Category Archives: housing bill

Police station targeted by housing activists

Congratulations to the ‘Balcony 4’ and Focus E15 campaigners  who successfully dropped banners from a disused, sold off and boarded-up police station in East Ham on Sunday 10 July 2016, to highlight the current crisis in housing.  This action took place during the Mayor’s Newham Show (will he call it the Robin Wales Show next year?!) – which is a two day council-sponsored event that takes place in a local park in East Ham.  Focus E15 campaign was determined to let people know what is really happening in the Labour controlled borough of Newham where Mayor Robin Wales is still at the helm. As the Mayor’s show took place, this action unfolded.

The background  story is that the campaign has protested during the mayor’s show over the last two years. In 2014, Robin Wales over-reacted to young mothers talking about rights to housing  during the show and a complaint was lodged against him. He faced the Newham Standards Committee and was found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct (watch from 1.45: http://youtu.be/gsPxancNiqk). Then in 2015, the council ordered private security to stop campaigners handing out leaflets during the Mayor’s show and had campaigners forcibly removed from the park in a heavy handed manner. (http://youtu.be/SpbnD9RzuQ0).

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During the Mayor’s show this year, one of Newham’s many empty buildings became a target.  Three large banners were unfurled from the balconies of a boarded up police station as a crowd gathered down below. The banners read “Newham – hundreds of empty homes“; “Room for everyone, No room for Racism“; “Stop social cleansing, keep us in London“.  Campaigners from the Revolutionary Communist Group, Feminist Library, The Green Party, Sisters Uncut, Boleyn Dev 100, Tower Hamlets Renters and passers-by took to the mic to express their disgust at the amount of properties left empty by Newham council and demanded the reopening of the 400 empty homes on the Carpenters Estate. Many drivers hooted in support and passers-by joined in the protest and gave out leaflets.  One campaigner explained:

“…If they leave buildings empty like this police station – we will use them to make a political point. The housing crisis is driving people to despair and there should be no empty buildings whilst people are left to rot on our streets. We are also fed up of politicians blaming migrants for the housing shortage – it is just a dangerous lie -which is why one of our banners says – No Room for Racism…”

Whilst Robin Wales and his entourage were swanning around the park, the reality for thousands of people living in Newham is increased insecurity: rents are always rising, council homes are  being sold off and more people are living in overcrowded, appalling temporary accommodation. 35% of Newham residents earn below the London Living Wage, yet the mayor has a salary of £80,000 and last year the same amount again was spent on his expenses. 

Hundreds of messages of support for the temporary occupation of the police station’s balconies came flooding into the campaign. The Balcony 4 came down at end of the protest to applause and loud cheers from everyone on the ground.

Focus E15 campaign would like to say a big thank you  to all those who supported this action, with  your presence, your cameras and your voices, and to the speakers from East End Sisters Uncut, Revolutionary Communist Group, Feminist Library, Boleyn Dev 100, Tower Hamlets Renters and Newham Green Party. Another successful action, working together and challenging Newham Labour Council!

The campaign  would also like to send our solidarity and congratulations to East End Sisters Uncut for their current occupation of empty council homes in Hackney as they highlight the cuts to services for domestic violence and the closure of refuges. Please support their occupation over the coming days and weeks.

Focus E15 campaign’s next public meeting is on Saturday 2nd August 2016 at Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, E15 4DN, to discuss ways forward for the campaign. Join us at 2.30pm

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Young people like Charlie forced to live on the streets as housing crisis escalates

Newham Labour Council – where can Charlie live now?

On a Saturday afternoon in February 2016, a young man called Charlie approached the Focus E15 campaign stall, drawn to the campaign’s message of decent housing for all.  Charlie has been street homeless for some years. He approached the stall because he wanted to show his solidarity with the campaign and was keen to buy a social housing not social cleansing badge.  Since then, Charlie has become a regular on our street stall, getting to know the campaigners and gaining the confidence to attend his first ever public demonstration which was against the Housing and Planning Bill last month. There he joined in with thousands of others demanding housing justice for all. He took the microphone during the march and could be heard telling the politicians  implementing the pernicious bill to  “stick it!”

Focus E15 campaign supports Charlie in his demand to be housed. He can not move forward with his life living rough on the streets because he is stuck in a cycle of despair and anxiety. It is young people like Charlie that are the group now most at risk of living in poverty. Nearly half of people living in homeless accommodation services are aged between 16- 24. Not getting the vital support they need at this crucial time in their lives has a damaging impact on employment, education, health and well being, and, they are also likely to experience homelessness at an older age (Homeless Link 2015).

The campaign was outraged to learn that on 22 March, in the early hours of the morning, Charlie, whilst sleeping rough, received a visit from several officials, two of which were from Newham council. He was handed  a ‘rough sleeping warning notice’. He was told to immediately move on due to his ‘anti-social behaviour of sleeping’ and bedding down in the ‘wrong location’.  Charlie felt intimidated. A warning notice stated that in order to avoid receiving a Community Protection Notice Charlie should  leave the place they found him – within five minutes of being told. Furthermore it was stated that he should  not return and not  bed down  on any land or empty building in the borough of Newham. Charlie was worried. He was was then told that if he does not comply, he will be fined and if he does not pay the fine he will go to court and get a bigger fine.

charlies warningIntimidation of vulnerable young people is not acceptable. Charlie has to sleep somewhere. Sleeping and having a stable home is a human need and a human right! This is why  ‘market forces’ should not be left to dictate housing  planning and allocation – because housing is a  vital public resource. Homes like those on the Carpenters Estate should not be left empty in the midst of a  housing crisis. Newham Council has a duty  to help Charlie and the rising number of rough sleepers in the borough.

While our lawyers get to work on this warning letter, we appeal to Newham Labour council to find a solution for Charlie as soon as possible because his situation is desperate.

Repopulate the Carpenters Estate in Stratford! Let  young men like Charlie live!  He needs a chance and he needs a home! 

Please share this story and tweet at Newhamlondon to raise awareness of street homelessness

 

 

The Focus E15 newsletter is out now

Tomorrow Saturday 30 January – Join Focus E15 contingent to: 

March Against the Housing Bill!

(there will be no Stratford stall outside Wilko’s).

Travel to the start together… meet Focus E15 at Stratford station at 11am (outside the exit that leads onto the bus station, near the train statue).

https://www.facebook.com/events/817880454987012/

The march, organised by Lambeth Housing Activists, starts from the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ (nearest tube Lambeth North) and will march to Downing Street for 2pm.

See below re other events and actions related to opposing the Housing Bill.

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Tonight Friday 29 and tomorrow Saturday 30 January

Land of the Three Towers

A community theatre piece celebrating Focus E15 occupation of Carpenters Estate in 2014

https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/production/land-three-towers/

Congratulations to FYSA theatre company for the latest E15 performances. Reviewed below and more performances scheduled for later this year.

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2016/e15-review-at-camden-peoples-theatre-london-a-rallying-cry/

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Two campaign events on Saturday 13 February 2016

Focus E15 campaign stall 12-2pm on the Broadway outside Wilkos in Stratford. 

We will be supporting the Radical Housing Network’s call for action against the housing bill. Come and speak out, leaflet  and use the open mic. Make plans, talk to people on the streets to make the housing movement grow. All welcome. Take part in East London Radical Assembly’s stall crawl and get involved with the housing movement in your area.

Focus E15 campaign meeting and the Immigration Bill 2.30-4.30pm

Bryant Street Methodist Church, Bryant Street, E15 4RU

Come and hear a speaker from RAMFEL – Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London  www.ramfel.org.uk/

Discussion in particular about the Immigration Bill and the impact on housing and planning future events.

Big Thank you to Simon from Architects for Social Housing who spoke about the housing bill at the last meeting.

https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/

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HOUSING AND PLANNING BILL CALENDAR

26 January: 2nd Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords (first chance to discuss areas where amendments are needed, so start lobbying Lords before this date). Defend Council Housing lobbying Southwark Council offices at 160 Tooley Street (6.00pm).

30 January: March Against The Housing Bill, called by Lambeth Housing Activists (midday), from Imperial War Museum to Downing Street.

2 February: Defend Council Housing Protest outside Parliament (4.00pm), followed by testimony meeting (5.00-7.00pm), in Committee Room 4a.

6 February: Defend Council Housing organising meeting (11-1pm), Unite the Union, 128 Theobald’s Road.

9 February: Islington Hands Off Our Public Services Commission, public meeting on the Bill (7pm), Islington Town Hall, Upper Street.

10 February: Estimated date of Committee Stage of Bill in House of Lords. Detailed examination of the Bill lasting around two weeks.

13-14 February: We Love Council Housing, weekend of actions against the Bill called by the Radical Housing Network for the Valentine weekend.

24 February: Estimated date of the Report Stage of the Bill, when the House debates any committee amendments. This is shortly (that day or the following week) followed by the Third Reading, the last chance for the House to vote on amendments. Any amendments are then sent back to the Commons for consideration. Then the Bill is sent for Royal Assent.

13 March: Kill the Housing Bill (Act) / Call for Rent Control, National Demonstration called by Defend Council Housing.

16 April: People’s Assembly Against Austerity: March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education, Central London.

5 May: Elections for London Mayor.

The Housing Bill, civil disobedience and the mothers of Argentina.

Focus E15 campaigner, Saskia writes:

With the imminent implementation of the Housing Bill, Focus E15 Campaign has been reviewing and asking what this legislation means for the growing housing movement.

What is clear from the hours spent at our weekly street stall in East London is that a lot of people do not know what this bill is about. This should not come as a great shock because our experience with key housing information is that the media, local councils and the government cover up the realities of this manufactured  crisis in housing -after all  to be educated is to be free, right?  If the public truly knew and recognised the amount of homes lying empty in their street, borough and country, how long would the propaganda about the need to build more homes, but not being able to due to austerity, really stand up?

The question is how does the housing movement move forward with a deliberately uninformed public as the most  draconian housing legislation in recent British history gets pushed through parliament? Of course our job is to inform people, but what else can we do to convince people to take the action that is needed to repel this bill, boost the housing movement and put the working class on the front foot in the historical fight for suitable housing? We need civil disobedience and a refusal to cooperate with this daylight robbery. We need those forced with massive council rent hikes to refuse to pay them, to be prepared to stand in front of the state in the courts, and to win.

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Focus E15 campaign will be on the March Against the Housing Bill on the 30th January.  This will not be a march which will stop the Housing Bill.  People are not yet coming out  onto the streets in great numbers.  However, let this be a march to show people that when the reality of the housing bill drops through their letter box, their best chance is to join the housing activists they glanced at in the newspaper and in  their news feed, because there will be people who are ready to fight with them.  After all, this was in essence how our campaign began.

Recently at our bimonthly  campaign meeting, we had an excellent presentation about a study looking at the similarities between our campaign and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (the mothers of the disappeared children in the 70s and 80s in Argentina).  We heard that mothers first challenged the ‘problem’  – by writing letters, complaining to MPs and local representatives and it was when this process failed that the mothers, in both campaigns, became politicised.  Also, significantly, in both struggles there were political activists and others working in the campaign from the start, (some affected by the issues directly, some not) who were ready to give their support -which in turn gave political confidence to the mothers. This helped to give  these campaigns their weight, strength and longevity – the Argentinian mothers continue to fight to this day.

Those that attend the march on the 30th January should be this political weight in the coming period. When the ‘solutions’ the working class are offered fail – then we can be sure 2016 will be the year of unrest the housing movement needs.

Solidarity
Saskia

The Housing and Planning Bill 2015 will put an end to the possibility of decent housing for all; it will see the end of council housing and social housing, while encouraging an unregulated corrupt private rental sector.More and more people will be forced into overcrowded, damp, unsafe housing, taking Britain back to the conditions of over 70 years ago, before the modern welfare state was developed.

We must get together and fight for the right to decent, affordable, secure housing.

Join the Focus E15 campaign on the march to Kill the Housing Bill which is being called for by Lambeth Housing Activists on Saturday January 30th.

Start from Imperial War Museum 12pm ( SE1 6HZ)

March to Cameron’s publicly funded home in Downing Street for 2pm.