Left-wing Labour campaign network Momentum has shifted its attentions away from internal party politics and towards outward-facing efforts with the launch of an evictions resistance campaign during Covid.
The government introduced legislation in March that stopped landlords from taking court proceedings to evict people amid the pandemic. The stay was intended to last for three months but was extended twice.
The public was originally told that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home”, but the Conservatives failed to bring forward new legislation to protect renters when parliament returned this month.
With the ban ending over the weekend and housing charity Shelter warning that 230,000 people are now at risk of eviction, Momentum has launched a campaign to mobilise activists across the country against evictions.
The group will offer tools and support to its members, allowing them to organise in their local communities when evictions are set to take place alongside tenants organisations ACORN and London Renters Union.
Momentum’s ‘My Campaign Map‘ tool, usually used to direct Labour activists towards target seats at election time, will be relaunched as part of the evictions resistance campaign and filled up with user-submitted events, trainings and demonstrations.
While activists are expected to peacefully resist the efforts of bailiffs, Momentum nationally will push for the eviction ban to be extended for at least one year and for Covid-related rent arrears to be written off.
The campaigners will call for legislation forcing landlords to forgive arrears and for the government to offer means-tested financial support that would see small landlords compensated for their losses during the pandemic.
The group will also reiterate the call for Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions – allowing landlords to evict tenants with eight weeks’ notice – to be scrapped. The government has repeatedly promised to enact this change but has not yet done so.
New Momentum co-chair firefighter Andrew Scattergood said: “As we face the worst recession in three hundred years, working class people are once again paying the price, with redundancies coming in thick and fast and hundreds of thousands already unable to pay their rents, while British billionaires increase their total wealth by 20%.
“The Conservatives are about to unleash a tsunami of evictions across our country, forcing countless individuals and families to become homeless in the middle of a pandemic. This will not only plunge many into deprivation and destitution, it also risks causing a surge in overcrowded living conditions, which has already led to hotspots of Covid-19 deaths.
“Momentum will not stand idly by while this Tory government forces working class people to bear the brunt of a crisis of the Tories’ own making, in order to safeguard private profits. That’s why we’re supporting our activists to help at risk tenants in their communities by mobilising to peacefully resist bailiffs and stop these evictions from taking place.”
Amnesty International UK has warned that the rise in homelessness in the wake of Covid-19 could lead to a “human rights catastrophe”, and Shelter estimated in July that 227,000 adult private renters had fallen into arrears since the pandemic hit the country.
Community union ACORN held pickets outside courts and letting agencies and more than a dozen of coordinated eviction resistance training sessions on September 19th to mark the evictions ban coming to an end.
The training includes sharing information on tenants’ legal rights, planning, mobilising and “practical eviction resistance training”, including compliance with Covid distancing rules, and participants learn what to do when bailiffs come knocking.
Sessions have taken place in Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Cambridge, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, and more are planned elsewhere in the coming weeks.