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Waltham Forest: Fighting for a home for Nadia and homes for all
A major housing eviction crisis, involving hundreds of thousands of private renters, is looming as various pandemic lifelines are ended by the Tory government on 1 October. Waltham Forest Socialist Party member Nancy Taaffe explains how her branch is fighting back.
I first met Nadia Zaman Attaria while selling the Socialist. Our Socialist Party branch was petitioning for the tens of thousands of homes being built in Waltham Forest to be council homes to end the homelessness crisis - not the for-profit model our Labour-led council pursues.
A year or so later Nadia rang me. She faced imminent eviction and needed help. Every other avenue to stop eviction had been closed - councillors, the local MP, etc.
This is a hard one to win. Nevertheless, I said to Nadia, "I don't know what we can do and I don't know if we can win. But if you want to fight, Waltham Forest Socialist Party is with you!"
Over these last two months the Socialist Party, Waltham Forest Trades Council, Unite Community and the London Renters Union have worked together to build support for Nadia in her refusal to be another part of the story of socially cleansing the working class out of London.
We resist this abomination of working class people - usually on low incomes or no jobs (disgracefully, many single parents) - being forcibly displaced from their homes and their support network.
On 3 August we spent the day outside the one-room temporary accommodation Nadia had won through refusing to go. Her refusal to budge forced the local council to find her temporary accommodation - they say for two more weeks.
This is an initial victory for Nadia and the campaign. She's not been moved 170 miles to Stoke-on-Trent, which the council said was her only option. And she's not in a B&B, which is where they wanted to send her and her kids at the start of the day. She is in a two-bed place, safe with her children, as it should be. Now the fight goes on to make that permanent.
People have criticised us for 'fighting for just one woman'. The truth is the Socialist Party was fighting for Nadia long before we met her. We're fighting for all the Nadias (men, too), across our borough and beyond, who have been forced out by the privatised, pro-developer, austerity housing model.
This is a story of 30 years of privatisation of housing stock, of right-wing Labour's collusion in the Tory benefit cap, of a forced displacement policy. It's also a story of resistance.
Fight for a socialist housing programme!
In echoes of the poll tax bailiff-busters 30 years ago, communities are mobilising to physically defend their neighbours from eviction. Socialist Party members have assisted residents to organise such resistance.
Five years ago tenants on the Butterfields estate in Walthamstow resisted eviction as a whole group - and won, with the simple message: 'Butterfields won't budge'.
Even when people's homes are not safe and they need immediate rehousing, we must still demand that we will not move from our communities.
In an organised, collective way. In Newham, key workers in One Housing housing association defeated a 40% rent increase when they organised and refused to pay. When homes are not safe and the council is slow to act, as was recently exposed in Croydon over mouldy, damp, and dangerous flats, why should people still pay full rent?
The same applies to service charges - around the country, through the campaign group SHAC (Social Housing Action Campaign), housing association residents are preparing a 'service charge strike'.
Trade union and community action
Get organised. Set up democratic tenants and residents associations. Trade unions and trades councils should work with local communities, building collective strength to mobilise for eviction resistance and demonstrations.
In the 1940s, so desperate was the housing crisis that the community in West London occupied luxury houses. Local people may need to return to those traditions!
Working-class political representation
Keir Starmer's Labour Party has ruthlessly driven out Jeremy Corbyn and the programme he stood for, of council housing, rent control and anti-austerity. Working-class people need our own political voice.
The Socialist Party stands in elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which offers a banner to enable anyone who wants to fight to stand together in elections.
The Socialist Party stands for a new, mass party, based on working-class and young people that can fight for a socialist housing programme.
- No Covid evictions - write off Covid-related arrears
- Build council homes with lifetime secure tenancies. Take over empty property for council housing
- End all housing privatisation
- Regeneration, without the loss of social housing. No more handing over public land and homes to property developers. Residents' right to vote on all regeneration schemes
- Rent controls that cap the level of rent. Fair rent decisions should be made by elected bodies of tenants, housing workers and representatives of trade unions
- Reverse the cuts to housing benefits - end evictions due to austerity cuts
- Landlords must act now on dangerous cladding and fire safety - and councils seize buildings where they don't. Councils and housing associations should do the work now and bill the government
- Decent pay, conditions, and safety for all housing and construction workers, including stopping the use of blacklisting firms
- For genuinely independent, democratic tenants and residents associations. Genuine accountability and control, including over repairs
- 'Sell-back' option and 'portable discounts' for current leaseholders and shared-ownerships to escape being financially trapped. End any future leasehold and shared-ownership - we need council housing and cheap mortgages instead!
- End the commercialisation of housing associations and registration of for-profit providers, run in the interests of big business and hedge funds. Take housing associations into democratic public ownership. This could include the option to return to council ownership with independent tenant democratic control, or co-ops
- Nationalise the large building companies, land, and banks to ensure enough good standard council housing and cheap mortgages
- A democratic socialist society to plan and provide good quality homes, jobs and services for all
'Butterfields Didn't Budge'
How tenants on one east London estate saved their homes
- Socialist Party pamphlet £2.50, including postage
- Available from Left Books - leftbooks.co.uk 020 8988 8789
In The Socialist 11 August 2021: