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.
It has been suggested that the world famous Colman’s brand may soon break with a tradition more than 200 years old, of producing mustard and other products here in Norwich. Make no mistake – this is not nearly as trivial as it sounds, and would be nothing short of a local tragedy.
This may seem exceptionally daft, but Colman’s has so much history here in Norwich, it is tough not to be upset by this news. Colman’s Mustard has been based in Norfolk since 1814 when Jeremiah Colman formally set up his mustard and flour business in Stoke Holy Cross, just outside of the current Norwich city boundary. Later, Jeremiah Colman’s great-nephew Jeremiah James Colman established the production factory in Norwich in 1858, which still exists today. With business booming, royal approval was gained in 1866 with the granting of a Special Warrant as manufacturers to ‘Her Majesty the Queen Victoria’, helping our local mustard gain a global reputation and put Norwich on the culinary world stage.
by Eli Lambe
Released shortly before the disaster at Grenfell, Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle is a timely and balanced exploration of the factors that led to the tragedy, and to the wider social cleansing of working class and low income communities throughout the UK. Introducing the film to a packed room in Norwich’s Cinema City, director Paul Sng emphasised the need to counter the “media culture of denigrating people who live in social housing”. The goal of the film, for Sng, was to show that people living in these estates and situations are valuable in themselves, and that the communities that exist there are important and should be preserved, as well as highlighting how this is overshadowed constantly by the prioritisation of profit and private sector gains.
by Robyn Banks
CW: discusses the Grenfell tower fire
I grew up in social housing. The estate I lived in was split between those who were lucky enough to own their house and those who relied upon housing associations to provide accommodation for them. The latter group, which includes my family, found that their houses were painted an obnoxiously bright yellow, for no other reason than to make those houses easily identifiable to the housing association and the rest of the neighbours. It was a big bright mark to ensure it was known that you lived in social housing.
by Olivia Hanks
“Walk down your local high street today and there’s one sight you’re almost certain to see. Young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford.” Sajid Javid’s words, in his speech launching the government’s latest white paper on housing, were rather unfortunate. The sight we’ve all been seeing on high streets this winter is the clusters of sleeping bags in doorways, the faces those of people failed so badly by society that they no longer have anywhere to live at all. This lack of understanding of what the housing crisis really is – not just thwarted aspirations of ownership, but squalor, overcrowding, evictions – sets the tone for this misfiring, misleading, self-contradicting paper.
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.
‘War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.’ – George Orwell
In the aftermath of acts of terrorism — spotlight grabbing though it might be — politicians reach out, indirectly and through other politicians, to those affected. It demonstrates that perhaps they possess some element of humanity themselves. The media briefly shows the caring actions of the people of those countries and cities devastated, physically and emotionally. Then, once all has been said and done, business returns to normal.
We point and laugh across the pond at the circus that is Donald Trump’s presidential bid. We criticise the depths to which the Republicans stoop to find a scapegoat for America’s problems. Yet what we fail to recognise is that the same process is taking place here — it is simply spread across European governments instead of being conveniently bundled up into one laughable narcissistic crazy-haired package. We try to convince ourselves that not in Europe would we allow such bile and hatred come from one individual and we don’t. But nor do we look at the bigger picture and see that very same bile and hatred come in the form of legislation and government actions.
by Robyn Banks
The Focus E15 campaign began suddenly in August 2013 when 29 young or expectant mothers, who had been residing in the Focus E15 hostel for homeless young people, were served eviction notices by East Thames Housing Association after Newham council severed its funding. Appealing to the council for help, the E15 mums were told that due to cuts to housing benefit and a lack of social housing, they would have to be relocated as far away as Manchester or Birmingham and suffer the consequences of being plucked suddenly from their homes, families and support networks.
The move, which many consider to be one of many changes taking place involving the relocation of people on low incomes to outside of London — a form of social cleansing — prompted one of the most fiery and successful grassroots anti-cuts campaigns under the conservative government. The Focus E15 mums got organised, protested and held marches and occupations for ‘social housing, not social cleansing’ to pressure Newham Council. Although the campaign was born from individual need and the right to have a roof over your head, when the E15 mums act women everywhere benefit.