Campaigners in ‘frontline fight’ against Universal Credit evictions

National Housing Summit hears of a need to fight UC arrears evictions on the same terms as the fight against Section 21.

 

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Councils and housing associations face grassroots campaign pressure to stop evictions over Universal Credit arrears – as the frontline of a fight for “fundamental policy change”.

Highlighting the growing End Section 21 campaign against no fault evictions, Jacob Mukherjee of Generation Rent told the National Housing Summit a similar approach was needed to the growing risk of arrears evictions as UC rolled out.

The summit unanimously agreed to put pressure on councils and housing associations not to undertake such evictions.

The threat of far-right exploiting the housing crisis also hit home, with a rallying call for campaign groups to be on election standby.

Eileen Short of Defend Council Housing and the Homes for All alliance said in a time of in a time of “weak government and political chaos”, campaign groups needed to come together as ready to ensure the crisis was at the top of the agenda – and keep the far right off it.

Saturday’s summit also saw housing association and private sector tenants demanding rent controls, more accountable landlords, a massive council house building programme, and action on housing that puts lives at risk.

Moyra Samuels, of Justice 4 Grenfell, spoke of the damage done to her community by a system that puts money above safety.

As the Grenfell inquiry ends this week, there were, she said, still more questions than answers, with different agencies trying to shift the blame, while over half of those who lost their homes have still not been permanently rehoused.

One of them, Joe Delaney, described Grenfell as a failure, not just of housing policy, but of the political system.

Green Party co-leader, Sian Berry, shared her concerns about unjustified and undemocratic demolitions of council estates making the housing crisis worse, particularly if replacement homes are at much higher rents – as London mayor Sadiq Khan is proposing.

The dangers of “fake council housing” were taken up by Paul Burnham from Haringey Defend Council Housing.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, congratulated the Homes for All campaign and emphasised how important genuinely affordable housing is for teachers and other workers on low or moderate income.

The Summit’s key priorities for 2019 include:

  • Demand commitments from councils not to evict tenants due to UC, and for press other local landlords give the same commitment
  • A charter for private renters, to end Section 21 evictions, control rents and increase secure tenancies
  • Identifying all unsafe homes involving tenants in inspection
  • A campaign for direct government investment in council homes
  • Action on “safe, warm” homes
  • Enforce and fund replacement of risky cladding

Campaigners will now meet on January 12 to start putting the Summit plans into action.

Short said: “Ministers talk but do nothing about the housing crisis, so hidden, temporary and street homelessness blight more lives.

“We’re joining forces to learn, be more effective and step up action and pressure. A united, national housing campaign can force political change.

“We have killed off most of the disastrous Housing and Planning Act 2016, and the Prime Minister is now being forced to lift the cap on more council housing.

“Now we need fundamental policy change for rent controls and rights for private renters and the homeless, and more and better council homes.”

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