Notes on a Housing ScandalMon 12 Feb
On 1st February, Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing, made a speech at a meeting of Justice4Grenfell. These are her main points:
Justice - what is it? Where does it come from for working-class people in this country?
Not from courts, inquiries or the state - but by actively working to right the injustice of inequality, arrogance, robbery and racism.
- The injustices of decades gone by was exposed by the Grenfell Outrage. The anger and united determination are there to stop it happening again, to make a difference, and put fear into Theresa May’s government, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the BBC and mainstream media.
- Housing - how do we get justice for those still without a home? And for all who need one? Grenfell survivors and those present at this meeting are not the only ones wary and suspicious of what the council and government are doing. These are the same people whose austerity was designed to “not waste a crisis” after the 2008 economic crash - they know how to exploit our crises.
- They will try to wait us out, to divide and rule, till our determination subsides, till the demands of grief, shock and of life overtake us.
- One example and a warning: the housing lead in the government's Grenfell Task Force is Chris Wood. He was chief executive at Newham. This means he oversaw the Olympic redevelopment which saw zero council homes built despite all the talk of homes for the community. Wood helped set up and is still on the Board of “Red Door Ventures”, launched by Newham council and paid for with council money and resources. It is “committed to becoming the best private landlord in London”. Wood was also a manager in Greenwich, and in 2014 was a board member of “Meridian”, a company created by Greenwich council, which rents out refurbished council flats at 80% market rents.
- How do we resist this threat - and get what the North Kensington community wants and needs?
- Defend Council Housing wants to propose a five-point plan. If it is approved by the North Kensington community we will do everything we can to get wider agreement and get other tenant groups, trade unions, Labour, TUC and all who care about justice and equality to back it. The five points are:
- Priority to rehouse all who need it in permanent homes with secure tenancies where they want to be - Now. That will take money - to buy back, refurbish and build what's needed. We need to agree how much that is and fight for it. Take the pressure to the Government - May promised rehousing in three weeks.
- Take all housing services back in house.
- A 2-year moratorium on any changes to housing management and ownership.
- Funding and support for independent tenant representation - in each local area and borough-wide - with an independent unifying voice on immediate needs and a right to decide how housing will be run in RBKC.
- Solidarity - from the tenant, housing, trade union and Labour movements from top to bottom, to help deliver the plan you decide on.