Today in Hoxton, East London the residents of the New Era Estate marched against a 10% hike in rent after their homes were bought up by a private investment company. Families fear they will have to leave, or be evicted if they can’t pay and are calling on MP Richard Benyon, whose family company is part of the consortium which now owns the estate, to keep rents affordable for current tenants.
The New Era residents are part of a wave of housing activism that has been taking place across Britain as people fight back against high prices, poor tenant’s rights and a lack of social housing. Tenants unions are springing up across the country and campaigners like the Focus E15 Mothers have forced people to take notice of the experiences of some of the most vulnerable.
In September, the E15 campaigners occupied four empty flats on London’s Carpenters Estate protesting that homes like this were standing empty, and due for redevelopment, while families in the borough are being evicted and rehoused outside the city. The group, mainly made up of young mothers, first become active in 2013 after funding cuts to the Focus E15 young people’s hostel led to many of them facing eviction.
Tenants unions are springing up across the country and people are also exploring creative solutions to housing problems. In Edinburgh students are settling into a student-run housing co-operative, aiming to provide affordable accommodation. The project is only the second of its kind and is the largest with over 100 students taking residence.
In October the House of the Commons conference took place in Oxford. The event discussed diverse topics around the housing crisis, including community energy, fuel poverty, the financial crisis, inequality, natural building techniques and community-led housing.
The current issue of Transition Free Press has a page dedicated to housing and some of the pockets if practical, collective resistance in the challenge of accessing safe, affordable, stable housing. Rachel Savage reports from Bristol on the Abolish Empty Office Buildings (AEOB) scheme which has now attracted £225,000 worth of community investment to turn unused offices into much needed, affordable housing.
In the same section, Amy Hall looks at cohousing – combining communal living with private space for each household. She speaks to people setting up intentional, low impact communities around the UK and experiment with new models of shared ownership.
Research published by Shelter in October indicates that two-thirds of private renters in England are unable to save towards a house deposit and with more than 81,000 homeless households in England alone, grassroots housing action in the UK is looking set to grow.
Photo by Andy Lord: Downtime at the Lilac cohousing community in Leeds -the UK’s “first affordable ecological cohousing project.”