Over 635,000 homes in England are empty. For every family in need of a home there are 10 empty houses.
Over 200,000 homes have been empty for more than six months.
In September 2014 the number of families placed in temporary accommodation was over 60,000, the highest it has been in five years. The number of people who are homeless or in precarious housing situations is likely to be much higher. London, where there is a boom in house building, accounts for 75% of the increase in homelessness.
In London there are more than 70 social housing estates being “regenerated”. This affects an estimated 160,000 residents. 16 km2 of land, with a combined value of £52 billion, is being developed or repurposed. The building trade is making a lot of money and at the same time massively reducing the provision of social housing.
Across the country, but particularly in London, councils are giving housing estates to private companies for redevelopment. Companies like LendLease, Barratt, Peabody are trying to squeeze profit out of redevelopment projects. In many cases this means reducing the amount of social housing and increasing the amount of private housing stock, sold at extortionate prices.
Councils are meant to have social housing quotas on any redevelopments. However many developers are getting around quotas by giving money to councils in exchange for dropping the quota.
In Southwark, LendLease’s development at Elephant and Castle has avoided the the council’s 35% quota by paying £3.5 million towards the construction of a community leisure centre, a project which will cost £20 million to build. However the equivalent cost of building 35% social housing would have been about £10 million.
It is estimated that developers in Southwark alone have avoided paying £265 million in affordable housing tariffs. Of 4,282 new homes being built in the borough, just 79 will be social rented.
Residents on Barnet’s West Hendon estate are fighting a running battle with the borough council and house builders Barratt Homes over the redevelopment and social cleansing of the estate.
Tory Barnet council has obtained compulsory purchase orders to buy flats on the estate from leaseholders who bought their flats from the council under “right to buy” laws.
Under the purchase order Barratt will pay £175,000 for a two-bedroom flat and £115,000 for a one-bedroomed one. However two-bed flats in the redeveloped estate are expected to sell for up to £415,000. Most current owners will be unable to afford a home in the borough where they have spent most of their lives.
Hundreds of council tenants are also facing forced relocation out of the borough. Only 250 of the 2,000 new homes will be classed as affordable, a net loss of 199 affordable or social homes.
There is an ongoing public inquiry into the redevelopment and the council's actions, and West Hendon Residents have been blockading areas of the sites already under redevelopment, physically stopping construction traffic from entering.
Residents in West Hendon are just some of many fighting councils and property developers. Vibrant community campaigns will be needed to prevent the social cleansing of our cities.
We also need political demands. Councils should build and renovate housing stock themselves and create jobs and homes; take social housing stock back into council control from housing associations and arms length organisations; stop aiding the profiteering of private property developers; control rents!
Focus E15 campaign continues to fight
The Focus E15 Campaign was initially formed by a group of young mothers from the Focus E15 hostel in the rapidly gentrifying area of Stratford in East London.
They were resisting the attempts of Newham Council to evict them and force them out the borough, to places as far away as Hastings, Birmingham or Manchester.
When all mothers were rehoused in Newham (though in temporary, unstable accommodation), the campaign continued; with increasing numbers of people involved, both from the hostel they had been living in, and from across London.
They continued to raise the demand of “Council Housing for All” — that all should be entitled to good quality housing in the area they wish to live, with secure tenancies.
Linking up with residents of the Carpenters Estate, an estate with hundreds of empty homes, near the Olympic Park, the campaign occupied a low rise block of four flats on the estate and opened it up as a community centre for two weeks, with support from the local community. The centre was used for a wide range of events and workshops.
Newham council went to court for a possession order to force the occupiers out the flats.
The campaign has also extended to helping other local residents with applying for housing, and assisting with eviction resistance. The street stall, from 12-2 every Saturday outside Wilko’s on Stratford Broadway, continues to run.
The campaign is linking up with other housing and anti-gentrification campaigns, recently meeting and leafletting at the Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers in Leytonstone where the council is trying to bring in private developers to renovate without resident consultation, which will inevitably lead to residents being priced out.
Focus E15 are co-sponsors of the March for homes, Saturday 31 January, alongside the New Era 4 All Campaign, the Radical Housing Network, and 11 other tenant groups, a number of trade union branches and trades councils, and other organisations.
The East London march led by Focus E15 will meet at St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch, the South London march will meet at Elephant and Castle.
Both will assemble at midday in their respective locations and march on City Hall to demand better homes and an end to the housing crisis.