As evictions skyrocket, residents are getting together to stand up to their landlords. Tenants’ unions are becoming an increasingly important element of our community self-defence toolbox. And the ACORN and Living Rent unions, in particular, have been doing some impressive work.
In Bristol, ACORN has been mobilising to stop the eviction of their member George Francis. Easton resident George is being held responsible for a deceased family member’s debts after he inherited his uncle’s’ house, along with his brothers. Loan provider Together Money is refusing to set up a payment plan and is threatening George with eviction instead.
Back in March, ACORN stopped the bailiffs from evicting George due to sheer strength of numbers. The union tweeted:
A week ago today we put ourselves between the bailiffs and our member George's door, and prevented his eviction.
A home is worth more than money. Until housing is fixed for people not for profit, we'll be fighting on the front lines for people's homes.https://t.co/pHZWQ7Sesp
— ACORN Bristol (@ACORN_Bristol) March 28, 2023
Together Money, the company which George’s uncle set up the loan with, say they can’t negotiate with George as he isn’t their customer. They seem to think that chucking George out on the street is a better solution. But people from George’s community think differently.
The bailiffs threatened to have another go at evicting George on 4 April. But ACORN wasn’t having any of it. Forty people turned up to defend George’s house, while the bailiffs wisely chose not to turn up:
The bailiffs didn’t fancy it👊
2 weeks ago bailiffs tried to evict our @ACORN_Bristol member, George. We resisted that eviction, but they were planning to try again today. After we mobilised 40 members ready to stop them they decided not to bother.
Direct action gets the goods. pic.twitter.com/zzvfxlaKIx
— ACORN the union (@ACORNunion) April 4, 2023
George told the Bristol Post:
we are not just going to lay down and let the rich keep getting richer and the poor definitely getting poorer. It’s got to stop here.
Another eviction successfully stopped in Liverpool
ACORN members rallied to support one of its members in Toxteth who was facing eviction from her asylum accommodation. The woman said that private accommodation provider Serco contacted her by phone to say she would soon be moved to Lancashire. In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, she described how unsettling it is to be constantly moved from place to place by the Home Office:
It’s really terrifying, and it’s really hard knowing that you are settling, you’ve come to know people, to know the community very well. And now they just come to tell you that you’re getting moved, and you don’t know where you’re going. And where you’re going, you start again meeting new people. It’s very terrifying
ACORN members decided enough was enough and called on their members to show up and obstruct Serco. The bailiffs were a no-show again, after another big crowd gathered outside the property. ACORN Liverpool tweeted:
🚩 Serco didn't fancy it!
Out member remains in their home, big up everyone who came out and stood together, community 2 – 0 bailiffs ✊️ pic.twitter.com/sGtabuwygA
— ACORN Liverpool (@AcornLiverpool) March 24, 2023
Campaigning against mould-infested accommodation
Meanwhile, tenants in Glasgow have been campaigning against mould infestation in social housing. The recent deaths of Luke Brooks and Awaab Ishak highlight how dangerous being forced to live in sub-standard mouldy accommodation can be. Both Luke and Awaab died as a result of living in mouldy housing. Last week, The Canary reported on how environmental health officers in Oldham failed to instruct Luke’s landlord to deal with the mould in his accommodation:
In Luke’s case, the environmental health officers found mould in his room, when they visited in November. However, they chose not to order the landlord to deal with it. They clearly felt it was ok for Luke to live in mouldy accommodation. This is a classist attitude that devalues the lives of renters. It’s an attitude that places more importance on the rights of landlords to make a profit, than on the health of their tenants.
After two-year-old Awaab died in 2020, his landlords tried to blame it on his parents. Housing association officials made highly racialised comments about the Ishak family after Awaab’s tragic death. According to the Ishak family’s barrister:
At first, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing [RBH] said that [the cause of the mould] was due to the ritual bathing practices of the family, or the cooking practices that are common among some cultures, all with no evidence.
But the truth is that the RBH Housing Association failed to heed the family’s complaints about mould or do anything about them.
The police uphold the oppression of renters
In Glasgow, renters have been taking collective action to stop the same thing from happening in their community. The police response shows how cops uphold the racist and classist system that killed Awaab and Luke.
When members of Living Rent protested at a housing association office, police arrived in force. Officers showed up mob-handed to deal with a chronically ill pensioner who wants his landlord to deal with the mould in his flat. Living Rent tweeted:
A pensioner with COPD and emphysema went to his housing association with other Living Rent members after they didn't respond to his complaints about mould and damp in his home.
They called three police vans and two police cars. pic.twitter.com/xNjEDCsHmv
— Living Rent (@Living_Rent) April 4, 2023
Communities are sending a clear message that they will continue to fight back against sky-high rents and squalid housing conditions. Landlords aren’t likely to give in to our demands unless we are well-organised. Check out the ACORN, Living Rent, and London Renters’ Union websites, and find out what’s going on in your area.
Featured image via ACORN Bristol (With permission)
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