiced a strong aversion to being Prime Minister). This faith is ill-placed; people cannot afford to wait 4 years for a general election where even if a Labour government did win the damage would already be done. People are being forced out of their areas now. Even in countries where the left have been elected they have been unable to act. Greece provides an example where a left wing government has not been able to stop the austerity measures, dictated from European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Even if the politicians did have the conviction to vote against the measure the problem lies with the politicians themselves. The Greek example shows us even left wing representatives are powerless when serving the international capitalist class. True change comes when people take control of their lives and work in the best interests of each other. We can’t rely on any mediated force to tell us how to fight the Housing Bill.
With this in mind people can act now. A London wide rent strike could be organised, mirroring the one taking place at UCL right now. Poor and working class people can start appropriating goods to relieve their material conditions. Communities can appeal to their local workers to come out on strike in an act of solidarity. Finally a mass squatting campaign is certain to be effective, as seen in the Aylesbury Estate and Sweets Way, with the aim to this time save estates. If the working class could muster the time to organise such campaigns of abstention the ruling class would be seriously destabilised. It sounds like a long way off but something dramatic needs to happen. The housing struggle cannot just be about restoring previous material conditions, the struggle must aim for full housing liberation.
Join the March against the Housing Bill, Saturday 13th of March.