This is a guest blog from Digs, a grass roots group supporting and empowering Hackney renters. Digs are one of the groups involved in organising #stopMIPIM. These actions are part of a week of strikes and protests that are seeing people reclaim the political agenda after the political party conference season. Join in this Saturday at the big demo in London.
Why does London have 344,000 people on council waiting lists? Why is homelessness soaring despite Boris Johnson’s promise to rid London of rough sleeping? And why are more and more people pushed into bad housing in an exploitative private rented sector?
These are the kind of questions politicians are finding it more and more difficult to ignore, as peoples’ chance of decent, secure housing is torn apart by a historically brutal housing crisis.
For answers to these questions, more people are looking to the dark, murky world of property investment, represented in perhaps its most odious form by MIPIM, the world’s largest property fair. This is the prestigious annual event where wealthy, profit-hungry developers rub shoulders with local councils and public bodies to sell off public land.
Many of the ‘regeneration’ projects which have left local people displaced and short changed can be traced back to MIPIM conferences of previous years. And these deals have led to terrible results for local people as they are forcibly removed from their homes and communities into housing that is neither secure nor affordable. Social housing units are replaced with luxury flats. And meanwhile leaseholders are forced by developers to sell their homes at significantly less than market value.
Boris Johnson, who opened MIPIM this morning, argues we need to build our way out of this housing crisis. But build what, and for whom?
The vast majority of new housing stock being built in London is sold to investors seeking lucrative returns. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t producing the genuinely affordable housing people of London so desperately need. MIPIM normally happens in Cannes, France but this year it comes to London for the first time. An error of scheduling you might think when you consider the movement for housing justice growing so rapidly across the capital.
This year’s #stopMIPIM actions promise to be bigger and louder than previous years. The devastation wreaked by the current housing crisis has acted as a tidal wave pulling more and more people into action. People who have never seen themselves as political before are tired of standing by while their homes and communities are sold from underneath them.
As well as the swell of grass roots activism that MIPIM has inspired, local councils have been boycotting the event, voicing their opposition to the housing policies MIPIM represents. Tower Hamlet, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham and Islington Council are among those who’ve confirmed they won’t be attending MIPIM.
Here’s some of the ways you can get involved: