In a world run for people, not private profit, sorting out a place to live would be no big deal. There are already far more empty homes than there are homeless people. They are not even that expensive to build – bricks are cheap. At least not so expensive that building your own home would be a project that takes a lifetime. And that’s how long most of us end up paying for them.
The cost of buying a home is so huge that most of the shrinking few with the incomes to consider it have to take out a 25 year loan at eye-watering interest rates. The rest of us spend much of our working lives making our landlords richer as rents take up an ever higher slice of wages.
Of course this only applies if you are poor, or even just not particularly rich. We may spend our lives grafting and struggling to keep a roof over our heads but if you can afford two roofs, then suddenly the fucked housing market becomes an endless source of free money. Our money.
The antidote to this grotesque exploitation of our most basic human need is socially built, managed and controlled housing at a cost real people can afford. The current system of council and social housing is far from perfect and could be radically improved, but almost anything is better than abandoning millions to slum landlords or homelessness. That is the choice facing increasing numbers of people as the private housing market soars ever more out of control.
As anyone who’s ever been a private tenant knows, most landlords range from absent and inept to downright criminal and violent. Yet it is them and their bank balances that dictate government policy, not the safety and security of their tenants. That is why in 2013 the Right To Buy bribe, the discount for those wanting to buy their council house, was increased to over £100,000 in London. Since then the number of formerly socially owned houses bought by private individuals has predictably soared – to levels not seen since the height of Labour’s Right To Buy give away. Many of those homes will eventually end up in the hands of private landlords.
Many of these houses are not being replaced by social housing as the government pledged they would be. Last year Inside Housing reported that 80% of councils are struggling to replace houses lost to Right To Buy due to the ‘bureaucratic and inflexible’ nature of the scheme. Which is no doubt exactly what this government hoped for.
Even the tiny amount of social housing that is being built is not council housing in the way most understand it. Instead the properties are offered on conditional fixed and short term tenancies at so-called affordable rents, set at 80% of those in the private sector and unaffordable for the vast majority. In London these affordable rents can run to hundreds of pounds a week. At a time when social housing is needed more desperately than ever it is being quietly eradicated and sold off and none of the main political parties have any real plans to change that.
A city that cannot house its people should be ungovernable. A string of victories last year, from the New Era Estate, the Class War poor doors campaign and the E15 Focus mums shows that when people fight back they can win. It’s the chinless fucking idiots living in the glass and concrete penthouses above our heads who should feel insecure in this city, not the people who built it and run it. Because when it comes right down to it, they need us a lot and we don’t need them at all.
A march for homes will be taking place in London this Saturday 31st January with meeting points in both East and South London. Campaigners from the E15 Focus group will lead the march from Shoreditch Church, Shoreditch High Street E1 6JN at noon, whilst in South London the assembly point is St Maryʼs Churchyard, Elephant & Castle SE1 6SQ. Both marches will converge at City Hall by Tower Bridge. A squatters block will join the march and has been called by the new(ish) Rabble website. Please help spread the word.
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