Representatives from SHAC together with housing campaign groups, trade unionists, and activists involved in local action assembled in central London on the 9th April. They sent a message to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, that he needs to instruct landlords to cut their rents and end rip-off service charging.
Somaya from Acorn talked of a number of housing protests being organised on the same day by the community union.
Wendy, a tenant of Clarion Housing Group, described the hardship being caused by rent and service charge rises. She explained that disrepairs had led left her with no alternative but to withhold part of her service charge payment.
Paul Kershaw, Chair of the Unite Housing Workers Branch spoke of how the UK housing models is failing working people, including those working in housing associations.
Morag Gillie from Homes for All described their recent summit which helped coordinate action across campaign groups.
Jenny spoke about a new campaign protesting against the sale of social housing that is rapidly depleting the stock of homes at sub-market rents.
Truus described the problems with her landlord, One Housing Group, over a number of years, and how she has once again been driven to withhold part of her service charge payment after it rose 60% in one year.
The problems are not just with housing associations. Nilam from Barnet is struggling to stay in her home as her council landlord attempts to move her into one which is in a terrible state of disrepair.
Molly spoke of the sharply declining standards of accommodation and services by the merged landlord Notting Hill Genesis, and years of fighting for adequate repairs.
Terry has been organising tenants and residents of Peabody, recently merged with Catalyst, in attempt to make her landlord responsive to their needs. They are campaigning against their rent increases which come annually on top of already steep rents, and against the sale of Peabody homes at auction.
Chris made an impassioned speech about problems with his landlord, PA Housing. He is one of a group of tenants and residents who have begun withholding service charge payment from them, refusing to pay for services that are either not delivered or delivered to an appalling standard.
Showing that it is not just large housing associations that are failing tenants and residents, Kate from 6,000 home Hexagon Housing pointed out that despite its small size, her landlord has been systematically supressing democratic tenant representation. Undeterred, they are continuing to organise.
Protestors from other landlords included L&Q, Hyde Housing, Metropolitan Thames Valley, and Shepherds Bush Housing Group.
Why Rents and Service Charges Must Fall
Housing associations have a collective surplus of over £4 billion. There is no need for them to raise rents or hike up service charges.
In 2016, government instructed social housing providers to cut rents over a four-year period. The directive was implemented via the Regulator of Social Housing. Despite the reduction in rental income, some associations still managed to increase surpluses, and none got into any financial difficulty as a result of the rent cut.
By contrast, tenants and residents are feeling the squeeze. SHAC’s rent survey revealed almost one quarter of respondents could not afford the rent rises being inflicted on them from April 2022. Around 85% will experience negative financial impact and will face cutting back on other essentials.
If government did it before, it can do it again. SHAC is demanding that they instruct social housing providers to cut the rents and end rip-off service charging.
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10 April 2022
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