East London mass non-payment wins housing victory

by Pete Mason, east London Socialist Party and chair of Barking Reach Residents’ Association

The combative residents and residents’ association on the Barking Riverside estate in East London have won another victory. A residents’ service charge strike has forced home builders Bellway to pay in full for the remediation of flammable balconies, cladding, and missing and deformed cavity barriers on another 314 dwellings in the Caspian Quarter of the estate, something they previously refused to do.

Following a fire in 2019, residents in Barking
have fought for safety
Photo: Pete Mason

The balconies alone will cost over £1 million to fix. That bill had been passed on to residents, causing untold distress and hardship. Residents were facing huge costs – service charge bills of up to £6,000 for two years.

Backed up by a campaigning residents’ association, a majority of residents refused to pay the remediation part of the newly issued service charge bills. The multifaceted, well-organised campaign has brought together protests and other actions, building the confidence of residents.

Once the bills were overdue, it became apparent to the landlord, tax-haven based Adriatic Land, that they faced a determined, well-organised force. Within a few days, their partners in crime Bellway crumbled – suddenly announcing their about-turn.

To accompany the service charge strike, the residents’ association has worked hard to apply political and legal pressure, raising hundreds of pounds for a legal challenge to Bellway, and lobbying councillors and MPs. Under pressure from the campaign, the council was forced to engage with Bellway, threatening to consider blocking them from any further developments in the borough.

Residents are planning well-earned celebrations for a hard-fought victory.

But residents should never have been put through the distress caused. The tax haven-based landlords have forfeited their right to ownership. The unsafe, profit-hungry top-ten homebuilders have forfeited their right to build. The democratic public ownership of land and the building industry, as part of a socialist plan, remain a necessity to solve the housing crisis.