Last month we met at Hackney Town Hall Town Hall to launch our #YesDSS Blacklist of letting agents. Around 40 people came down to the public action to tell blacklisted Hackney letting agents that we won’t stand for their No DSS policies which are socially cleansing the borough.
The Blacklist is the next step in our #YesDSS campaign which we launched in February to demand an end to letting agents, landlords and others refusing to let to people on benefits.
When we called 50 agents we found only ONE property available to people on benefits. The number of people claiming housing benefit has exploded as rents have become unaffordable.
While our council housing is being sold off and “regenerated” pushing many families into precarious private renting. Many of these people– almost half a million – are working but still can’t cover their rent.
Blanket “No DSS” policies held by at least 22 letting agents in the borough effectively block anyone in receipt of any benefits from being housed. We launched the #YesDSS Blacklist to publicly denounce discrimination which is making it next to impossible for anyone in receipt of benefits to find a home in Hackney.
One letting agent (they asked us not to name them) responded positively stating they would change No DSS policy. They said they had already briefed all their staff, re-written their contracts and taken advice from Hackney council about letting to people on benefits. Their names do not appear on our Blacklist. Since our demonstration, two other letting agents have contacted with us and said they’d be willing to review their policy. We will announce their removal from the Blacklist as and when we can confirm they’re letting to people on benefits.
The rest remain on the Blacklist.
On the day, we first gathered at Hackney Town Hall and listened to a number of accounts from fellow Hackney renters of struggling to find a home in the borough. We then took a lively procession to several blacklisted letting agents to denounce and demand removal of their discriminatory policies.
Closing agents down for the day!
Unlike our last demo where we launched the #YesDSS campaign, word had gotten round to local letting agents and several decided to shut up shop for the ENTIRE DAY rather than address the concerns of Hackney residents. The letting agents that closed for the day where Stirling Ackroyd on Mare Street and Montels on Clapton Square.
All the agents we went into were on Lower Clapton Road.
Winkworth’s refused to accept any responsibility for their policy not to let to people on housing benefit. They told us “it’s landlords you should be blaming, not us”. They also said that a demonstration “wasn’t the way to discuss it” with them. We explained we’d contacted them over email inviting them to have a one to one chat before were ignored.
The agents we spoke to told us we should be blaming landlords not letting agents (can you see a trend emerging here??). They said they would have a look at their policy and “see what they can do”. Watch this space.
Again, when we entered the first thing we were told was, you guessed it, we should be blaming the landlords, not the letting agents! The manager told us “I obviously don’t discriminate against people on benefits because I’m a landlord too and let to someone on housing benefit”. But he couldn’t explain why, when we phoned his store and asked if they let to people on benefits, the answer was a firm no.
We’ve already made progress with some more, shall we say proactive letting agents, and we will continue to take action against all Blacklisted letting agents until their change their practices and say no to discrimination of people on benefits.
This is only the start of our campaign. We want to end ‘No DSS’ discrimination letting agents, landlords, mortgage lenders and insurers. If we’re going to do that we’ll need sympathetic people like you who believe nobody should be refused housing just because they claim benefits.
Email us about joining Digs and supporting the call for #YesDSS: firstname.lastname@example.org