Housing

After Grenfell: joining the dots

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Grenfell Tower was a disaster waiting to happen. I’ve been responsible for looking after council tower blocks in the past, including some with cladding. I shudder to think about it now.

Grenfell could have happened anywhere. The lack of adequate fire safety is a deadly symptom of how council housing has been neglected for decades. Its mismanaged decline is the result of deliberate government policies of underinvestment and denigration.

Hurricane Katrina and the 'cleansing' of social housing

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Grenfell has been referred to as a “Katrina moment”. Care must be taken with that comparison. But the reaction of the establishment would certainly be recognised by working class people in New Orleans.

Theresa “Antoinette” May’s detachment and ignorance call to mind Barbara Bush’s comment in 2005 that for people who lost their home after the hurricane and were living in shelters things were “working very well” because they were “underprivileged anyway”.

Housing activists plan for action

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A summit meeting in London last month to plan next steps against the Housing and Planning Act drew 250 people in a serious and determined mood. They included council, housing association, co-op and private tenants, union members and several local councillors.

Among them was the elected mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, who repeated his council’s opposition to the Act and called on other councils to join the campaign against it.

Housing Act passed

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The Housing and Planning Act was passed in parliament last month, threatening to make the housing crisis much worse for millions of people. The government pushed ahead despite objections from tenant, housing and homeless groups, local authorities, academics, trade unions, faith leaders and community organisations.

Can we kill the Housing Bill?

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The Tory government's Housing and Planning Bill, currently making its way through parliament, is a disaster for tenants. Housing activist Eileen Short looks at the potential consequences of the bill, and at the growing movement against it by tenants, trade unionists and campaigners.

Last month 10,000 people demonstrated in central London against the Housing and Planning Bill. A national movement is growing against the government’s plans. Some of the biggest meetings for a generation have been packed with angry people worried about the future of their homes, families and communities. A broad alliance of tenants (council, housing association and private), trade unionists and housing activists is uniting behind a banner that says, “Kill the Housing Bill; Secure homes for all; Control rents”.

The Rent Trap

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There are 11 million private renters in the UK. Staggeringly high rents, low interest rates and historically low social housing provision mean that vast numbers of working class people are unable to afford secure homes. On average private renters now spend 47 percent of their take home pay on rent, rising to 72 percent in London. In response to this a reenergised housing movement is attempting to take on the powerful private landlord lobby and the lack of affordable homes provided by the state.

Larry and Janet Move Out

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This short film documents the demolition of a south London housing estate and its impact on the residents. Seen through the eyes of one working class couple who were forced from their home after 30 years on the Heygate Estate, its underlying message is about social cleansing and in the words of co-director Patrick Steel, “the human cost of big regeneration projects and the decline in social housing”.

Neighbourhood predators

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Gentrification is often described as a tale of David and Goliath where local residents and local businesses struggle to keep their heads above water against a rising tide of global corporate chain stores and heartless property developers.

It is the ground offensive in capitalism’s war on the poor, a street by street up-marketisation of shop fronts, housing, public space, goods and services. It is market speculation and commodity trading in culture and community that drives inequality and class segregation.

Housing minus the market

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Housing activist Glyn Robbins guides us on a virtual tour of east London to demonstrate how the early vision of public housing for working class people became a nightmare of private speculation.

As anger about the housing crisis mounts, two interlinked features recur: political impotence and theoretical abstraction. Despite the frustration of millions of people about the lack of affordable homes, the political establishment appears to have no ideas for solving the problem.

Interview with Danny Dorling

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All that is Solid, published by Allen Lane, £20.00

What was your motivation for writing a book about housing?

One reason was to get more people interested in what's going on in society, particularly those who are on average income or those who are doing quite well. In general they are not bothered about many things, but they are bothered about housing.

Unemployment affects only a small proportion of the population, but the difficulty of paying the rent, of paying the mortgage, affects about 90 percent of people - including people who've actually managed to buy a house outright.

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