Housing

 

Housing in the UK and in many parts of the world is currently a story of escalating privatisation and corporate gains at the expense of social, affordable, collective and radical housing solutions. It's a housing crisis for most people, but for the wide range of institutions and groups involved in land sell-offs and housing privatisation, either directly or indirectly, it's a time for profit-making. Corporate Watch explored some of these, such as housing corporations, landlords, ALMOs, housing associations, think-tanks, legal firms, lobbyists and security companies, in our magazine edition Housing Crisis? at the end of 2011 when the coalition government was starting to implement a new version of Thatcher's 'right to buy'. The UK government's housing strategy continues to erode housing rights and make things better for the rich and worse for the poor. 

Some companies have been profiting from the privatisation of and neoliberal assault on social housing in the UK since the late 1970s (where the current crisis has its roots) and many more are beginning to get in on the game. Boris Johnson is keen to expand this process. He attends the world's largest property fair (MIPIM) every year in Cannes and 2014 will see the first ever UK MIPIM conference, where local authorities will attempt to get much-needed money from developers, which will escalate the privatisation process.

Housing is a very important aspect of everyone's lives and there are so many issues involved – the demolition of council housing; the criminalisation of and profit-making from homelessness; the criminalisation of squatting, cuts to housing and related benefits; taxes (such as the bedroom tax); second homes; quality of housing; gentrification; social cleansing; changes to communities; increased surveillance; unregulated landlords and rent levels; bailiff companies and evictions etc.

On a more positive note, there is a long history of radical and collective action around housing in the UK and around the world and there are alternative housing solutions, such as housing coops, squatting and other collective solutions. Corporate Watch collaborated with many of the groups and individuals involved in housing struggles in the UK when producing our magazine issue and we continue to be closely involved with these struggles. Much more research and action is needed in order to maintain and strengthen housing alternatives and resist increasing privatisation and we are planning to be part of this.