Cambridge has become a den of housing and landlord speculators because the demand for housing is not being met, and there is a lack of affordable social housing.
Letting agents feel free to bleed tenants dry with fees and, knowing they are at the mercy of the market, continue to raise rents above inflation, year after year. Some letting agencies, such as Belvoir, one of the most ruthless, during the election period even sent letters to the tenants warning against voting for the Labour Party.
During recent months, there have been a number of protest actions, including a demonstration outside the Cambridge Property Exhibition.
On 23 May, there was a protest, backed by Unite and the Cambridge and District Trades Council, at the doors of Belvoir to protest over the current housing situation. The main demands are, “build social housing” and for “rent controls”.
The newly elected Labour MP offered apologies for not attending and sent a message that made a commitment to make housing a priority. But saying that is easy. In June and July, there have been follow-up protests in front of the office of various letting agencies, but no Labour MP turned up.
If Labour was a workers’ party, they would address these concerns. In Cambridge, that means campaigning for housing until the issue is solved to the workers’ satisfaction and fighting for militant demands over housing.
A growing population needs more social housing
Cambridge is becoming an important science and technology centre in the UK. Some companies are moving there, and ones already based there are growing. A lot of workers and their families are moving to the city.
However, this industrial growth is not matched by a housing plan to accommodate the newcomers. County council data showed population growth was much higher than the growth in housing stock in 2012 and 2013.
But Cambridge has also a lack of social housing; in south Cambridgeshire the waiting list has more than 1700 applicants. In Cambridge city area in December the number of empty houses was 3000, enough to solve the problem. But the only institutional responses to this situation are initiatives like the “Right to buy” that only deepen the problem.
The local newspaper has turned a blind eye on the topic. The fact that a big chunk of its funding comes from the advertisements by letting agencies means the paper dances to their tune.
The only way to address the housing situation is:
• A social housing programmE for workers, houses built by the government and controlled by the workers’ organisations.
• Imposing rent controls.
• Expropriate landlords housing who keep the properties empty – to prevent capitalist speculation.