Protesting against the lack of affordable social housing in an East London borough, a group of 29 homeless single mothers and their children have occupied a block of flats to demand action on the city’s housing crisis.
The group, calling itself “Focus E15,” complained that an estate in Stratford was almost empty, having been cleared by the local council, while increasing numbers of local people could not afford to buy or rent a home.
The women said people were facing homelessness and displacement due to the lack of affordable and social housing in London. They called for “social housing, not social cleansing”.
Members of the Focus E15 campaign used the occupation on Stratford’s Carpenter’s Estate next to the Olympic Park to try and shame Town Hall bosses over leaving “perfectly habitable” homes empty for years.
They accused Newham Council of shipping families from the estate out of London, leaving homes vacant in site of the Olympic Stadium.
“The estate has 2,000 empty council homes due to the decision to sell off the land to a private developer,” said Focus E15’s Jasmine Stone.
Special thanks to Aditya Chakrabortty for this great report that got the rest of the media following in herds. He wrote:
This weekend, while commentators yawped on about local democracy, and Ed Miliband vowed he’d close the chasm between the rich and the rest of us by a whole couple of centimetres, a bunch of young women in east London just got on and did it.
They began with a Sunday afternoon fun day, the mothers laying on facepainting and some Sister Sledge. What jarred was the location: the Carpenters estate, next to the Olympic village, was long ago cleared of most of its residents as Newham council tried to flog the land.
Amidst a ‘Fun Day’, organised to celebrate the one year anniversary of the campaign, supporters of the campaign occupied four properties on the Carpenters Estate, which the local Labour council has earmarked for demolition and redevelopment.
With Newham’s Labour Mayor away at the Labour Party conference, an occasion which saw Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls reassert Labour’s commitment to savage service cuts – ‘balancing the books’ -, what better time to step up the fightback against cuts, social cleansing and gentrification?
Hundreds of people were invited to tour the homes, which the campaign has set up as the E15 Social Centre – a place for the community to discuss housing, social cleansing and gentrification.
The party atmosphere at the community event was in stark contrast to the boarded up houses that looked down upon it. However, amid a drum roll and loud cheers a ribbon was cut to announce the opening of a four-flat block.
The campaigners said they will clean up and reuse the space to hold workshops to highlight the plight of those being left behind by the government’s ideologically driven policies including austerity and to educate one-another on how to fight back.
Jasmine, a member of the E15Focus group, said: “We wanted to make people aware that while we were being evicted from our hostel perfectly good homes have been boarded up for no good reason other than to write them off to be demolished so they can build luxury apartments.”
“The Focus E15 mothers’ social housing campaign took the admirable step of reopening some of the long-boarded-up flats on the Carpenters’ estate. I hope news of this move has reached those Labour councillors and MPs who are all tucked up nice and warm at conference in Manchester.”