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This is the worst outcome for renters – does the London Mayoral election offer a glimmer of hope?

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By Kieran Aldred

This General Election result is devastating. A Conservative majority for five years – none of us expected it. No Labour/ SNP led Tory opposition. No Liberal Democrat break on austerity. Just pure unadulterated revved up Thatcherite neoliberalism. For private renters in England and Wales, and everyone caught up in the gnashing teeth of the housing crisis, this is the worst outcome.

David Cameron has promised to extend Right to Buy to Housing Associations, fuelling further sell offs of social housing and increases in pariah landlords.  Housing benefit will be further restricted for the young and the disabled, forcing more and more vulnerable people from their homes. We can’t even expect the measly crumbs of housing policy reform promised by the Labour party. No three year tenancies. No cap on rent increases. No repeal of the Bedroom Tax. No commitment to a higher minimum wage.

With Cameron’s promise of £12 billion cuts in public spending, the council services we rely on will be decimated. Even the more socially minded councils will struggle to support the needs of an increasingly impoverished and homeless population. Expect more social cleansing, more evictions, more people ejected, without jobs, family or social connections, to the Midlands, South Coast, West and beyond.

So what do we do? We can’t let ourselves slip into a coma of despair and rage. Now more than ever we need to be focused, vocal and organised.

Housing activist groups are springing up all around London as people in crisis are radicalised. Our groups need to come together to work in solidarity, develop our skills and take action to bring the political and economic structures behind the housing crisis to their needs. In all the uncertainties that lay ahead, we can be sure of one thing; that a Tory majority government are not interested in our right to decent, secure genuinely affordable housing. Any change will happen because we become powerful enough to demand it.
Our greatest hope for change is a collective demand to end the forces of social cleansing and profiteering. As activists, we won’t agree with each other all the time. But now more than ever we need each another.

Amongst the doom and gloom there are glimmers of hope. In London, Labour did better than elsewhere in the country, taking 45 out of the 73 parliamentary seats. This includes, for Digs, the return with increased majorities of Meg Hillier and London Mayoral candidate Diane Abbott. Boris Johnson’s success in Uxbridge means that an open London Mayoral election is certain, either next year or possibly earlier if he is made a Cabinet member and decides not to do both jobs.

Diane Abbott and David Lammy are already eyeing up the Labour London Mayor candidacy. In the city suffering the worst ravages of the housing crisis, they both know the candidacy will be fought and won largely on their solutions to this crisis. Both hopefuls have said they support some form of rent control and that affordable housing and keeping people in their homes will be a priority.

But we need to demand that Labour London housing policy be founded on the needs of people rather than the needs of developers and landlords. This won’t happen unless we have an organised, vocal network of people willing to take action to defend our homes and communities.

As more and more activist groups rise from the toxic swamp of the housing crisis, we in London are in a brilliant position to mobilise people these struggles. This is probably partly why the Tories, ideologically opposed to council housing and falling over themselves to line the pockets of landlords and developers, have done badly in inner city London. In the fight to become Mayor, housing could be Labour’s biggest hope of success, and therefore our biggest hope of securing radical policies.

These will not be easy years ahead. Our campaigning and resistance has to grow and mature faster as the foundations of neoliberalism will be cemented in national legislation. London as the heart of the housing crisis has the most to gain and the most to lose, with a rising movement ready to demand change but with land and property greedily eyed for sale and exploitation. We must take this opportunity and galvanise. We must work together and resist. We must identify the weaknesses in our targets and strike. We must fight back. Our city, our community, and our homes depend on it.

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One thought on “This is the worst outcome for renters – does the London Mayoral election offer a glimmer of hope?

  1. “No cap on rent increases.”

    The problem for Landlord like me, who don’t increase rents, is that I would have been forced to bring them to market levels if Labour had got in. This is because I have not increased them for years.

    Digs has been unfair when they talk about rent caps, because the Local Housing Allowance has been fixed at 1% per annum. In previous years the LHA rate was frozen. So we have rent control or sort.

    Your article does injustice to Landlords who have housing benefit tenants and are accepting lower rent, even though they can get higher rents on the market.

    If people move every six months, then they will face the problem of paying the last market prices. Then then such landlords have just paid a month rents in letting agents fees.

    I don’t have plans to increase rents in the next 5 years for sitting tenants.

    If Digs is anti-landlord, then may be you can encourage Landlords to sell up, by getting rid of Capital Gains Tax. In Germany Landlord who sell up after 10 years of ownership do no pay tax. The taxation, is forcing people to hold on to property when they don’t want.

    Some of the housing charities such as Shelter are be driving out decent landlord like me, because we are sensitive to issues. They have tarnished the reputation of Landlords.

    Landlord have been blamed for the house prices, even though in the 1980s, house prices went up 500%, you are no landlords buying up for rent (due to regulation and bank did not lend on buy-to-lets). You have to ask why did prices go up 500%?. Is n’t people fighting it out to win the property.

    The shortage is not of property, but a shortage of the ‘right’ property in the ‘right’ area.

    You can cheap houses in Thamesmead, but no on wants to live there, people choose to pay high rents and high prices to live in Hackney rather then Thamesmead.

    “No three year tenancies.”

    Tenants can live in my property as long as they want…. I want flexibility, if things go wrong….

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