Homelessness rising, Labour hiding

Build a party to fight for rent control and council homes!

by Paul Kershaw, Chair Unite LE1111 housing workers branch

Homelessness rose by a dramatic 11% in the first three months of the year. A series of government figures show a mounting housing emergency even before the full impact of rising bills is felt in the winter.

£130 billion of London homes empty

London has 87,731 vacant homes, according to a recent study. CityAM estimates that the value of this empty property is £130.8 billion.

Despite rising homelessness and evictions, the same report says that London actually has a surplus of homes. The problem being, those that need them can’t afford them! Much of London’s empty property is built, bought and sold as a financial asset, not to meet people’s needs. The Socialist Party says: introduce democratic rent controls, build council homes to meet need, nationalise the big property developers and seize the empty homes of the super-rich!

Low pay and insecure jobs result in homelessness. The official figures show 10,560 households were homeless or threatened with homelessness despite being in work. That is the highest number of people in full-time work recorded as homeless since the government started recording this figure in 2018.

Housing Protest

There was an increase of 16% in rough sleepers in London compared to the previous three months and a 23% increase on the same period in 2021. Local authorities implementing government austerity policies have certainly not increased spending on homelessness services by 23% over the last year!

Councils could mobilise tremendous support defending their communities by providing adequate services and billing the government. That is Unite the Union’s no cuts policy, but what council is making that pledge to defend their community?

Tory leadership candidates compete to be more right wing, calling for the abandonment of house building targets and shrinking the state. But Labour has failed to put an alternative to defend working-class people. Pressed on BBC radio’s ‘Any Questions’ whether Labour would support rent control, shadow cabinet member Thangam Debbonaire refused to comment.

A mass party calling for emergency measures to combat the housing crisis including a ban on economic evictions and rent control would get huge support.

A policy of protecting tenants with secure tenancies, no increases in social rents and a serious programme of building secure, environmentally sustainable and truly affordable council homes would inspire workers facing the prospect of a desperate winter.

Workers are fighting back on pay through their unions. Many of those same unions fund Labour who are absent without leave in the face of this crisis. As well as fighting for policies that defend union members, there is an urgent need to take steps to build a mass working-class political voice. If Labour won’t offer an alternative, we need to build a party that will.