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Leading The War On Landlordism

Scally Mag Team

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ScallyMag looks at the resistance to landlordism in Liverpool…

There is a housing crisis in this city and many others across the country. In 2019, the National Housing Federation estimated that there are 8.4 million people in England living in unaffordable, insecure, and unsuitable housing.

This leaves millions of people in England in very precarious circumstances surrounding their housing situation.

The importance of a safe and affordable home cannot be overstated. The Journal of Public Health Management and Practice in 2017 stated that “…healthy housing can have significant health and economic impacts.”

If this is the significance of housing, why do we find ourselves in a situation where thousands of people in Liverpool are subject to precarious accommodation?

The answer can be found at the foot of landlordism and how it is one of the most profiteering methods which sees private landlords accrue huge sums of money at the expense of tenants, often giving very little in return.

With the comings and goings of the Landlord Licencing Scheme and all the confusion that has brought with it, it is becoming increasingly harder for landlords to be held to account for their actions. 

A study by UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence in April 2020 states that “extremely poor housing conditions at the lower end of the PRS (private rented sector) were common.”

In an environment where the questionable and illegal actions of landlords go unnoticed, along with the experiences of living in uninhabitable conditions for tenants at their accommodation being neglected, one may wonder where the representation for renters who fall victim to landlord malevolence is; who is leading the war on landlordism in Liverpool?

The answer lies with the Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now: ACORN for short.

ACORN was founded in Bristol in 2014 and is a “mass membership organisation and network of low-income people organising for a fairer deal for our communities.”

It is an active trade union which suggests that the current political and economic system is not designed to work for the working class acknowledging that “wealth is being transferred upwards, and the only solution is for people to get organised and win it back.”

Very much a social justice driven union, the demands of ACORN include, but are not limited to, well-paid and meaningful work, universal health and social care free at the point of delivery, an end to hunger, and secure and affordable housing fit for human habitation.

With a mapped-out set of pledges to facilitate how these demands can be achieved, ACORN has been a beacon for its members with the union taking direct action against what they feel is rogue landlordism and the unjust treatment of tenants.

The rapid expansion of Acorn across the country since 2014, and the creation of branches in places such as our city has saw an increase in the protection of renters.

Branch officials are often comprised of housing law solicitors, local councillors, and experienced activists. These areas of expertise have helped ACORN members navigate difficult and challenging experiences.

Practical community based physical support for members through ACORN’s ‘Member Defence’ teams have seen affiliates traverse dangerous ground when confronted by landlords. Examples of community solidarity are aplenty.

An issue for a member in Liverpool, who was threatened with an alleged unlawful eviction by their landlord, saw numerous members essentially form a human shield in front of the door in less than an hours’ notice and advise the member from a technical and legislative perspective to ensure they fully understood their rights in that situation. This resulted in the tenant being able to legally resist an alleged illegal eviction.

ACORN’s organising against landlordism has provided a huge relief for many tenants across the city. Landlord tactics of pressure, manipulation, and the feeling of disdain often held towards those who pay their wages, has been met with the full fury of the people.

With the government coming under increasing pressure surrounding its handling of the COVID19 pandemic, the continuation of the hostile environment, and the accelerated austerity measures responsible for the cuts in vital public services, many working class people know that the government are not willing to put the proportionate and appropriate structures in place to ensure they do not become subjected to experiences of the actions of landlords who choose to act against their best interests. 

This uncertainty, for many renters, is one of the reasons ACORN has seen its membership increase recently.

Many members will find solace in knowing that when the government fails to commit to policy which can protect them, there are those like ACORN who can fill the void.

The war on landlordism is a war worth fighting.