Tag Archives: housing crisis

Victoria Street E15: the Mayor concedes it’s no place for children but residents demand to know how & where they’ll be rehoused

On 25 May at Newham’s Annual Council Meeting, parents and children of Victoria Street, Stratford E15, and members of Focus E15 campaign, stood up with banners and placards to get their voices heard. Fed up of being under the radar, fed up of housing officers not replying to emails, fed up of being fobbed off and left in Victoria Street, sharing beds parents and families, no space for cots, toddlers with nowhere to walk, children doing homework on their beds, no ventilation, no space, mental health trauma, prison-like feeling to the building – we all shouted: We are humans, not numbers. Victoria Street is no place for Children.

The Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz acted promptly to remove heavy handed security and usher everyone to another room, putting the meeting on hold, and apologising to the residents of the building for what they are going through – unacceptable she said. She made a promise, repeated in the chamber afterwards, and recorded for posterity, that by May 2023 no more families with children would be in Victoria Street, no more to be moved in and all those there to be moved out. She spoke of the first year of her tenure, as if this was all news to her. But this is her second term in office as Mayor of Newham, and she knows very well the outrageous and degrading conditions of those who live in Victoria Street.

Watch the Mayor’s speech on Wed 25 May 2022

After years of campaigning with residents of this slum-like, overcrowded, damp, cramped, unsafe building, this is indeed a victory. However, the question remains – how and where will residents be rehoused.

Since 25 May, there has been two meetings with the Mayor, the Director of Housing and their teams. They have also visited Victoria Street. The first meeting coincided with a brutal attack the previous evening on a woman in the doorway of her flat within Victoria Street, with her child present. It transpired that the security door was broken, the intruder had a fob and the CCTV cameras don’t work. The Mayor and Director of Housing are very sorry. It shouldn’t happen.

Monthly meetings have been implemented to address all the issues. The Mayor and the Director of Housing admit that they can’t give a guarantee that everyone will get permanent housing, they are not allowed to implement a rent cap, the Right to Buy has taken away council housing, they are looking at the impact of overcrowding in the private rented sector, especially on children, that the standards of the landlord licensing scheme are not good enough, and repeat again and again and again that there are 34,000 people in Newham on the housing waiting list and the council must act legally and fairly and therefore can’t make everyone in Victoria Street top priority.

The residents are organising and they are angry. There is no rhyme or reason to who is offered what. The bidding system via choice-based lettings system is the only way of getting permanent housing, the allocated resettlement officer is pushing people to take offers that they deem suitable, appropriate and affordable, in the private rented sector.   If a resident says no, then they have made themselves  intentionally homeless and the council washes its hands of them. This threat leaves families no choice but to accept temporary accommodation, meaning more insecurity, more moves, more school changes for children, often loss of support networks and more mental health pressure.

The latest family to be moved out of Victoria Street;  a mother and two school-age children, offered a place out of borough, away from support networks, family and childcare, an hour from the children’s school and no choice but to accept to avoid intentional homelessness. They moved in (unfurnished, only white goods) to find no water in the kitchen, no hot water at all, almost £2,000 unpaid on the gas/electric. They were told by the repair person to not touch the switch on the cooker, told by the housing officer to turn on the red switch – leading to a blast, a bang and smoke from the red switch. This was a terrifying event, and a wholly unsafe and unacceptable situation. Phone calls were made and emails  sent in an attempt to contact appropriate people. The outcome: the council is moving the family back to Victoria Street while it sorts out the problems.

Meanwhile, one of the residents shared a photo of the living space she and her nine-year old daughter have in Victoria Street (below). Only one double bed that they share. The bed is also the only place for the child to do homework. This is not only unacceptable, it is criminal and has lasting health effects on families.

The Mayor and the Labour council in Newham may well have inherited a system that they feel is not of their making and are very sorry. But sorry is not enough.

Together the fight must go on to expose what is happening and demand long term, safe and secure, housing for everyone, not just those who can pay for it.

Residents say NO to redevelopment plans: ‘We must fight for the people, the planet and our beloved Carpenters Estate’

A resident of the Carpenters Estate, Stratford, Newham, London E15, speaks out:

From the day I was born, I have lived on the Carpenters Estate. 
It was also home to my Mother, Grandfather, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, along with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, childhood friends and so on. 

It has been a special place for me and my past generations, so you can see why the place means so much to me.

I reached many milestones on Carpenters, I learnt to ride a bike on this estate, had my first kiss (cringe), began nursery and even took my first steps here. Carpenters had and still has a great community of elderly and young people.

A lot of us went to Carpenters primary school and then would all play out afterwards on the beautiful green spaces we have on the estate, plus the park and cage, where we would arrange some serious football matches and the different blocks would go up against each other.

We never had any trouble around here, we was like one big family that all looked out for each other. 

Summer-times were the best, because all us kids will play outside until the street lights came on, one of our favourite activities being our 100m races down the slope at the back of Dennison point.

These are beautiful memories of an estate that Newham council now wants to demolish. Like we are now seeing with many inner London boroughs, they want to take away the authenticity of our great East End and get rid of beautiful homes to replace them with new-builds. The homes they are proposing are nowhere near the standard of homes that we already have here.

Newham is already very populated as it is, and the council want to overcrowd Stratford even more, shelving people on top of each other between plasterboard, where the walls are so thin, you can literally hear your neighbours farting next door.
There are many over 60s still residing on the estate, and after a life of working hard, they do not want the stress and pressure of having to leave a place that many have called home for there whole life. 
Tragically a lot of residents have died from the uncertainty and stress that they will have to move from their beloved homes and it is unacceptable.

It is very sad that in this day and age profit is more valuable than a human life.
Not to mention the horrendous carbon footprint this will have on our already crippled environment, that the pollution from demolition and rebuilding will produce. 
With Newham having one of the highest pollution levels in the country, it is very concerning that Newham council’s proposed plans have no consideration towards making the global climate crisis any better.
Yes I do believe we have to move with the times, but what I don’t believe in is liveable durable homes that are already here being knocked down to build new ones.
I don’t believe in the elderly being forced to move, or stressed to death, and The Carpenters Estate being demolished to make way for more overcrowding and pollution.

I vote for refurbishment over demolition and community over capitalism. 

So I will be voting NO to demolition and hope others will too.

We must fight for the people, the planet and our beloved Carpenters Estate.

East London Night of Resistance says everyone needs a home! Join us.

On Wednesday 28 October, join Focus E15 campaign at the King Edward VII pub on the Broadway in Stratford, London E15 for East London Night of Resistance, co-hosted with East London  Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism and East London Radical Assembly.

At the end of the night, we will be going to Stratford Mall to give support to the homeless people of Stratford who seek warmth and shelter and  who are increasingly being moved on by police and security, as gentrification and social cleansing take hold of post-Olympic Stratford. Bring sleeping bags, thermos flasks and solidarity.
While the Carpenters Estate in Stratford has over 400 empty council homes, homelessness is on the increase. As if this scandal wasn’t bad enough, Newham is amongst the 15 least affordable areas for private renting in the country and has one of the worst records in London for rehousing people out of the borough. Last year it moved 423 homeless families out of London altogether.
Join us in the pub from 8pm and then  on the streets to help build the resistance.

Focus E15 campaign will be showing a short film called Squatters  which is about housing issues in London in the 1970s.

Pilar Lopez will be bringing folk music from Spanish freedom fighters. See pilarawa.wordpress.com for more information.
Janine Booth, a punk poet will be performing as well: https://m.facebook.comJanineBoothTheBigJ
Porcupine Dilemma will be playing a few acoustic numbers.

There  could even be a bar room sing-along!Please join our campaigners at the end of the evening when we will be leaving together to show solidarity with the homeless in Newham with a mass sleep out. For the most up to date information see the facebook event page

We will be asking for donations to cover the cost of this event.

100s of people unite to march against evictions in Stratford with Focus E15 Campaign

A march against evictions awoke the heart of Stratford in the East End of London last Saturday when local people, political groups and campaigns took to the streets to demand decent housing for all. The march was militant, diverse and empowering, full of noise, speeches and lively chants. It was led by the original Focus E15 mothers and their families plus others who face being shoved out of London due to a manufactured housing crisis. A local mother, Bianca Ford who is being evicted  with her children on October 12 in Redbridge said she had never been on a march before but marching with others who care about housing issues had given her the confidence to speak out. Afterwards she said that the march had been a ‘real buzz’. Residents from the Focus E15 hostel were also uplifted by the gathering of people and felt like they could speak out about their current housing fears. This shows that our active solidarity brings courage to people, inspiring them to take action.

Ghassem from Asylum Clinic spoke about  migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and the racism and discrimination they face in housing. Class War stormed into Foxtons letting agency, drawing attention to rip off house prices, agency fees and high rents. They were congratulated for taking this action by many on the march. People also became angry and vocal when we passed by Bridge House, Newham’s homelessness housing office: a homemade banner was hung over the entrance demanding Newham Labour council stop social cleansing. Squatters rights were also championed and Sisters Uncut made the links between housing security and the importance of fighting against domestic violence.



Newham Labour Party was criticised for its role in the housing crisis and comrades in the Revolutionary Communist Group were on the megaphone when the march passed by a boarded up Newham Labour Party office.There was no one to be seen, perhaps they were hiding behind the boards…

The march finished up on the Carpenters estate because 3 tower blocks on the estate are still virtually empty. 400 flats have been left to rot by Newham labour party in the middle of one of the worst housing crisis this country has seen in a long time and one that continues to affect the most vulnerable people in our communities. Both Sam and Jasmin from the campaign spoke about the actions the campaign has taken to place the housing crisis on the political agenda in Newham and beyond. They then untied 100s of balloons which symbolized the 50,000 people who have been forced to move out of borough  (in London) during the past 3 years.

Response to Newham Council on their offer to house 10 refugee families

On our street stall recently Focus E15 campaigners met Ibrahim, a refugee who was left to sleep on the streets of the borough of Newham for months due to the inadequacy of the council and their unwillingness to give refugees and other residents in the borough stable, secure housing. Unfortunately it is clear that Ibrahim’s story is not an isolated case.

A crisis in housing has been unfolding for decades and is only set to get worse when the Immigration Bill  comes into law later this year. This Bill proposes to build on the measures in the Immigration Act and to extend document checks by landlords and banks to stop undocumented migrants from renting housing or opening a bank account. Landlords could have the powers to evict migrants without a court order making the present situation even worse.

Focus E15 campaigners meet the incredible Asylum Clinic in West London
Focus E15 campaigners meet the incredible Asylum Clinic in West London

The Focus E15 campaign believes that the recent request from the government to every council, asking them to house 10 Syrian refugee families, is not only inadequate, but shameful when the reason so many refugees from around the world have had to flee their homes is due to the wars waged in the interests of,(and financed by) our capital and country. We encourage people to stand together, as humans, to say 10 families per council is not enough. If our local council, Newham in East London really wanted to help refugees, they should rehouse people on the Carpenters Estate where 400 flats have been boarded up for several years.

We are demanding safe and secure housing for all who need it! So councils in London, in solidarity with people around the world needing safe stable homes, it is your responsibility to open the 22,000 empty homes in the capital and immediately start rehousing people.

Focus E15 campaign will be present at the demonstration for refugees in central London on Saturday 12 September. Please join us there.

UPDATE
We have recently heard that Ibrahim has now been given shelter in a hostel.This is because after passing our street stall he had the confidence to go to the housing office and not move until he was offered housing! Although a hostel is not ideal, it is safer and warmer than the streets. There are 100s of other like him who need support today. Please consider supporting the work of the  Hackney Migrant Centre or RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum in Essex and East London)
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Newham Mayor’s security behave like crocodiles

Below is our response that we are sending to the Newham Recorder regarding their recent article and the outrageous comments from council spokespeople about Focus E15 campaigners. Please also scroll down to watch the latest video about the Mayors Newham show.

Dear Newham Recorder,
The spokespeople from Newham council were clearly not in the park judging by their comments. We did not go ‘with the sole intention of disrupting this fun day, causing upset to families with…aggressive and confrontational behaviour’. We went to talk to people and to give out leaflets, hardly an aggressive crime in a public park. As Ben Geraghty from the campaign, quoted in your article says, our ‘intention was to raise awareness’.

In fact we barely had time to talk to anyone before we were rounded on by aggressive APS security staff, who snatched away our leaflets and placards before herding, dragging and pushing us out of the park. The video which shows this action has now been seen by over 14,000 people on facebook.

The security staff certainly did not evict us to ‘ensure the safety of the members of the public’ or because of any ‘threatening behaviour’ on our part. Such council statements are an attempt to draw attention away from the aggression shown by their security. Everyone we spoke to inside the Newham Show showed great interest and support for the campaign because the housing crisis in Newham is affecting so many people.

Focus E15 campaign wanted to leaflet  people attending the Mayor’s Newham Show to let them know the facts about Newham: Labour Mayor Robin Wales is an unashamed advocate of gentrification, a supporter of sanctioning and kicking out the poor and most vulnerable. Under his rule, over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford remain empty and around the borough many more homes are boarded up, while homeless people whom the council has a statutory duty to house, are forced out of London.

The security staff were told to remove us as quickly as possible  to prevent us giving out information to people and to stop Robin Wales being embarrassed again. Last year, at the same event, Mayor Robin Wales himself was so physically and verbally aggressive to members of the Focus E15 campaign, that it was taken up by the Newham Standards Committee, and their investigation concluded with him being found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct.

Outrageously the council distributed their own leaflets at the Newham Show which read ‘£50m, that’s how much the council has to save next year’ and council employees were going around asking people what services should be cut. This is a council that sides with big business, banks and property speculators, while cutting social housing and continuing a policy of social cleansing.

We should remember that Newham has one of the highest rates of poverty of any London borough and, since 2012/13, it also has one of the highest levels of LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loan debt in the country. Newham has  spent £563m on borrowing money which in turn  has generated  huge interest repayments: the council  owes over £40m in LOBO debt and this is likely to rise. For some reason, Newham council have refused to disclose the loan contracts when requested to under the FOI Act.

Services for the people of Newham should not be cut. Focus E15 campaign will not be silenced by aggressive security staff. We will continue to highlight the housing crisis in Newham  and side with all those in housing need.

This video shows more footage from the Mayor’s Newham Show:

Mum and her baby allowed to stay on in B&B

The young woman and baby who was threatened with eviction from her B&B when she refused to be moved to the outskirts of Basildon (due to racist abuse) is no longer being evicted tomorrow, Tuesday 7 July.

Her case has been highlighted by Focus E15 campaign and other eviction resistance housing activists.

Today Newham council phoned her up to say that they will continue payment for the B&B until there is a decision from her appeal.

She will keep us updated on her housing situation.
She and her baby still need to be housed in a decent long term affordable stable home.

Onwards!
Keep up the pressure!
Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!

URGENT ACTION: No to homelessness! Tell Redbridge council to house the vulnerable.

On our street stall on Saturday 6 June 2015 we were approached by a young man of 22 years old called Azam. His story below illustrates just one of many who are now homeless. He is asking for support at his housing meeting in Ilford on Monday 8th June at 2.30pm, at the Housing Office, 28-42 Clements Rd, Ilford IG1 1BA. Please come and tell Redbridge council that no one should be left without a home.

Azam’s story  
“My family disowned me and threw me out of  my family home when I was 17. I had mental health issues and was seen by a psychiatric team. A social worker helped me to get a room in a hotel. I stayed there for 4 months. I then moved into supported housing due to mental health issues but the housing was difficult due to the mix of people there. I had a diagnosis of bi polar at the time. An incident occurred and a fight broke out and I was imprisoned.
I lost my supported housing at Genesis  because I was put in prison for 3 months.I had no support from the prison services to get rehoused when they let me out.

I came out of prison in March 20th 2015 and I have been homeless ever since. It is scary not having a secure home. I felt suicidal and did not know what I was going to do. I have been trying to get into hostels but nothing ever works out. I think the housing situation is making me unwell. I would  like a room of my own that is safe and secure and not too expensive.

I use to work and want to find a job. My hopes for the future including getting a job as a graphic designer but I can only do this in I have somewhere to live.

David Cameron promises to cut down on homelessness but the state of London is not acceptable. Not matter what has happened to people everyone deserves a place to live that is secure and stable.”

Please support Azam at his housing meeting on Monday 8th June at 2.30pm, at the Housing Office, 28-42 Clements Rd, Ilford IG1 1BA. Bring your banners and tell Redbridge council that homelessness is not acceptable!

Azam pictured in the center of the picture supporting our demands for social housing
Azam pictured in the center of the picture supporting our demands for social housing for all!

social housing not social cleansing

Mothers and children lives adversely affected by short term housing! Protest Friday 1pm Bridge House.

Last year, a single mother from Newham, who has 3 children, was moved by Newham council and housed outside of London in Hertfordshire. Now, over one year later, her temporary contract has ended and she has been offered yet another short term contract, but this time in another new place outside of London, in an poorly maintained house in Birmingham, which has rotting cupboards and broken gates. How many times will she be shoved from pillar to post?

This mother’s plight shows the utter insecurity of current housing policies and the disruption that is caused by social cleansing. Single mothers face enough pressure without housing insecurity thrown in on top. Their children’s lives are also being adversely affected by not having a secure and stable home environment. This is how social exclusion begins as families are unable to fully take part in their communities due to constantly having to move, they are left isolated when placed 100s of miles away from their wider family and support. Children lose friendships due to being forced to change schools time and time again.

The Focus E15 campaign supports the right of single mothers to bring up their children in a long term secure environment near to their support networks and extended families. Stop playing political football with their lives.

Please support this mother who is asking to be housed near to her support networks in London or to be left to stay in Hertfordshire where her oldest child is at school. You can give support and solidarity  for this mother at her housing appointment on Friday 29 May, 1pm. Come and stand outside Bridge House 320 Stratford High Street, Stratford E15 1EP in solidarity.

Tell Newham council that single mothers deserve our support and should not be left stranded!

Keep Us In London
Council must show that they have exhausted local possibilities before housing people outside of London

Victory! No charges to be brought against Jasmin Stone of Focus E15 campaign.

On 13 April, Jasmin Stone of Focus E15 campaign was arrested on suspicion of squatting in a raid organised by Newham council and police. There followed a loud and militant demonstration at the police station where she was held and she was bailed to attend a police station in mid May. We have just heard that no charges will be brought against her.

The lead up to the police and council action was Focus E15 campaign supporting Jane Wood who had lived in Newham council accommodation, east London, for almost 21 years. On 24 March she and her 14-year-old daughter were evicted by bailiffs for rent arrears resulting from complex personal and medical circumstances leading to her Employment Support Allowance being stopped. At the last minute, when her family rallied around and offered to pay the outstanding debt, the Labour council refused to take the money, call off the bailiffs or allow Jane to keep her home.

Newham council is led by Labour Mayor Robin Wales, an unashamed advocate of gentrification, supporter of sanctioning and kicking out the poor and most vulnerable. Under his rule, 400 homes on the Carpenters’ Estate remain empty, while homeless people whom the council is compelled to house are forced to move out of London.

This is an example of political policing and a targeted arrest in an attempt to silence and intimidate political activists.
We will not accept the criminalisation of those who fight for social housing and against social cleansing.

Focus E15 campaign will be celebrating this victory on the weekly Focus E15 stall this Saturday 16 May from 12-2pm on The Broadway, Stratford E15, outside Wilko’s.

Supporters of the Focus E15 Campaign celebrate after the release of Jasmin Stone
Supporters of the Focus E15 Campaign celebrate after the release of Jasmin Stone

Come and join us.