Two years into the Brighton Solidarity Federation Housing Union, we've had another busy year of working collectively to push back against the city's continuing housing crisis. In this article, we look back on actions and initiatives from the last 12 months and consider our attempts to maintain the momentum of 2017-18 by adopting different strategies and taking on different cases.
Just over a year ago, Brighton Solidarity Federation started a Housing Union. Our experience living in Brighton was of rents rocketing up (18% average in 2015 compared to 4.9% nationwide), while conditions were getting worse. We wanted to find ways to stand up for ourselves and fight back. In this article, we look at the successes we've had, the lessons we've learned, and the knowledge we've acquired over this first year.
As the public campaign continues to grow, Brighton Solfed are being contacted by other local people who have had similar experiences of the mismanagement of properties by Youngs. In one instance, there were distressing and disruptive consequences for the everyday lives of a couple and their son.
A family living in Kemptown had to suffer raw sewage flowing through their home after unidentified damage to a pipe from flats above - and Youngs failed to investigate the damage until after that their floorboards were sodden and underfloor troughs were filled with dirty water.
We're calling our second demo against Youngs letting agency this Saturday, for instigating a revenge eviction against Patrick rather than fixing the serious problems with his flat.
In this short video, Patrick talks about what it's been like being a tenant of Youngs - you'll understand why we're calling for safe living conditions.
Short clip from emergency protest against Youngs agency, 13. January 2018, in support of tenant facing a revenge eviction
Brighton Solidarity Federation has started a dispute with the letting agency Youngs on Upper St James's Street. Two tenants have been organising in regards to structural damp, presence of severe black mould and overall dilapidation issues that created unsafe living conditions - dangerous to the tenants' health - throughout their tenancies at two separate properties managed by Youngs. Both tenants are demanding compensation for such issues and one of them, who is still living in the property, is urgently requesting that a number of neglected and still unresolved problems are attended to by the agency.
Three groups of tenants organising with Brighton Solidarity Federation Housing Union over the past three months have each secured victories in their disputes. Working with our Housing Union, these tenants used the everyday tactics of solidarity and mutual support to take direct action – to win back stolen cash and to improve their conditions.
The first dispute was a group of tenants whose landlord and lettings agencies had left them living in damp, infested accommodation for a year. The landlord switched agencies half way through the tenancy, though both failed to address the problems in the house. After a direct action campaign, the landlord and the two agencies paid out £3900 in relation to the damp issue. Together with the tenancy deposit the campaign had demanded to be returned in full, the six tenants received just over £6000 as a result of the campaign.