Hard Times

Why the East London housing crisis is a feminist issue

By Feminist Fightback

In February, Editor Deborah Coughlin reported on the Focus E15 Mums’ campaign against their mass eviction from temporary accommodation in Stratford, East London. Instead of being relocated to permanent housing nearby, the young mothers have been offered housing in Hastings, Birmingham, and other cities away from their support networks.

The Focus E15 Mums campaign is ongoing (you can sign their petition here) and a public meeting has been organised in their support by Feminist Fightback, Hackney DIGS and Plan C London, on Saturday 24 May in Bethnal Green. We got in touch with co-organisers Feminist Fightback for their perspective on the housing crisis.

We have organised this meeting to try and help raise the profile of a campaign that we see as very important – this is the coming together of young families (and young people in general) to fight for fundamental rights to decent homes; a decent place to live in the area they have either grown up in or found a home in. It is a campaign for something immediate in East London – halting evictions and ensuring secure housing for the families who are moved on – but it is part of something much bigger too. The brutal reality of London’s housing ‘superbubble’ combined with cuts to public services is frightening.

Some of us in Feminist Fightback grew up in east London, and many of us have lived here for many years. Many of us face the daily stress of housing insecurity ourselves – living in fear of the next market-driven rent hike, waiting to be thrown out of our homes because the landlord wants to sell to make a quick and easy profit. Also many of us work in East London as teachers, midwives, social workers – we work face-to-face with families forced into poor quality, insecure temporary housing and we are angry about the injustice of it.

Every week in my own work I meet young mothers living in one room with one, sometimes two young children, trying to make ends meet. This is ‘temporary accommodation’ but so many of these women have been living in such conditions for a year or more. This exists in the midst of intense gentrification in East London – all around us blocks of ‘luxury’ flats are being built, old houses are being refurbished into large family homes. Very few of these developments are accessible to ourselves or the families we work with day to day. Our homes are not our homes – they are ‘property’.

That is why the E15 focus campaign feels so important to support. The struggle of these young people against eviction poses the question of what society we want to live in. One that removes young families from their communities and forces them into insecurity, while the houses next door sell for half a million pounds? Or one that values people’s right to a home, a home not a property, no matter how much money or capital they have access to. For Feminist Fightback this question is fundamental not only to east London campaigners and activists but to feminist struggle as a whole.

We hope the campaigns gains momentum and hopefully the meeting will help with this. The intent is to build solidarity and gain more local support.

I don’t think many of us held out that much hope for an ‘Olympic legacy’ – this felt like a fallacy from the very beginning. When you live in insecure housing, with rent prices soaring all around you, it is very hard to feel overly grateful for a new shopping mall and sports centre…

For more information about the public meeting on Saturday 24 May, click here.

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