Tag Archives: housing

Birmingham Tenants and Homeless Action Group Take Over Abandonded Council House in Protest at Homelessness

Last week, a group of activists organising as the Birmingham Tenants and Homeless Action Group, squatted an empty council house near Highgate park, in protest at rising levels of homelessness in Birmingham, the council’s inaction on this problem and the police attack on homeless people. They plan to do up the house, hand it over to homeless people and demand that the council puts it back into use.

This action comes against a backdrop of housing benefit cuts, a lack of social housing which the Labour group say means needing to build 70,000 new homes in the next 14 years (we are currently building less than 1,000 homes/year) and the criminilisation of squatting unused/empty residential properties.

The new squatting law comes into effect on 1st September, and the activists are having a meal and sleepover party on Thursday 31st August to commemorate the date where they, and many other homeless people, become criminals for utilising an unused space in order to have a roof over their heads.

The activists are appalled at the crackdown on homeless beggars and the council’s lack of action to create badly needed new homes and have seized one of Birmingham’s 11,000 empty properties. They condemn the City Council for failing to take action to help the growing homeless population of Birmingham, which has risen by 25% since 2009. Meanwhile, the budget for dealing with homelessness has been slashed by 29%.
This will be compounded by cuts to housing benefit that will see 11,500 too few affordable homes, and leave families struggling to pay the rent. Birmingham City Council has said that they have already seen a 51% rise in their caseload concerning people who are at risk of being made homeless.

Claire Lister, an activist involved with Birmingham homeless and tenant’s action group, said,

Homelessness is on the rise and the council is effectively doing nothing, worse – homeless charities have been cut by 29%. Birmingham already has the highest rate of homelessness in the UK and with the incoming housing benefit cuts even more people are going to be at risk of becoming homeless.

Birmingham Against the Cuts supports this initiative, and we have already called for the national government to embark on a massive investment in new, zero-carbon council housing as an alternative to cuts, to reduce the housing benefit bill, to ensure everyone has a decent home and to help tackle climate change.
At our meeting about housing in Birmingham in July, we discussed the issue of empty homes and how we can put pressure on Birmingham City Council to bring these back into use.
We offer our solidarity to people taking this action, and note that the council have said they will use any legal means to remove the protesters and homeless people from the squat – we call on the council to spend the money on repairing homes for people to live in, and not on lawyers and court time to make people homeless.

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Report and Recording from our Meeting about Social Housing

On Monday, we held our meeting with Tom Holness speaking about the case for a new generation of social housing, how this would provide an affordable and – in the medium to long term – profitable investment and why this policy should form part of our alternatives to the cuts. Godfrey Webster then outlined Labour’s plans for Birmingham, and we had a wide ranging discussion about housing in Birmingham, about how many empty properties there are and the difficulties that have been experienced in the past when attempts have been made to bring them back into use, about the potential problems with housing in Birmingham following housing benefit cuts and with anticipation of increasing demand and about how we can push this issue to ensure that decent affordable housing is available for everyone who needs it.

You can listen to the meeting below, or if you prefer to read, Tom has previously posted about social housing and this is more or less what he said at the meeting. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or skills to transcribe the audio, but if anyone out there does and would like to do it for us, that would be great.

Our next meeting will be held on Monday 10th September (please note, no meeting in August as people are usually away), and Linda Burnip from DPAC will be talking about the cuts to welfare and it’s effects on disabled people.
6:30pm, Unison Offices, 19th Floor McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway, B4 7LR.
Unison offices are wheelchair accessible with accessible toilets. Children are welcome but we cannot provide creche facilities. If you have any questions or accessibility needs please email us at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com

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Events Coming Up Next Week

There are 3 events happening next week in Birmingham – on Monday, we have our monthly meeting, with Tom talking about the case for a new generation of social housing. Tuesday is a welfare and workfare conference and on Thursday there is a lobby against the privatisation of the police. If you think you’ll fancy a night out at the end of that, there’s a Spanish miner solidarity gig happening on Friday at the Birmingham Social Centre.

So first up is our meeting – 6:30pm on Monday, at Unison offices, 19th floor, McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway, B4 7LR.
Tom will be talking about the case for a new generation of social housing, how it can form part of the alternatives to cuts, prevent the need for cuts to housing benefits directly and what plans there are in Birmingham. This will be followed by a discussion about housing issues, and what we can do in Birmingham. That’ll be for around an hour, and then there will be about 30 minutes of organisational matters relating to anti-cuts activities in Birmingham.

Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting, and the room is wheelchair accessible with accessible toilets. Children are welcome at our meetings but we cannot provide a creche service. If you have any accessibility needs, please contact us: BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com

Then on Tuesday is a one-day conference on welfare issues, organised by Boycott Workfare, but covering more welfare issues than just workfare. Running from 9:30am – 5:30pm at Unite the Union, 211 Broad Street, Birmingham, B15 2AY, the conference is free and you do not need to book – just turn up for the day or whichever sessions you can make. The full timetable is available here.

This conference is particularly important given recent events where a man set himself on fire outside Selly Oak job centre, after desperation set in following problems with benefit payments, and the news that a Birmingham man who suffered from a heart condition died of a heart attack just weeks after being found fit for work by ATOS.

This morning, Holland and Barrett announced that they were pulling out of the Work Experience Scheme, after sustained demonstrations at their premises, led by Solidarity Federation branches around the UK. In their statement, Holland and Barrett said that the protests were the main reason they would be leaving the scheme. They are instead going to be taking people as apprentices – paying just £2.60/hour, far below the living wage in Birmingham of £7.20/hour. A step in the right direction, and to be celebrated as a victory – Holland and Barrett were singled out by Chris Grayling as a shining example of firms taking workfare labour from the taxpayer, so them leaving the scheme is a big blow for this Government. We must watch to make sure they are not still taking part in other workfare schemes like mandatory work activity, and we must be clear that £2.60/hour is not an acceptable wage.
This shows that demonstrations and protests do work, and that we can bring pressure to bear on companies and through them the government.

Police privatisation demonstrationThursday is the lobby of the Police authority against the privatisation of policing services, including investigative roles. We do not want to see the likes of G4S and KBR patrolling our streets. For a briefing about the privatisaion, explaining why it should not take place, click here.
The lobby is at 10am, at West Midlands Police HQ, Lloyd House, Colmore Circus, B4 6NQ in Birmingham City Centre

Then on Friday, a night out in solidarity with Spanish miners who are facing the destruction of their communities in a similar way to how our miners did in the 1980s. As part of the Spanish government’s austerity measures, subsidies for coal production are being removed, and mines are being closed. Production of coal will no doubt shift to cheaper and less safe coal mines in China and Africa, and the miners are being left with no support to build replacement industries.
Music and comedy, with a suggested donation of £3. Birmingham Social Centre, Pershore Rd near Pebble Mill Road. For directions and more detail see this blog.

We hope that you can make it along to one or more of these events next week – we’ll be reporting from all of them if you can’t so make sure to look back here next week to find out what happened.

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Why We Need a New Generation of Social Housing, and How We Achieve That – Public Meeting

On Monday 9th July at 6:30pm we will be holding a meeting with speakers and discussion looking at housing benefit cuts, the case for investment in council housing and Labour’s plans for Birmingham.
This will be held at the Unison Offices, 19th Floor McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway, B4 7LR. This is wheelchair accessible with accessible toilets, and children are welcome though we cannot provide a creche facility. If you have any accessibility requirements please contact us at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com

Tom from Birmingham against the cuts will be talking about how a new generation of social housing provides and alternative to the cuts and to cuts in housing benefit, which threatens to make thousands homeless in Birmingham and hundreds of thousands homeless around the UK.
We will also be talking about the new Labour council’s plans for Birmingham housing. Labour have said that Birmingham needs 70,000 new houses by 2026, but have not said how this will happen.

This will be followed by around 30 minutes of discussion about the issue and what we can do about it.

After this there will be around 45 minutes for organisational and planning discussion about anti-cuts activities in Birmingham.

Please come along to this meeting, especially if you are concerned about cuts to housing benefit or the introduction of universal credit.

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