Our well-attended open meeting discussed tactics for opposing housing association evictions. We agreed a series of actions to help support tenants who face this threat, including through building networks that could be mobilised to prevent landlords from repossessing homes. We also pledged to support any rent strikes that develop.
There is no excuse for HAs to initiate evictions on the basis of inability to pay. The sector was in financial excellent health ahead of the pandemic. Operating margins were at 25% on social housing lettings alone, and operating surpluses stood at around £4.7 billion. Across the sector, rent collection rates were 99.9%.
For financially wealthy associations, SHAC demands that HAs waive rents for those struggling financially, writes off their arrears, and commit to cease making evictions even when courts re-open.
If resources become tight, recognising the position of coops and smaller associations, we called on government to underwrite HA debt, as they did for the banks. After the 2008 crash, government provided around £750 billion to banks, including around £37 billion for the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and HBOS in October 2008. This effectively nationalised the debt whilst allowing the banks to continue operating as distinct entities, retaining their own governance structures.
The same model could be used to support associations and coops whose financial viability is under threat due to writing off rent arrears and non-payment. Their debt could be underwritten by national or local government.
Allied to this must be a great increase in the democratic involvement of tenants, residents, and workers in the governance of the organisation.
As a result of our discussion, we will develop a register of those willing to join anti-eviction protests in the event that a resident is threatened with the bailiffs. To add your name to this register, please use the form here.
To access further support, we will liaise with community groups across London. Finally, we need to get the word out so will produce publicity material that can be given out to tenants in the event they are threatened with eviction. The best empowerment for tenants however comes from self-organisation. We will therefore encourage tenants and residents to set up democratically run Tenant and Residents Associations.
We have also begun developing a directory of tenant and resident associations so that people can find groups linked to their landlord or to other landlords in their area. The listing and details of how to add your TRA can be viewed here.