Can’t Pay Won’t Pay Rent Campaign (London Renters Union)

Discussed and passed at GUCU branch meeting 18.05.2020 

This branch notes that the Covid-19 crisis has brought unprecedented financial pressures for staff and students:

– many staff on flexible, part-time and fixed-term contracts are facing the prospects of those contracts not being renewed or extended, at a time when this is happening across the university sector and there are few if any employment opportunities.

– the labour market as a whole has collapsed with the ongoing lockdown and alternative employment is inaccessible. Many staff and students are not eligible for the income support programmes unrolled by the government in recent weeks.

– 6 out of 10 London renters have lost income during the pandemic. Hits to income exacerbate insecurity in an already precarious situation for many. Staff and students are increasingly faced with choices such as: Rent or food? Bills or food? Meanwhile, landlords have been offered ‘mortgage holidays’.

– protection for renters is inadequate; an eviction moratorium was declared at the start of the crisis, but this was only for 3 months, and many landlords have not abided by it. Without cancellation of rents during a time when many private renters have little or no income, they will simply build up unsustainable arrears and live under the constant threat of eviction.

– housing injustice has documented racialised impacts since the 2016 passing of the ‘right to rent’ legislation which turns every estate agent and landlord into a border guard

– many private renters in London spend up to 70% of their income on their rent. Unaffordable housing costs and poor living conditions are a major driver of precarity among staff and students in London, affecting their ability to participate in higher education due to the necessity of finding multiple jobs to pay rent

> This branch believes:
– private renters have little political voice or influence with a government of landlords.

– staff and students are in an economic situation which is unpredictable, as are the fortunes of the whole sector in the wake of damaging marketization, creating a spiral of precarity with drastic implications for mental and physical health

– it is not acceptable that owners of residential property should avoid the financial consequences from the pandemic that are hitting the rest of society simply because they hold title to an asset.

> This branch resolves:

– To endorse the Can’t Pay Won’t Pay Campaign organised by the London Renters Union, and supported by ACORN and Living Rent, the renters’ rights organisations in the rest of England and in Scotland.

– to endorse its demands: 1/ cancellation of all rents during the pandemic; 2/ all pandemic-related rent arrears to be written off; 3/ make the current eviction ban permanent and scrap Section 21 ’no-fault’ evictions; 4/introduce rent controls; 5/ no borders in housing: abolish migration status checks for renters