Bedroom tax protests dominate housing convention
Last week saw the social housing industry across the country gather at Manchester Central for three days of conferencing and a huge exhibition organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). Despite hundreds of companies and policymakers spending thousands of pounds vying for attention over many different issues, it was the tenants and their supporters protesting outside that made the headlines.
Two demonstrations were held, one on Tuesday 25th June to lobby housing providers over their eviction policies, and another on Thursday 27th June to protest against Lord Freud, architect of the Tories’ welfare reform package and super-wealthy owner of an eight-bedroom country mansion.
The 24Dash website reported in advance of the event that Lord Freud was due to “walk into a bedroom tax storm”, whilst Inside Housing headlined on Tuesday with a picture of disabled protesters calling for “bedroom tax leniency”. The coverage won protesters an invitation from the CIH to use their website to comment on Lord Freud’s speech.
On Thursday, a larger crowd of protesters gathered, joined by activists from Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham. They caused a stir inside the conference which dominated the official Twitter hashtag #housing2013, and received supportive tweets from many people and organisations including False Economy and the New Statesman.
A hostile reception both inside and outside the conference seemed to rattle Lord Freud, who was greeted with laughter when he angrily retorted that the ‘under-occupancy charge’ is “not a bedroom tax”.
For bedroom tax demonstrators to have such a large impact and influence on the goings on of a corporate event was a great achievement, and was hugely important in to provide tenants with a voice that is rapidly getting louder. It was vital to build on a growing feeling that there is something that can be can be done to stop the bedroom tax, and that both social landlords and politicians need to put tenants first – or become targets in the fight against it.