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March for Homes

Protests will converge on London Mayor Boris Johnson's HQ on 31st January in a rapidly growing campaign demanding action on the housing crisis writes Sarah Hatch

On the 31stJanuary marches from South London and East London will converge on City Hall, bringing their protest to Boris Johnson, to draw attention to the housing crisis and demand decent housing for all.

The March for Homes will demonstrate that the housing crisis is not just about one estate, one dodgy landlord, one corrupt local authority, one greedy corporation. It’s not only about street homelessness, or only about people being moved out of area, or only about people who can no longer afford to live in the city they work in, in the community they grew up in. This is about the whole of London and beyond.

The aim is not to start a new campaign, but simply to get all of London’s housing campaigns together in the same place, at the same time, along with other people who might not be involved in a campaign yet but who are nevertheless feeling the full effects of the housing crisis.

Demands will include:

  • Rent Controls
  • An end to the demolition of quality council homes
  • Affordable and secure homes for all
  • Cut rents not benefits
  • An end to the Bedroom Tax and welfare caps
  • New Council Houses
  • No scapegoating of migrants

The demonstration was called by the South London People’s Assembly, Defend Council Housing and Unite Housing Workers. The march originated in South London, but has now expanded to include a separate march from East London, led by the Focus E15 and New Era campaigns. The two branches will converge at City Hall in time for a rally.

The Radical Housing Network have also pledged their support. Paula Peters of Disabled People Against Cuts, who have been at the forefront of the fight against the bedroom tax, says:

‘72 per cent of homes that have been affected by the bedroom tax have someone with an impairment living in the household, 3 out of 10 disabled people are denied discretionary housing payments, 9 out of 10 disabled people are making the stark choice between heating and eating to pay the bedroom tax. DPAC supports the March for Homes’.

On the 31st January we will be less than four months away from a general election and less than 18 months from the London mayoral elections. Representatives of all parties and none will be stepping up to fill Boris’ shoes.

The march will send a message to anyone who has any intention of getting elected to any position in London that they are going to have to come up with a solution - a decent solution that delivers for ordinary people and does not rely on transferring the blame for the housing crisis onto immigrants, disabled people or people on benefits.

By occupying perfectly habitable buildings that have been left empty for years, the Focus E15 campaign and the Love Activists have demonstrated that this is not only a question of space.

When activists from Lewisham People Before Profit built an eco-friendly cabin for two on council land that had stood empty for years (promptly demolished by the Labour council), they showed that this was not only a question of land.

People are not sleeping on the streets or in B&Bs or being moved miles from their families and support networks because there is nowhere for them to go, or because there is no land left to build on, or because all the space has been taken by immigrants or poor families with 10 children.

People are sleeping on the streets while perfectly good buildings sit empty because other people are rich, and powerful, and greedy.

It is years of poor policy and its manipulation by a greedy minority that has created the housing crisis. But it has created something else too; a new generation of activists.

Then what?

Our actions won’t end on the 31st January. As well as bringing many Londoners into contact with their local housing campaigns, the march will serve as a springboard for the next wave of protest.

In February, to coincide with the Mayor’s budget, there will be a week of action around housing called by Unite Community. On 15th April people will take to the streets in London and beyond in the March for the Homeless. Every campaign involved will have their own plans for the next stage of their fight.

Get involved

Sarah Hatch

Sarah Hatch

Sarah is the Secretary of South London People's Assembly Against Austerity and one of the organisers of the March for Homes protest. She is also a member of the South East London People's Assembly and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

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