Tower Hamlets tenants offer debate
Some 400 tenants in Tower Hamlets, east London, heard genuine debate on stock transfer on Thursday of last week. And afterwards the mood was overwhelminlg against.
Local Respect MP George Galloway debated with David Edgar, the lead councillor for housing in Tower Hamlets, on the Ocean estate in Stepney. Around 300 people attended.
They heard about Sanctuary housing association’s proposal to reduce the amount of rented housing, increase the number of one-bedroom flats and demolish homes, community and youth centres to build over 700 luxury flats for sale.
Tenants and youth leaders condemned the transfer plan. The only real question from the floor was how to win alternative direct funding for the estate.
On the Cranbrook estate in Bethnal Green around 100 people crammed into the community centre to hear Galloway and Edgar debate a proposed transfer to Swan housing association.
When Galloway asked, “Who is in favour of this?” no voices were raised. Tenants are now discussing ways to pull the estate out of the transfer process.
These are the latest of around 40 meetings organised by tenants in Tower Hamlets this year. Most have been attended by 100 people or more.
Not one public meeting or debate has been organised by Tower Hamlets council. Tower Hamlets Against Transfer campaigner Phil Sedler said, “They are afraid of a fair and honest debate.
“Councillor Edgar only ever debates housing policy on estates if we organise it with our own labour and pennies.
“The council withholds repairs and housing funds, runs down estates, and hopes tenants will succumb to the bullying and blackmail.
“But the word is spreading that ‘housing choice’ is a con trick.”
The Aberfeldy estate in Tower Hamlets was one of the first to be transferred from the council to a housing association.
The estate is run by Harca, a group that manages 5,000 homes in seven estates across east London.
Bernadette is a resident on the Aberfeldy estate. She told Socialist Worker about a recent fire. She said, “There was a fire in the sheds that are next to our building on 1 November.
“When the fire brigade arrived people were asked to leave their homes and so we moved to the back garden and the fire was put out.
“My neighbour said that she had seen gas canisters being cleared out of the sheds — I went to have a look. Two gas canisters and a lot of rubbish had been left behind.
“I asked some council workers why the gas canisters were being left there.
“One said that when the rest had been cleared that these two were too hot to move. But if they were hot why weren’t people evacuated?
“Harca has known about the fire, and has known that people are concerned for over two weeks now — but we still haven’t had a response from them.”
A conference of over 100 tenants and activists from across Scotland gathered on Sunday 6 November against plans to transfer Edinburgh’s 23,000 council houses to a new purpose built housing association.
Speakers included Alan Walter of Defend Council Housing and Colin Fox the convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party.
The conference saw the launch of the Edinburgh Against Stock Transfer (East) campaign broadsheet.
Tenants were united in the fight against privatisation in Edinburgh and see it as part of a campaign to end all stock transfers across Scotland.
They are out in force distributing East broadsheets to every council house, school, shop, pub and club in the city.
Wendy Walton, Secretary of Edinburgh Against Stock Transfer
For more information about the campaigns across Britain go to www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk