The independent London newspaper

The right to a home is not unreasonable

01 November, 2018

Cartoon by John Sadler

• THE people whom the Europeans call the Iroquois call themselves the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, which means people who live in long houses. How should we call ourselves in that sense?

Perhaps people who allow some to sleep in the street while there are plenty of vacant homes (some 20,000 in London), or people who accept that homes can be purposefully built as assets and never occupied or that exorbitant rents and astronomical house prices can limit the autonomy and mobility of a generation and that public housing can be seriously overcrowded.

All of these problems are directly or indirectly related to the depreciation of public housing and this is the result of legislation, from the Right to Buy to the Housing Act 2016.

However, it seems there might be a hint of change from government. Maybe things have just gone too far and the current green paper may have some positive ideas for the housing question.

Chapter 4 finally accepts the existence of the stigmatisation council tenants face. This can account for the contempt with which the Grenfell residents were treated and for many less serious examples by councillors, council officials, and private companies, which see council estates as gravy-trains, while they all see the opinions and complaints of tenants as worthless.

The idea that there is a lazy “underclass” which has to be reluctantly housed approaches the Nazi idea of “useless eaters” and, along with a patronising attitude towards the disabled, has been promoted by the state and media to an alarming degree.

An “underclass” to be “socially housed” is the third form of categorising council tenants. First they were the working classes, then, in the Housing Act of 1949, council housing was for everybody. And reasonably the “needs of all members of the community” is the purpose of public housing.

Re-establishing this all-inclusive category and extensively increasing public housing appear now less a remote possibility than in the dark decades before the onset of the decay of neo-liberalism.

We could, possibly, in the future call ourselves people who have a right to a home. We could also lobby for such social rights to be constitutionally entrenched. Although, in an alternative world, in which reason and justice are predominant, the need for such rights would be obvious.

There is a rally outside City Hall on November 3 if anyone wants to help defend council housing, and a summit on December 8.

Broadfield Lane, NW1


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