Monday night was arguably either the first, second or third ‘housing action’ meeting at the occupied Deptford job centre (socialcentreplus.wordpress.com). Last week there were meetings on both Monday and Tuesday night on similar themes.
The conversation was broad and included changes to housing benefit, the potential criminalisation of squatting and the attempt to criminalise rough sleeping and soup runs in Westminster.
A few notes on Housing Benefit
The much publicised caps to housing benefit were introduced on the 1st April. As well as limiting the maximum amount anyone can claim, regardless of the rent rates in the area – this is what has led to accusations of ‘economic cleansing’, driving the poor out of certain areas – the formula used to calculate everyone’s rates has changed so the maximum in any area is now measured at the 30th percentile of rental rates as opposed to the 50th percentile. This means as well as being excluded from certain areas completely, housing benefit claimants are going to be forced further into the lowest standard properties in all areas.
We discussed how the process of gentrification meant that benefit claimants might get completely forced out of their area just because it has become trendy recently, regardless of how long they ave lived there.
The changes came into effect on the 1st of April for new applications, but for existing claims, changes will be applied 9 months after the claimant’s next annual review.
We agreed to hold another housing action meeting next monday and to publicise it more widely, including to people who might need advice and support on their own cases. This was inspired by the London Coalition Against Poverty model of ‘direct action casework’, which has seen benefits offices occupied to pressure claims to get handled better. Our aim is to tie together struggle in individual cases with the wider struggle against the attacks coming from government.
next meeting- Monday April 11th, 7pm, occupied deptford job centre
* * * STOP PRESS * * * Since the meeting the Social Centre Plus has been served an eviction order which as well as destroying an amazing project and an inspirational part of the struggle against the cuts, it will also make a number of people homeless. There has been a ‘what’s next?’ meeting called for Monday night as well, so we may have to move ours.