HA Service Charges, Housing Law, Housing protest, Rent Strike, Rents

Outsized Letter Demands Rent Freeze and Eviction Ban

Housing Campaigners Demand gathered outside the department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) on Thursday 6th October demanding a freeze on social rents and service charges, plus, a new eviction ban to stop those unable to pay from losing their homes.

The group handed over an outsized letter to Simon Clarke, Secretary of State, listing their demands. It was organised to respond in person to the government’s consultation on social rents, and said:

Dear Simon Clarke

We are here in person to respond to your Department’s consultation. We strongly call on you to freeze our social rents, shared owner rents, and service charges.

Rents for council and housing association tenants were set to rise by 11% or more in April 2023. A 3-7% formula rent rise will still mean deeper poverty and the risk of homelessness for many, and a further burden for four million tenant households already facing massive bills for food, energy and other necessities.

We know you are consulting on next year’s rent rise. Our answer is:

> freeze rents for all council and housing association tenants in 2023
> extend the freeze to service charges
> re-introduce the ban on eviction proceedings for rent arrears for council and housing association tenants where tenants are unable to pay
> provide government funding to councils to ensure there is no effect on housing quality or services to tenants. Support to housing associations and registered providers should be provided on a means-tested basis.

We recognise that these issues also affect private renters and leaseholders, and are working with others of all tenures to win a rent freeze, stop evictions, protect tenants from profiteering private landlords and leaseholders from increasing service charges. We need Government investment in more and better homes with secure tenancies and social rents.

We look forward to action on these issues, and are available to discuss this.

Campaigners had alerted Mr Clarke in advance that they would be there but he did not come and meet them, sending a member of his team to collect the letter instead.

The letter was signed by the Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC), Defend Council Housing (DCH), Homes 4 All, The New Economics Foundation, and Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth. The action was also supported by Unite the Union and the Unite Housing Workers Branch.

Staff at LUHC had helpfully erected barriers for campaign group banners

Although government is likely to favour a 5% rise in social rents instead of the traditional, inflation-linked figure, many tenants and residents would still find this level unaffordable. They are also angry that there is no cap on service charges and that shared ownership rents remain linked to RPI inflation, which will produce rises between 15% and 20% on current projections.

Campaigners will now take their message to the trade union movement when they gather for the annual Trades Union Congress. SHAC representatives will be speaking from the platform of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) rally which preceeds the full Congress, and will use the opportunity to stress that decent, affordable public housing is an industrial as well as community issue.

Paul Kershaw, Unite Housing Workers Branch Chair said:

There is little benefit in winning good pay awards for our members if the money is immediately lost to landlords. The national average for income spent on rent is around 30%, but among our members it is already exceeding 50% in some cases. This makes rising rents an important issue for our members and our union.”

Housing association tenants and residents are considering a mass non-payment of increased rents and service charges should government fail to impose an across-the-board freeze.

For more details on the Rents & Service Charge Campaign, see the Pledge Page.

We will be leafleting the trade unions and speaking at the NSSN TUC event. Entry is free and all are welcome to join us:

  • National Shop Stewards Network Rally at the TUC
  • 1pm-4pm
  • Sunday 16th October
  • Holiday Inn Brighton – Seafront (map)

9 October 2022

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