Friday, 17 May 2013

Labour Housing Policy, Open House, Squatters, Old Kent Road

Get Out of Town

"Self-destructive" Labour Moves Londoners Out of London,
writes Paul Coleman.

'Police are prohibited from the building.'
Banning the police is a bold statement by the 'Open House' squatters just off the Old Kent Road in south London (above), especially in an era of heavily policed protest.
  About 100 mainly young people, packed inside the squatted and previously empty two-storey building, are engaged in a nine-day protest against London’s housing crisis.
  The protestors say London local authorities are selling public land and council estates to developers that seek to ‘unlock’ potentially huge profits from luxury apartment sales, rents and valuable land.

Pushing out
The protestors listen to housing expert Owen Hatherley (below) explain how rent rises, welfare cuts and gentrification are pushing low income Londoners out of London.
  Hatherley claims Conservative and Labour housing policy is to move low income Londoners to cheap and empty homes in depopulated areas in Middlesbrough, Stoke, Gateshead, Merthyr Tydfil and Salford.
  Hatherley points to a photo of empty low-value Middlesbrough homes projected onto a bedsheet. “This is the kind of place where they want us to move,” he says.

Poor export
Hatherley recalls Labour-run Newham Council in east London gained notoriety in 2012 over a plan to “export” 500 families on housing benefit 160 miles away to Stoke-on-Trent, a town of high unemployment.
  Newham had said rising demand, rents and prices for east London homes, generated by bankers and the 2012 Olympics, meant the Council could no longer house tenants on its waiting list and benefit claimants in local private accommodation.

Labour-run councils like Newham defend their potential ‘export’ of tenant and benefit claimants by saying their hands are tied by Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition policies, such as the ‘bedroom tax’, housing benefit caps and a lack of funds allocated to build new ‘affordable’ and social homes.
   But Hatherley says "Labour politicians seem willing to antagonise their natural voters in this way as they believe this makes Labour more electable".
"By doing this, Labour is gerrymandering against act of self-destruction," says Hatherley.

(Top): Poster at Camden Town tube station platform

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2013

© Words and Photos, Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013

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