‘Kill the Housing Bill!’ Protesters descend on Parliament, reject ‘evil legislation’

An eviction notice from the City of London hangs on a tent outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London © Suzanne Plunkett
Hundreds of trade unionists, activists, councilors and MPs have descended on Parliament to protest against the Tory-led government’s controversial Housing Bill that “will worsen the housing crisis” engulfing Britain.

As MPs debate the Housing and Planning Bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday, “Kill the Housing Bill” protestors occupied Parliament Square and demanded the government scrap the legislation. 

Organized by Defend Council Housing, the protest, which calls for “secure homes for all,” began at 13.00 p.m. GMT.

Members of the GMB union demonstrated alongside disabled activists and members of the Green Party.

Publication of the draft bill in October confirmed government ministers plan to introduce a “pay-to-stay” scheme, a system that would force families living in social housing and earning £30,000-£40,000 in London to pay rents nearly as high as those in the private sector.

If passed, the bill would also compel local authorities to sell ‘high value’ housing, either by transferring public housing into private hands or giving the land it sits on to property developers.

Therefore, rent prices and waiting lists would soar, making it harder for working class citizens to afford to live in the capital.

‘Making the housing crisis worse’ 

A flyer promoting Tuesday’s protest says: “The government are making the housing crisis worse.”

Their Housing Bill sells off existing council and housing association homes – with no replacements for rent.

It takes public funding away from affordable homes for rent and does nothing to improve security or control rents for private renters.

This is turning back the clock, taking away security and pushing up rents. It would force the selloff of council homes on the open market, to pay for housing association ‘right to buy 2’. Councils and housing associations will not be able to build replacement homes for rent.”

When the Bill was unveiled last year, politicians and campaigners warned it would worsen the crisis of affordable housing.

Critics say the pay-to-stay scheme would spell the end of council housing in Britain.

‘Evil legislation’ 

The Radical Housing Network, also attending the protest, branded the Housing Bill “evil legislation.”

“The housing bill has come out of the blue, we haven’t had time to prepare for anything. Most people are not aware of it,” a spokesperson for the group told RT.

It’s quite an evil legislation because of what it will be doing to social housing in the United Kingdom.”

The group said the bill “hasn’t got the attention it needs,” as several people who are unaware of the legislation will be “stunned” by its effects.

A lot of people will be affected by it, many people can’t afford to pay private sector rent,” they said, adding the bill would “alienate” the working class.

Asked what the Radical Housing Network aims to achieve at the protest, its spokesperson said: “To make people aware of the housing bill and just to make a statement that this is not okay.”

“Londoner’s will actually not be living in London because they won’t be able to afford it anymore.”

On Monday, it emerged that a quietly-tabled government amendment to the bill would strip new council housing tenants of their lifetime security of tenure. It would force councils to offer tenancies of between two and five years.

‘Govt will protect London’s affordable homes’ 

Commenting on the amendments, housing minister Brandon Lewis said: “A secure tenant can currently live in a property for life. This amendment phases out lifetime tenancies.”

Towards the end of the term, the [council] landlord will have to do a review to decide whether to grant a new tenancy or recover possession.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to protect London’s affordable homes.

Writing in the Evening Standard, the PM said the government is accepting an amendment put down by Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith to guarantee two affordable homes are built in London for each council house sold off under the new policy.