As Britain’s housing crisis goes from bad to worse, Labour councils are scandalously evicting their poorest residents and throwing them onto the streets. Only a clear socialist alternative can provide decent homes for all.
Waltham Forest Council has made hundreds of its poorest households ‘choose’ between leaving London or being thrown onto the streets. Such is the choice of a council that ‘regretfully’ accepts the cuts and crisis of the capitalist system. We must fight for a socialist solution to the housing problem.
Since June 2019, Waltham Forest Council has offered to house at least 214 of its poorest households in properties more than 100 miles away.
The council threatens households that if they refuse to accept the temporary accommodation offered, then it no longer has a duty to offer them any other accommodation. Their hands are washed clean, and the residents are deemed ‘voluntarily homeless’.
As if the choice is not one between the hammer and the anvil!
Nevermind the family, friends, or community that you have in the area that you have made a home. Nevermind your personal circumstances or those of your children. ‘Up sticks and out’ is essentially what this Labour council is telling its residents – with ‘regret’, of course.
The council’s representative for homelessness prevention assures the public that the council ‘works hard’ to provide housing for those in need. Nevertheless, we are told, the council ‘must follow the government’s benefits cap policy’. It laments that it is ‘very challenging to find affordable accommodation in London’.
This scandalous attack on the lives and livelihoods of its residents is presented as the only option. The council’s hands are tied, we are told, as they feign their sorry goodbyes.
Decades in the making
Of course, the housing crisis that is resulting in evictions and relocations has been decades in the making. Thatcher’s ‘right-to-buy’ clearly deepened the division in housing. But since then, councils have been selling off houses and other public assets to plug the funding gap from years of austerity.
Alongside this, we see the social calamities this has caused. The demand for local authority homelessness services has been steadily increasing over the past five years. There has been a 42% increase in families with children being accepted as homeless by their local authority.
As one might expect, the number of households entering temporary accommodation continues to swell. But those that are being housed in temporary accommodation whilst in the process of ‘relocating’ can only find it within the private sector. This is often paid though either the capped housing allowance, or the recently cut Universal Credit payments.
The price and precarity of this arrangement is unleashing misery on working class families.
Relocation, relocation, relocation
Despite all the hue and cry of ‘difficult decisions’ that need to be made, Waltham Forest council has been paying ‘relocation experts’ millions to do this for them. Reloc8 UK was paid £25.4 million last year by the council to carry out this process.
Exclusive: Waltham Forest Council told hundreds of households to either leave London or become homeless using “relocation experts” Reloc8 UKhttps://t.co/Kggh9NbDV8
— Waltham Forest Echo (@WFEcho) October 1, 2021
On Reloc8’s website they note that: “In 2017/18 there were 216,000 long-term (more than six months) vacant properties throughout the UK.” Their role is to procure some of this stock from landlords and managing agents, before selling them on as a relocation ‘package’ to councils.
This is not a case of one callous London council, but is being repeated all around the country.
In fact, ten London councils already have used Reloc8 to clear out their impoverished communities. One Barnet household was even offered relocation in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. All the while, Reloc8 ironically boasts that they ‘love local’!
Richer boroughs in London are also exploiting the situation of housing by decanting their residents in boroughs with poorer councils. This shows the cold consequences of accepting cuts in times of crisis.
With the backdrop of council bankruptcies, the previous decade of austerity will pale in comparison to what is being prepared. This is one of the many indications that the system in its senile decay.
A system that cannot afford to look after its most vulnerable, and which will preside over their decline into destitution, is not one that we can afford to carry on!
Better to break the law…
Instead of fighting back against the cuts, Waltham Forest council are wringing their hands and saying nothing can be done. They even dutifully sent bailiffs to evict families as soon as the eviction ban ended earlier this year.
But the council does not reference the amount of homes that lie dormant for speculation. In fact, a mum of three who recently had the community mobilise to stop her eviction has pointed out that there are even council flats in the borough that lie empty!
The point is that Labour right-wingers have already picked their side: with the landlords, not the renters. They see no solution in sight – and that is because there isn’t one, unless you fight to put social needs before the profits of the parasites!
Labour councils have become the loyal servants of the Tories and the capitalist establishment. But it has not always been this way. Indeed, Liverpool councillors in the ‘80s defied Thatcher and the Tories, building 5,000 council homes and capping rents for social housing tenants.
Likewise, one hundred years ago, the Poplar rate rebellion showed the ways in which bold leadership can galvanise the working class and win.
Back then, instead of accepting cuts and attacks on working-class communities, fighting Labour councillors such as George Lansbury organised around the clarion call of ‘rather break the law than break the poor’.
The issue is not due to the lack of supply in the housing stock. Nor is it an issue of too much demand. The truth is there are enough homes to house everyone. The issue is these homes are neither built for nor accessible to us.
This is because the land, banks, construction companies, and empty properties lie in the hands of the capitalist class, who only produce for profit. This is at direct odds with the needs of society – particularly poorer households that are already engulfed by exorbitant rents and appalling conditions.
It is clear that capitalism cannot provide decent housing for ordinary people. Evictions and relocations are the order of the day – in London and beyond.
A workers’ government would immediately requisition the empty properties of the fat-cat landlords and big property companies, in order to solve the immediate problem of homelessness.
This would have to be followed up with an enormous programme to build decent affordable homes for all. The only way to do so would be to nationalise the land, big housing developers, and banks, and place them under public ownership and democratic workers’ control. Nothing more, nothing less.
We have been ripped off for long enough. In order to solve the burning problems in Britain today, we have to fight for the socialist transformation of society.