A group of east London mothers are fighting a spirited campaign against the selling of council estates, the imposition of the bedroom tax and introduction of right to buy which puts the housing needs of many working people in the hands of private landlords.
Living situations have become unaffordable, precarious and sometimes downright terrifying. People are pushed further and further out of their own communities. A good education for children, employment prospects and making plans for the future: all seem a thing of the past.
So when they were summarily flung out of a hostel, the group – called FocusE15Mums (named after the local postcode) – began an occupation of a block of empty flats on an almost totally abandoned council estate in Stratford, east London (close to the Olympic Park) in protest at a lack of social housing and at the “social cleansing” insult of being told they would have to move to cheaper accommodation outside London.
Eventually, on 7 October, Newham’s Labour Council allowed the occupiers to leave the premises on their own terms. Having carried out repairs and maintenance on the block to make it safe, some of the homeless families are now being allowed to move back on a temporary basis into 40 homes, though plans still remain for an eventual private development.
Newham’s Labour council is unable to justify why it has left hundreds of publicly owned properties to rot while it ships families to bed and breakfasts out of the area, even as far off as Manchester. The council wants to knock down the Carpenter estate and sell it to private developers to build flats that local people could never afford.
The battle continues. Focus E15Mums say they will continue to fight until evictions from the Carpenters estate are stopped and the homes are filled with local people holding secure, lifelong tenancies in social housing.
A group of mainly young women using the age-old tactic of sticking together has raised not only the belief that they can keep some of their Carpenters estate for local residents but has put the need of social housing back on the agenda, resisting the market-driven formulas of out-of-touch politicians.
• For updates, see twitter.com/FocusE15