Socialist Worker

New documentary highlights human cost of housing crisis

Issue No. 2561

Seldom has a film had a more timely release.

Disposession–the Great Social Housing Swindle starts by asking the question, “How come we are one of the richest notions in the world, but we can't house ordinary people in a way that respects their humanity?"

There have been several films lately which tackle the subject of social housing but this is by far the most professional. It also ranged more widely than most­.

Perhaps the most moving shot was the older couple from Cressingham Gardens estate in Lambeth who have lived there for 41 years. They say that the Council's first words to them was a lie and it has gone on in the same way for nearly four years.

On the other hand, there's a well-known piece of footage in which the Council blows up the Red Road flats in Glasgow. It's a technique often used for demolishing cooling towers and similar large structures. But it was about the only example of disposing of these vast concrete blocks and breaking the bonds of community for ever.

Privately

The film also tackles Margaret Thatcher's right to buy policy. But it doesn't point out that Harold Wilson very nearly introduced the right to buy and Tony Blair continued the policy. 42% of Council housing is now ex-council housing, much of it is privately-rented.

A lot of housing benefit now goes to private landlords. What was a minor government expense of about £1 billion a year on housing benefit when Thatcher started is now £24 billion. Much of it goes straight into landlord's private pockets and does nothing to help build the homes we need.

What the film tells us is well known to housing campaigners, although it tells it well.

So where do we go from here? The film’s director, Paul Sng, argues for strengthening a series of local campaigns. But we have had local campaigns against demolition and gentrification for the last ten years. We also need to organise united campaigns across tenures on a national level to push for real change.

You should go along to a local showing of the film and get in touch with your local campaigners, who are likely to be out in force. Recent events show the need for a unified national movement that can pressure council leaders, housing associations and the Tories into making the changes we need

For information about the film and screenings go to https://www.dispossessionfilm.com/ 

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