Over 4,000 Londoners defied freezing rain today, Saturday, to march on City Hall in protest at the deepening housing crisis.
Around 2,000 assembled at Elephant and Castle in south London in the shadow of luxury private housing development Strata Tower and the building site for One the Elephant.
One the Elephant was originally supposed to include homes at “social rent”. But developers Lend Lease said they couldn’t afford the “poor doors” that would keep them segregated.
Local resident Poppy told Socialist Worker, “It’s hard to see where this is going to end. We’re going to end up with a capital city emptied of people because all the homes have gone to the super-rich.”
Tanya Murat from Southwark Defend Council Housing led the crowd in chants of “That’s not what affordable looks like”. Protesters marched past the rubble of the Heygate Estate where 1,100 council homes have been demolished, and the Aylesbury Estate that’s set to be next.
People leaned out of windows all along the route to clap and cheer as marchers chanted demanding rent control and more council housing.
Cris Claridge from the Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations told marchers, "It's great that the Labour Party says it will get rid of the bedroom tax.
"But if it doesn't get rid of the right to buy that has seen us lose two million council homes then it'll be meaningless."
Marchers joined another 2,000 people marching from Shoreditch in east London. Focus E15 women, who led a series of high profile actions since being threatened with eviction two years ago, led that march.
East London marcher Sue told Socialist Worker, “Too many people’s lives are being disrupted. If things don’t change there’ll be a lot more protests like this, and on a much bigger scale.”
Dozens of organisations backed the march after Defend Council Housing and South London People’s Assembly called it. Labour MPs and councillors supported the march, along with campaigners from the Green Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
Marchers came from anti-demolition campaigns and trade union branches. Jan Nielsen from the National Union of Teachers union brought a banner reading, “London needs teachers, teachers can’t afford London”.
She told Socialist Worker, “There’s a recruitment crisis in schools, particularly in London. And part of that is because newly qualified teachers have to spend half their income on rent just for a shared house."
Housing worker Phoebe Watkins was part of a delegation from Camden Unison. She said, “A lot of London boroughs are putting up barriers to people getting on the council housing waiting list. People are being sent outside London away from their families.
"It’s like every borough is saying, ‘Don’t come here’.
“Millions of people are struggling and none of the main parties has anything to offer except looking after the rich. We need a bit of Greece and Spain on housing!”
Campaigners plan to follow up the march with a "Love Council Housing" day on 14 February, and a week of protests in the run-up to the mayor's budget on 23 February.