To most people, thinking of social housing might typically invoke one of two images: kids weaving big-wheeled bikes between identical high rises; or post-war ‘new town’ developments, which historically placed workers and their families in entirely new communities in industrial areas. These possibilities may ring true for some people’s lived experiences, but with the decline of new social housing developments at a time when they are needed most, the few new properties being released to social housing tenants are often nestled among more expensive housing only available to more affluent residents, in ways which alienate the poor. In fact, social housing now is so far removed from dominant expectations of cohesive, mono-class communities that it is hard to spot.
by George Laver
On 13th March 2016, a rally took place in support of the ‘kill the housing bill’ campaign, aimed at confronting governmental attacks on council and social property and redressing our attitudes towards it. Since then, numerous student-led rent strikes have also ignited. The cause for anger in both of these movements stems from different stimuli, but both address issues of rent and property.
The first, from the legacy of Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ scheme, which initially undermined council housing; the final blows were to come from this Housing and Planning Bill. The second, from the frankly ridiculous cost of rent that is borne by students in London — although this could extend across the UK, as many students will readily testify to the advantage-taking circus that are landlords. Geared towards annihilating social housing, the Housing and Planning Bill in particular aims at increasing the rent payments of council house tenants in wealthier areas. A natural product of this would be the forcing of people out of their council houses and into the arms of another set of robbers — or, private landlords.
In response to this, the demonstration of March 13th attracted thousands of protesters, targeting their motions towards the fact that sharp increases in rent would facilitate an eviction of council tenants in all but name. These issues should be labelled for what they are: the government taking control of people’s very lifestyles. By increasing rent prices, they are forcing movement; it seems to bear many similarities to a covert attempt to stimulate the private housing sector. Once again, their interests lie in private property — we are merely pawns on the board.