Housing activists fighting evictions are ‘ludicrous’ and ‘we shouldn’t worry too much about them’ say out of touch housing association bosses defending regeneration schemes which are forcing people out of their homes.
The astonishing comments form part of a feature on London’s growing housing movement which Inside Housing published on their website last week. The largely positive piece highlighted the anger created by the desperate shortage of social housing in the capital and told the stories of the tenants, homeless people, squatters and frontline housing workers who are fighting back.
Unfortunately it also featured outbursts from whining housing association bosses who complain that social media means that they are now being held accountable for the things that they do. It’s not fair they say, with the boss of Notting Hill Housing Association, Kate Davies, even claiming they deserve a ‘pat on the back’ and the ‘Queen’s award for industry’ for all their tireless work decanting and evicting families from their homes.
Davies is in charge of the Sweet’s Way housing estate in Barnet where, as Inside Housing point out, 142 former military homes now mostly containing low income families are being replaced by a redevelopment in which just 59 new properties will be ‘affordable’. And affordable means rents that could be as high as 80% of those in the private sector, meaning few can really afford them. None of the new homes built will be available for ‘social rent’, the kind of low but still substantial rents that used to be normal in housing association and council properties. The current residents who are set to lose their homes have launched a furious fight back but Davies implies she doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. She must think we’re fucking idiots.
Simon Dow, boss of the Guinness Partnership, is equally unrepentent. He concedes his organisation has some responsibility to explain to current tenants ‘where they fit into’ regeneration plans – yet the reality, and problem, is that many don’t fit into these plans at all, such as the Guiness tenants on the Loughborough Estate in Brixton who are facing imminent eviction. But Dow says he is ‘less interested’ in the views of those not from the estate, meaning the housing campaigners who have worked alongside those facing the loss of their homes to try and stall and prevent evictions. It is this kind of social solidarity that concerns Dow who concludes that if this militancy amongst tenants spreads throughout the sector then they might have to worry about whether what they are doing is a good idea.
And one of the things they are doing is paying themselves huge sums of money. In 2012/13 Simon Dow was paid over a quarter of a million pounds. You read that right – a quarter of a fucking million pounds. Enough to buy a new home every year. Kate Davies, of the Notting Hill Housing Association was paid just short of £200,000. Is it any wonder that they are so out of touch and aloof from the people they are paid with both tax payer’s and tenant’s money to house?
If Davies and Dow actually lived on the estates they are currently demolishing then they might have some understanding of the utter devastation that eviction, homelessness or forced relocation can cause to the lives of already struggling families. They might realise that one fucking eviction is one too many, and that the chronic lack of social housing means the situation is now at breaking point. Instead they whinge about government funding cuts whilst still drawing huge wages and complain about tenants being too uppity and not understanding the challenges poor housing bosses face. Their only glimmer of dissent has been to team up with the other villains in this story – property developers – to join the Homes for Britain campaign, a shoddy front aiming to use the housing crisis as an excuse to build more houses for rich people.
If you find yourself calling riot police on housing campaigners, or using bailiffs to violently evict families from their homes, then you are on the wrong fucking side. A five year could could tell you that. The kids currently living in shitty temporary accommodation miles from friends and families know that. There is no room for argument. If housing association bosses really don’t like what the government is doing then good, it’s time they did something about it. Whether that means getting out on the streets, or not co-operating, or even just paying themselves a bit less and paying a few people’s bedroom tax instead, is for them to decide. Or perhaps they could get out of the way altogether, and let tenants, not highly paid bureacrats, manage the homes and communities they live in.
Visit the Radical Housing Network’s event calendar for details of upcoming protests, action and meetings and keep July 11th free for when Class War’s anti-gentrification Fuck Parade takes to the streets of Camden.
Class War will also be out on the streets tomorrow (Wednesday 27th May) on the state opening of Parliament. Meet at 11am prompt in Parliament Square. Later in the day the National Coalition against Fees and Cuts have called a march from 5pm – assemble in Trafalgar Square.
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