Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!

The Focus E15 Mothers and Residents, a housing campaign based out of Newham, East London, have gone into occupation of an empty block of flats on the Carpenters Estate and turned it into a vibrant, politically charged social centre.

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The campaign was formed one year ago out of the struggle of a group of young mothers and pregnant woman who went head to head with the local council against their aggressive policies of gentrification and are demanding 'Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!'. We spoke to one of these mums, Sam Middleton, a founding member of the campaign and mother of one.  

 

How did the campaign start and what is it about? 

One year ago 29 mums and pregnant women received eviction notices from the Focus E15 hostel, which was being closed due to 'funding cuts', and we decided to fight it. We started with a petition and continued building support for the campaign by holding a street stall on Stratford High Street every Saturday for the past 12 months. Our campaign is demanding 'Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!'. There is a housing crisis in this country. However, there are so many empty houses around Newham that have been boarded-up and allowed to become derelict so that they can be sold off, demolished and replaced with privately owned 'new builds' such as Stratford Plaza. 

 

Why are you occupying the Open House on the Carpenters' Estate? 

We want to bring awareness to the fact that there are homes available in Newham that are liveable and to get together the Carpenters Estate community that has previously been torn apart. We're doing by providing residents and locals with basic day to day things, workshops and an opportunity to talk in a open, common space.  

 

Who or what do you think is responsible for your current situation? 

The government's public spending cuts. In Newham specifically Labour mayor Robin Wales and his council, who are working with the wealthy property developers coming to invest in London. They say this is a 'good investment' for Newham and it is.. If you're rich. If your poor, on benefits or even low waged you can be turfed out of a home you and your family may have lived in for generations. Robin Wales has told us that of all the housing he intends to build, none of it is going to be social housing and only a third will be 'affordable' housing. 'Affordable' housing is not affordable. 'Affordable' technically means 80% of market rate. So, as I said: it's out with the poor, in with the rich. 

 

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 What's your ultimate goal with the campaign? 

Raising awareness and building solidarity between people in similar situations and fighting similar causes. We want decent housing for everyone! One demand in particular is that we want the boarded-up to be reopened and repopulated. It's a community that needs to be brought back together. 

 

 How can people support you? 

Come down to the Open House on the Carpenters Estate, talk to us and see what's going on! 

 

The E15 Occupied Open House is being run as a social centre and there are regular events being hosted their. To find out, follow them on social media.

 

For our solidarity message click here.

  

You can follow the campaign on Facebook at: 

and 

And on Twitter @FocusE15

 

Photos by Janice Stone

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