Dozens of people protested in Custom House, east London, on Wednesday to support 18 tenants facing eviction at the hands of Labour-run Newham council.
The tenants organised with People’s Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (Peach) to turn 250 temporary accommodation houses into council housing last June. They had been tenants of private housing giant Mears Group.
But now Newham council is forcing 18 of these tenants to leave their homes and return to unaffordable private renting.
The protest travelled from Custom House to Newham council offices in Royal Albert Dock, where tenants handed in a petition titled, “Don’t evict us.” It was supported by People Before Profit, London Renters Union, Unite Community union and others.
One resident, Mary told the protest, “I’ve been living in Newham for 14 years, and I have been a youth worker in Newham for about ten years.
“This is the community I have worked hard for—now we’re being kicked out. As soon as our children turn 18 we’re left on our own.”
The 1996 Housing Act sets out who gets homelessness priority. Those with children over 18 aren’t a priority and the council will not accept them as temporary tenants.
The 18 tenants will be unable to bid for permanent council homes if they turn to private renting as they’d be “adequately housed”.
But they may have no other option. Boglarka, a resident and housing activist in Custom House, rented from Mears Group until the contract ended. “The only chance tenants have lies in continuing resistance and community organising. ”
She told Socialist Worker that under the previous system, “Someone had their roof collapse. People got injured.
“It was so serious that the family was moved to a hotel, but they could have got hurt had we not raised the issue.
“Now this tenant is forced to live in a hotel until their eviction date.
“We are still not permanent tenants after ten years, owing to the extreme housing shortage.”
The tenants have been living in south Newham for around ten years. They’ve each paid approximately £50,000 in rent while suffering some of the worst quality homes as Newham council fails to adequately enforce repairs.
The housing crisis across Britain is dire and the poorest, often migrants, are hit hardest with rent rises, unsafe housing and evictions.
But the tenant organising in Custom House shows it’s possible to fight back.
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