What a beautiful day! First LRU all member assembly a massive success
Written by Lee, Newham & Leytonstone branch
Two weeks ago one hundred London Renters Union (LRU) members gathered in at Rich Mix in Shoreditch to celebrate, reflect and plan. From the get-go there was a sense of collective joy and pride as renters from across London shared their struggles, looked towards the future, and ate lots of yummy food! As well as learning about the story LRU so far and who is to blame for the housing crisis (hint: it’s not renters), the day was split into talking about demands, campaigns, and celebrating our wins so far.
The next part of the day included a presentation on things people needed to know about the housing crisis. Whilst there was much talked about, a summary of this presentation included reasons why the housing system didn’t work for ordinary people, the political choices that made this so but how renters are fighting back. Threats of eviction, rude landlords, estate agent fees and disrepair issues were the key issues cited as affecting renters the most. The political choices that have caused these issues included Margaret Thatcher’s right to buy policy which got rid of council housing, the 1988 housing act of shorter tenancies, no rent control and no fault evictions and Blair’s buy to let mortgages which allowed for multiple homes being owned by one person.
However, it was also reiterated that despite all this, renters are fighting back, not just in London, but across the world. The most recent example being housing groups in Berlin winning controls on rents. The last part of this presentation emphasised what needed to be done to genuinely make things better for renters. This included things like indefinite tenancies, rent controls an end to discrimination in housing and public housing for everyone but democratically controlled by renters.
The next session was where LRU members collectively strengthened the key demands the union has, including adding new demands. Members overwhelmingly decided to make clearer the demand of Rent controls which added that any control would significantly reduce rents, take account of local incomes and are decided by democratic bodies. In addition, the updated demand on Section 21 emphasised that the LRU should push the government on ending no fault evictions immediately, remove end from tenancies and place limits on rent rises. A new demand was added in calling for more rights for people living in temporary accommodation. The last change emphasised the need for homes to be under democratic public ownership. The principle of renters genuinely having control over what happens with the homes we live in was unanimously backed.
Next up, one of the most exciting parts of the day was campaign planning around DSS discrimination, rent controls and pushing for an immediate end to Section 21. From each of these campaign workshops came some very creative ideas. These included amongst other things, giving a Section 21 notice to the next Prime Minister, protests outside estate agents London wide and creating videos sharing the stories of benefit claimants who are discriminated against in housing. So watch this space.
The last part of the day was about celebrating our wins as a Union in this last year. This included helping save Ridley Road Market in Hackney, getting promises on repairs in Eros House in Lewisham and our protest in Newham that got Natwest to drop the clause in their buy to let mortgages which discriminated against benefit claimants. Not to mention the many individual members that have been helped, particularly Mary who gave a powerful and emotional speech about the London Renters Union helped get thousands of pounds back from an Estate Agents who coerced the money out of her.
Overall this was an incredibly inspirational day with exciting plans ahead and looking back on what has been an eventful year for the London Renters Union. I’ll finish with a quote from LRU member Sinthia which sums up what the union is about. “Alone I was like a single finger, easy to break. With the strength of the union we are a fist!”
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