In West Ham, east London, a group of housing association tenants are at the sharp end of social cleansing. One Housing Group has issued notice to them of a rent increase of up to 40 percent on 1 April.
This is because One Housing wants them to be on “affordable rent”, or 80 percent of market rent. NHS worker Carla’s rent is getting increased by 20 percent, from £550 to £700 a month.
By comparison “social rent”, which tenants are on at the moment, is 50 to 60 percent of market rent.
One Housing has said that the hike is to deal with alleged subletting.
But tenant Truus said this is just a way of playing “divide and conquer”.
“They chose to bring the new rents in on 1 April,” said one tenant. “But fools we are not!”
One Housing has issued tenants with letters stating that “as a condition of the continuation of the tenancy you are required to have a direct debit in place”.
But tenants have the right to pay rent using whatever means they like.
When Socialist Worker quizzed One Housing it backed down, saying, “Direct debit is our preferred method because it offers the most security for tenants and is trusted.”
One Housing has demanded to see tenants’ pay slips.
They think it could be used as a way of justifying charging market rents. And the firm has said there is no guarantee that rents will not rise even further.
The Tories’ Housing and Planning Act lies in tatters, including the pay to stay part of it which could have seen council tenants charged market rents.
But the National Housing Federation, the umbrella group for housing associations, has lobbied to keep pay to stay on the table for them.
One Housing has left itself open to legal challenges—and political challenges can push it back.
Carla told Socialist Worker, “We’re effectively being told, ‘You should be grateful you’ve had this until now.’
“But where do you expect NHS workers and other key workers to go?”
Tenants have submitted a letter to One Housing Group rejecting the new contracts. And a meeting of Newham trades council on Tuesday of last week voted to support the campaign.
“We only started the campaign a month ago,” Truus told Socialist Worker.
“We got our own lawyer. But then the union came—people were shocked that we could go in a political direction.”
That’s the way to go in the fight to defend homes.
A short but nasty history
When One Housing kicked tenants out of two large shared accommodation homes in Islington, north London, and Kingston, west London, in 2015 it even began trolling them online.
One Islington tenant was told by One Housing’s Twitter account, “You sound like someone totally brainwashed.” It also said, “Stop being bitchy or we’ll go back to how we were.”
Jean Vidler was kicked out of the Kingston house but she told Socialist Worker, “They rehoused us because we put up a fight.
“We got onto TV and made a lot of noise outside the courts in Kingston and Islington. That had to be done, they had to see we were serious.”
That’s just one episode in One Housing’s brief but nasty history since it was formed out of a merger of housing associations in 2007.
In August 2015 Tower Hamlets council dumped One Housing as its preferred provider of housing.
It reportedly ran down the four estates it managed for the council on the Isle of Dogs, east London.
Councillor Candida Ronald, a tenant and chair of a local residents’ association said, “Residents never voted for One Housing to be their landlord and if they were given the opportunity I believe they would sack them.”