London: Pop-up social centre closes

Housing activists occupied the prime property – next to Harrods – to build support for the Kill the Housing Bill demonstration on Sunday 13 March, which saw up to 10,000 people take to the streets in central London.

Radical Housing Network, a network of grassroots housing campaigns, used the empty building – known as “Our House” – to host a community-led week-long programme of workshops, talks and performance in response to London’s housing crisis and its effect on communities. The week of action was reported by the Independent newspaper among others.

Today, the owners of the property, Brompton Estates, took legal action to evict the housing campaigners. Brompton bought much of the South Ken neighbourhood as part of a £41 million deal. In court this morning, Brompton were granted a possession order, and bailiffs are due at the property imminently.

Campaigners said: “We’re leaving today, but the fight for housing justice continues. This was a pop-up shop – we created a vibrant pop-up community. It’s been a fantastic, uplifting week of action. We’ve taken action against policy-makers, landlords and developers through mock-evictions and doorstepping local councillors. We’ve hosted practical sessions on mapping our struggles, eviction resistance and civil disobedience, and held lively debates bringing together local campaigns and beyond.

“But most of all, we’ve had fun and supported one another. Our ‘pop-up squat’ has been a space of refuge and resistance for all those affected by the housing crisis. We’ve held a community kitchen and brilliant Open Mic nights bringing together locals and activists from across the capital.”

The occupation involved radical campaigns such as Focus E15, Movement for Justice and Sisters Uncut, a feminist group taking direct action over cuts to domestic violence services. Other groups involved included Our Brixton, Architects for Social Housing, Brick Lane Debates, as well as local West London campaigns Grenfell Action Group and Save Earl’s Court.

“Our House” was situated in the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). RBKC ranks in the top four London boroughs in terms of inequality and housing costs.Almost 100% of the 6,000 council homes in the borough are set to be sold off under the provisions of the Housing Bill.

A Radical Housing Network spokesperson (one of the occupiers), said: “People have the impression that Kensington is all about millionaires revving their sports cars outside Harrods. Yet it is in fact a prime example of the ever growing, extreme inequalities in our society. We occupied this empty building in Kensington to protest the Tories’ Housing Bill which will make the housing crisis much worse.

“The Housing Bill aims to destroy council and social housing. Crucially, it will hit affect everyone: It means higher rents, less security, and less chance of a home you can afford. It’s vital for communities to come together to organise against this pernicious legislation.

“We’re fighting for decent housing for everyone. This is not the end – this is just the beginning.”