We can still win Holloway Prison homes campaign
05 October, 2018
The Holloway Prison site
• ON Monday, at the Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell, an audience of 40 heard a debate on a key issue for young people, the housing crisis.
Islington Labour councillor Mick O’Sullivan proposed massive reforms to housing associations, most of which, under the Tory government, have shifted from being “social” landlords, much like local authorities, to behaving like profit-hungry developers with no thoughts for the care of the communities they should be serving.
Mick’s reforms included increasing the rights and democracy of tenants, splitting up what are becoming growing commercial institutions, and increased regulation of housing associations to ensure condition standards for housing stock are maintained.
Chris Reeves, a housing activist in King’s Cross, gave examples of the bad behaviour of housing associations in dealing with tenants. Chris also promoted the Social Housing Action Campaign’s Alternative Housing Awards publicising the worst culprits. These will be awarded at 4.30pm on December 5 at 155 Bishopsgate (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As chair of North London Communist Party branch, I spoke about council housing, with a history of local authority-built, good-quality homes, which the private sector was not able or willing to build.
Thatcher’s right-to-buy has resulted in most of the better stock being in the hands of growing private housing companies and, ironically, a lower percentage of home-owners than in 1980.
I spoke of the need for a Labour government which would apply the progressive demands of the growing Homes for All movement. Three key elements required to solve the housing crisis are mass council house-building (it has been done before), private rent controls and secure tenancies.
The discussion added more, including the need to address inflationary, speculative buying and the thousands of empty luxury homes in London.
I described the struggle with the Ministry of Justice over the future of the Holloway Prison site. The government wants maximum income; so developers building luxury flats, but it has opponents. Local people need a significant amount of council housing and are supported by political parties, trade unions, Islington Council and MPs.
The announcement on a favoured bidder is 11 months late due, in part, to the opposition. A large percentage of council housing on the site is still achievable.