by Mike Cleverley, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
Every London borough has thousands of families on housing waiting lists and hundreds of empty homes. The benefit cap and the end of the eviction ban are creating a rising tide of evictions.
But Labour councils refuse to use their reserves to compulsorily purchase these homes or to build sufficient council housing. Waltham Forest Council is typical.
The local trades union council set up the Housing Action Network, which is organising ‘eviction resistance’ in response to this emergency. The campaign has been approached by four families being evicted.
In each case, the council has refused to offer permanent homes in the borough, instead, giving them 24 hours’ notice, and a rail ticket to far-off places they may never have even been to, like Derby or Stoke-on-Trent. These ‘offers’ are accompanied by a threat that, if they don’t accept the move, the councillors will wash their hands of any responsibility for their fate.
Some have been offered rodent-infested rooms in shared houses, or single rooms for the whole family in another borough too far for them to get to work. This policy particularly affects single mothers in part-time, low-paid jobs.
On 22 January, 50 people met in Wood Street Square, which used to be surrounded by social housing, but now has been handed over to developers selling flats for £500,000. The ‘open-mike’ allowed two of the evicted mothers to speak.
Socialist Party members Nancy Taaffe and Linda Taaffe spoke from the Housing Action Network and trades union council, respectively. They expressed their anger at the methods used by the Labour council – expelling working-class families in order to carry out gentrification.
We then marched to five empty flats. There I spoke to call on the protesters to consider standing for the council themselves.
During the last full council elections, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) polled 2,841 votes across Waltham Forest. And in last year’s London Assembly elections, Nancy Taaffe won 3,236 votes in the North East constituency.
We were surrounded by local people, signing our petition, taking leaflets, buying the Socialist. In the coming weeks, we know we will be defending these families from bailiffs, and campaigning for the council elections in May.
Waltham Forest: Campaign unites families facing eviction
19TH JANUARY 2022
by Kevin Parslow, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
Following threats and evictions of women and their families in Waltham Forest, east London, the trades council’s Housing Action Network met on 5 January to discuss the defence of residents who may be forced out of their homes.
The campaign is now working with four families. All have been taking legal advice, and, of course, we will assist them and others in legal battles. An advocacy group will be established to assist tenants having problems.
We have to take on unscrupulous private landlords, and the complicit Labour council, if we are to prevent further evictions. Everyone should have the right to stay in the borough where they work or have networks of friends and family.
The meeting agreed to set up a register of empty homes, and urge families not to move if threatened with eviction. We are producing a leaflet outlining residents’ legal rights.
We will also regularly lobby council meetings. Councillors should act in their constituents’ interests and not those of private landlords.
The council must requisition empty properties for the homeless. Our next ‘eviction resistance’ action will be on Saturday 22 January – meet 2pm, Wood Street Square, Walthamstow.
See also ‘Nana’s eviction: Community vs heartless Labour council‘ and ‘Nadia: Resisting evictions in east London‘ at londonsocialistparty.org.uk.