Today's demonstration shows that resistance against the Tories' housing policy is growing, writes Alastair Stephens
The Bill is the greatest assault on social housing since the Tories introduced the Right to Buy council houses in the 1980s. That law saw millions of social housing properties sold off, whilst local councils were legally prevented from spending the proceeds on new ones. Instead the cash went back to the treasury to finance tax cuts for the rich. A third of the properties sold off now belong to private landlords, many let to tenants on housing benefit, costing the exchequer many times what they did when the properties were owned by the state.
Their reforms crippled social housing in this country and practically the only ‘affordable’ housing built since belonged to Housing Associations. These too will be sold off if the Housing Bill passes.
Those tenants who remain in social housing will be socially cleansed by ‘pay to stay’. It had been announced that tenants' incomes will be assessed and those with a household income of more than £40,000 (just two people on £20,000 a year) would have to pay local market rents. There has been a partial retreat as the government has tried to clear the decks before the EU referendum. They now say the rent rises will be graduated, but the devil as always is in the detail, and the intention - to clear the inner cities of the poor - has not gone away.
That is why today’s mobilisation is so important. Called by a coalition of forces, it is part of a broader campaign against the Tories' plan for the final destruction of social housing.
The reaction against the Housing Bill has been growing, and this is just the latest in the series of mobilisations. The Tories are clearly worried. Headlines in media that this may be Cameron’s poll tax clearly show how worried they are.
The need to build a mass movement around housing has never been greater. To do this we have to defend what we have won in the past and build a movement to satisfy the desire of millions for a home of their own. This battle is just beginning.
Alastair Stephens has been a socialist his whole adult life and has been active in Unison and the TGWU. He studied Russian at Portsmouth, Middle East Politics at SOAS and writes regularly for the Counterfire website.