London: not for sale

As the world's biggest property compaines meet to carve up our cities we must continue to fight back, writes Christine Haigh

March 11, 2014 · 4 min read

MIPIM_03

 

This week the world’s biggest property fair, known as MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier – the International Market of Real Estate Professionals), takes place in Cannes, France. Multinational developers, financiers and management companies including Savilles, the British Property Federation and Goldman Sachs will meet to do deals that enable them to profit from carving up our cities and communities.

Some 20,000 people will be attending MIPIM, paying an entry fee of €1,600 each. Amongst them will be our supposed ‘representatives’ from local authorities including Bristol, Glasgow and Sheffield, and London councils such as Ealing, Hounslow and Southwark. The Greater London Authority will also be represented, with London mayor Boris Johnson attending. At last year’s event he gave a keynote address.

But this collusion isn’t going unchallenged. On Thursday 6th March activists confronted a team of property developers preparing to set off for the event by bike to make sure they didn’t get away unchallenged. In the afternoon, protesters from a broad coalition of groups also gathered at London’s City Hall to protest the evictions and unaffordable housing created by the handover of London to private companies, many of whom will be at MIPIM.

At the demonstration members of tenants associations, private tenants organisations, housing co-operatives, homeless groups and squatting campaigns plastered estate agents signs with stickers declaring ‘LONDON NOT for sale’ and held a speak out, sharing stories of housing struggles from the Capital.

Thursday’s action was one of many being organised in response to a call from the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City. This week, activists from ten countries across Europe will travel to Cannes to take part in a people’s tribunal, presenting evidence of the crimes of companies involved in MIPIM.

Those from London, part of the Radical Housing Network, a network of groups fighting for housing justice launched last year, will highlight some of the many cases of housing privatisation through which companies profit at the expense of communities.

One example is the Heygate estate, little more than a mile from City Hall, where 1,000 council homes are being lost after the estate was sold off at a loss to LendLease, who will be attending MIPIM next week. Just 71 of the new homes being built will be for social rent.

Another is South Kilburn, where council tenants are being forced into smaller but more expensive homes owned by MIPIM-attendees Catalyst and Genesis, or displaced entirely, making way for high-cost private rented or occupier owned housing. Genesis was also the target of protests in November when renters occupied a show flat in one of its east London developments and held a ‘housewarming party’ to highlight unaffordable rents.

But this week is just the beginning. In October, the first UK MIPIM is being held in London. With the housing crisis set to get worse, we’ve got no choice but to fight back.

Christine Haigh is a member of Lambeth Renters, part of the London Renters coalition of private tenants’ groups, and a member of the Radical Housing Network.

 


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