The horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in London, which has killed so many working-class people, demonstrates the terrible reality of housing in Britain today. In the capital’s richest borough, with house prices over 38 times the average annual salary, people ultimately died because flammable cladding cost the borough and construction companies a mere £5,000 less per metre. The unnecessary cladding had the effect of prettifying the tower for surrounding luxury properties, and raising the value of nearby council-owned land.
Grenfell must be seen in the context of ongoing social cleansing in London, which has already seen thousands of families conned or evicted from their homes so that property developers can create investment opportunities for the super-wealthy. The drive to ‘invest’ in housing has ultimately been created by the global capitalist crisis of overproduction, as opportunities for productive ways to make profits have dried up. These estate demolitions, while driving thousands of workers out of previously secure homes and into the waiting arms of private landlords (driving up rents and pushing down standards) are making room for yet more luxury developments in which the super-rich can rest their surplus capital.
Our party holds that houses should be homes for people, not investment opportunities for billionaires. The rights to shelter and to a secure family life are fundamental human rights. By its utter inability to solve the housing question and meet this basic need of working people, the capitalist system is providing yet more proof that it is well past its use-by date and due for demolition. We demand:
1. The immediate scrapping of the 2016-17 housing bill, which threatens hundreds of thousands with poverty and homelessness.
2. The end of the ‘right to buy’ and the scrapping of all other schemes that fuel prices, create shortages and offer subsidies to landlords and developers.
3. The return of housing association and ‘non-profit’ properties to council ownership, the abolition of housing charities and the reintroduction of the legal right to decent, secure housing for all; slums, overcrowding and homelessness are an indictment on capitalism and a crime against humanity.
4. The confiscation of all empty homes and unfinished developments and their transformation into council housing.
5. The provision of at least 300,000 new council houses per year to end the crisis.
6. Guaranteed, secure and well-maintained social housing for all who want it, close to people’s work and families, and the abolition of divisive allocation criteria.
7. The introduction of a rent cap at 20 percent of minimum wage for all privately rented accommodation, and the scrapping of housing benefit (a subsidy to landlords that has helped to fuel rent rises).
8. The establishment of residents’ management committees to oversee planning and maintenance and ensure that all workers have access to adequate space, necessary amenities and decent facilities, including having usable and pleasant outdoor spaces and community halls.
The CPGB-ML believes that the welfare of workers can only be safeguarded by a socialist system of economy, controlled and administered by the working people themselves. Let the capitalists’ ministers try and show us otherwise; let them start by meeting this list of simple demands.