Yesterday, hundreds of people joined the March for the Homeless in Belfast and demanded that the Assembly take action to deal with the crisis and build housing. Speakers included Socialist Youth member Seán Burns. Below we republish the leaflet distributed by Socialist Party activists at the protest:
In Northern Ireland alone, almost 10,000 households were recognised as homeless in 2013-14 and nearly double that number applied to be. At the same time, nearly 40,000 households are on the waiting list for social housing, of which 21,500 are in severe need.
The Housing Executive estimates that 2,000 new units of social housing a year are needed to deal with recorded housing need. Yet, in the last few years, the new housing provided has fallen short of this figure by around 700 units. In addition, there has been a loss of stock from the House Sales Scheme. Of those who their own homes, it is estimated that up to 40% of borrowers in Northern Ireland are in negative equity.
Against this backdrop, all the political parties have to offer is a continuation of austerity which will drive people further into poverty, destroy jobs and make the housing crisis we face worst. Working class people have to rely on themselves to fight for a solution to the housing crisis. Both in Britain and the South, there have been important campaigns that show what is possible. In London, residents of the New Era estate in east London made headlines last year with their campaign against sell-offs and rent hikes. In the South, there have been a series protests and occupations against evictions. We must learn from these campaigns and build a movement which mobilises people against the housing crisis.
Linked with that, we need to escalate the struggle against austerity. The public sector strike on March 13th showed that people are prepared to fight Stormont’s cuts. Unfortunately, most of the current trade union leaders are not prepared to follow this strike up with further co-ordinated strike action which could force back the austerity agenda.
Alongside this, we need to build a new party that will unite working class people and provide an alternative to the politics of sectarianism and austerity. Such a party could put forward an entirely different way of organising society – a socialist way. How many homes could be financed if we nationalised the banks and biggest corporations and used those resources to plan a society that could satisfy the needs of all? With a society democratically run by the millions, for the millions, we could eradicate homelessness and poverty.
The Socialist Party demand:
· No privatisation of the Housing Executive!
· No to welfare reform!
· A mass programme of council house building and renovation to meet demand
· Hands off our homes! Bring all ex-council housing association stock and housing services back in-house
· Housing benefits that reflect the real cost of renting
· Rent control now! Democratic rent councils to decide fair levels in each area
· A new mass workers’ party to fight for affordable housing for all.
· Nationalise the banks and biggest corporations. For a democratic socialist society that puts the needs of the majority, including decent, affordable housing, before the profits of the tiny minority