Time for a massive campaign on housing, rents and benefits

Last Wednesday saw a 1000 people rally against austerity in Leeds, in a protest called at short notice by Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs and Education . Huge protests like this have been seen all around the country since the election, in a wave of shock, fear and anger at the prospect of even more unbridled attacks on society’s poorest and least powerful. In Leeds, it was brilliant to see amongst the many dedicated campaigners hundreds of young people, fearful for their future but determined to get involved in the fight for a decent life. It is vital that we now harness this energy to build a long-term movement against austerity politics in all its forms, with a renewed campaign against the bedroom tax and wider attacks on social housing needs at the heart of this new movement.

Join Hands Off Our Homes at our monthly meetings to build the fightback (we’ll pay your fare if needed) – or give us a ring/text or email to see how you can get involved.

Meetings every first Wednesday of the month, 7pm at the UNISON office, 160a Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9EN

Also, please note that Leeds TUC is putting on free coaches to the June 20th anti-austerity march in London. Places can be booked by calling 0113 245 8442 . See here for more info about the march and about the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. Leeds People’s Assembly facebook group is here.

Many hoped that we’d have seen the back of the bedroom tax by now. Sadly we’ve got a Tory government more determined than ever to drive the poorest and most vulnerable into penury. A report, shortly after the election, suggested that the bedroom tax may even rise above the present rates of 14% of rent for one extra bedroom and 25% for two. But Hands Off Our Homes says it’s not time to despair but time to renew our fight against this evil tax. A powerful campaign following its introduction in April 2013 succeeded in forcing many local councils to adopt de facto non-eviction policies, persuaded the opposition to adopt a clear commitment to its repeal and got the tax effectively scrapped in Scotland.

Fight for decent affordable homes for all

Under the Con-Dems homelessness figures rose by a shocking 26%. If the new Tory government are allowed to get away with their latest attacks on housing and welfare things can only get worse. Plans are already afoot to cap benefit payments by a further 3 thousand and stop all housing benefits available to under 21s claiming JSA.

Not content with forcing families into dire poverty and swelling the ranks of vulnerable young people, sleeping rough on our streets, the Tories now aim to compound this crisis by hammering a nail into what remains of our social housing stock – the Queen’s Speech has unveiled new Government plans to extend the Right To Buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants. Discounts of up to 70% will now be available, in line with discounts introduced for council tenants in 2012. If this in itself wasn’t bad enough, local authorities will be obliged to fund these discounts through the sell off of their most valuable council houses.

The Government is making hollow promises that it will use sales receipts to replace this council stock on a one-for-one basis – but don’t be fooled. Similar promises were made when it introduced discounts for council homes in 2012 – to date, barely 1 in 10 have been replaced. Furthermore, it’s more than likely that housing association homes will share the same fate as sold off council stock, where about 37% ended up in the hands of private landlords, charging unaffordable market rents. Private rents in the UK are already sky-rocketing – a momentum fuelled by the shortage of genuinely affordable homes. Selling off more social housing can only turn a housing crisis into a housing disaster.

For this government, housing is merely an asset to be speculated on by a wealthy elite, not a desperately needed resource for the likes of us. Driving households into poverty or leaving the homeless to rot in the streets is fine for Cameron and his Eton pals, so long as the super-rich turn huge profits. It’s time we organised to stop this government of the 1% in its tracks and demand:

  • a massive programme of council house building
  • rent controls to stop excessive private sector rents
  • an end to austerity and all attacks housing and welfare

Join Hands Off Our Homes at our monthly meetings to build the fightback (we’ll pay your fare if needed) – or give us a ring/text or email to see how you can get involved.

Meetings every first Wednesday of the month, 7pm at the UNISON office, 160a Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9EN

Also, please note that Leeds TUC is putting on free coaches to the June 20th anti-austerity march in London. Places can be booked by calling 0113 245 8442 . See here for more info about the march and about the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. Leeds People’s Assembly facebook group is here.

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