Tenants from council estates across the country met in Birmingham last Saturday at a meeting organised by Defend Council Housing.
Council tenants talked about their experience of fighting the government’s plans for privatisation of housing stock.
A large delegation of tenants from the Aylesbury estate in south London attended the meeting. People living on the estate rejected Southwark council’s plans to hand over the housing stock to a housing association back in 1999.
Now the council has said that large parts of the estate are structurally unsound or unfit for habitation.
The solution, according to the council, is to knock down large parts of the estate and then hand the reconstruction to private companies.
Southwark tenants’ campaigner Piers Corbyn said, “To win we have to get the tenants on side, but we also have to broaden the movement.
“We should fight for real affordable housing, and by affordable I mean affordable to people on the minimum wage.”
A tenant from the borough of Tower Hamlets, east London, spoke at the meeting. She said, “Council housing is part of the solution for the housing crisis in this country. We need to do more than fight the selling off of our own homes.
“We have to protect the idea of social housing in general. I don’t just want my own home to be retained by the council, I want more council homes built so that my children have their affordable housing also.”
Earlier last week Respect MP George Galloway addressed a packed tenants’ meeting on the Ocean estate in his east London constituency.
Speakers at this meeting put the case against the proposed handing over of council housing stock.
Tower Hamlets council want to hand the estate over to Sanctuary Housing.
George Galloway spoke to residents, young and old, Asian, black and white, from all corners of the estate.
Eight representatives from Sanctuary Housing attended the meeting.
Despite the huge amount of money that has been poured into the campaign by the council and Sanctuary Housing—including door to door leafleting, glossy booklets and even a DVD—most tenants at the meeting were against the transfer.
George Galloway said, “You’ve got to smell the stink of desperation on them. Ask yourself why are they so desperate to get their hands on your houses?
“Are they doing it out of the goodness of their hearts? Or are they doing it for their own ends? They want to close local youth centres.
“They want to build luxury flats on public land—flats for the rich, not flats for the tenants.
“We have to fight this sell off. We have to force the council to hand over the money for improving the estate.
“And when we come to the council elections in May we need to elect a council that will put the needs of its tenants first.”