Saturday, 31 January 2015

March for Homes: Council tenants across London come together to protest against London's deepening housing crisis

March for Homes: Tenants demand rent controls and more affordable and secure public housing
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

Britain mourned Sir Winston Churchill's passing in January 1965, writes Paul Coleman.
Construction cranes loomed alongside the Thames as a boat carried the wartime Prime Minister's coffin along the river as part of the funeral procession.
Scroll to 31 January 2015.
Another procession raucously chants and drums through central London in biting wind and sleet.
Overlooked too by construction cranes.

Hundreds file over Tower Bridge under the banner of the March for Homes.
Historically, too, this procession could also be seen as a funeral march.
Mourning the death of public, or council housing across London.
In 1965, cranes over London helped build thousands of council homes needed by Londoners on average and lower incomes.
But, in 2015, cranes are building new properties for the world's wealthy property speculator elites and for London's affluent upper middle classes.

London is one of the richest cities on Earth.
But cannot adequately or securely house the people who make the city tick daily.
Hundreds of people on the March for Homes say most Londoners simply cannot afford to live in their own city anymore.
Younger people, on stagnant wages in Britain's post-financial 'meltdown' economy, face rising rents. 
Astronomical house prices make home ownership evermore unattainable.

Enough is enough
And, worse still, these new luxury homes and apartments are demolishing council estates under the guise of 'regeneration' - such as the Heygate in south London and West Hendon in north London.
Tenants on the March for Homes cheerily sang 'Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner'. 
They explain darkly that council-backed and developer-led 'regeneration' is forcing working class council tenants and leaseholders out of their homes. 
Hurling them towards an uncertain future outside London.
Enough is enough, say the protestors. 
One banner proclaims 'We Just Can't Take Anymore'.
'No to social cleasing,' chant protestors.
'Yes to council housing.'

The March for Homes actually consists of two converging processions.
One rallies and marches from Shoreditch Church in east London.
The other from Elephant and Castle in south London.
United, they march on City Hall near Tower Bridge to call on the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to reverse his policy of backing luxury housing developments.
But the Mayor is ideologically wedded to the free market, especially property.
Johnson is unlikely to support the wholesale refurbishment of existing council homes and the building of genuinely affordable rented homes with secure tenancies.

But that would be to miss the point of the March for Homes.
The event brings together for the first time a cluster of groups locally resisting developer-led 'regeneration' schemes. 
These schemes include luxury homes, backed by local politicians, at places like Earl's Court, Battersea, West Hendon, Shoreditch, Stratford, Elephant and Castle, Peckham, Brixton and Tottenham.
Even the organisers seem surprised by the size and stridency of the marches and rally.
But London's chronic shortage of genuinely affordable homes adversely affects and angers hundreds of thousands of Londoners.
In this sense, too, the day's event and tone ought to serve as a warning to local and national politicians as a sign of more discontent to come - particularly if they persist with this model of developer-led 'regeneration'.
Of Mayor Boris Johnson, though, on this Saturday afternoon, there is no sight or sound.

But the victory of the New Era estate tenants and the March for Homes also relays a wider question to developers and investors seeking to demolish London council estates and redevelop luxury apartments for the global market.
Do you really want to subject your shareholders and their precious money to this kind of increasingly vociferous and potentially volatile protest?

© London Intelligence 2015

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, January 2015

No comments: