Following the recent government extension of the eviction ban, ACORN Leeds, alongside 16 other branches across England and Wales, called for serious reform to prevent a ‘tidal wave of evictions and homelessness’. The Gryphon’s Maariyah Fulat reports.
In response to the government decision, ACORN Leeds held a socially distanced rally outside the Leeds Combined Court Centre on Saturday 22nd August.
ACORN is a community-based union of working-class people known for preventing evictions, organising support, and empowering low-income communities by taking direct action against landlords and letting agents.
20 members of the grassroots community union wore red, held banners, and chanted in support of tenant-power and resisting eviction. Chants such as “The tenants united, will never be defeated” echoed throughout the centre.
The Gryphon spoke with ACORN Leeds member Samuel, who joined the union towards the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak when himself and his flatmates were at risk of eviction. Samuel’s letting agent continuously tried to arrange unwarranted ‘visits’ and attempted to strong-arm Samuel and his flatmates into a 12-month contract which they didn’t want. Samuel contacted ACORN and together they carried out a ‘phone-jam’. The next day Samuel received written confirmation from his landlord that they would receive no further harassment.
Samuel commented, “I can’t emphasise enough how vital ACORN were to keeping us safe and we couldn’t have done it on our own.”
“There are so many people who if they were faced with that situation it could have resulted in their death! They might not have been able to find another place to live, they could have just ended up out on the streets, it’s heart-breaking.”
“The work ACORN do is so important and I feel so lucky to have them help us during this time.”
The ‘socially-distanced eviction resistance’ was part of ACORN’s Housing is Health campaign. The day before the rally Housing Minister Robert Jenrick announced a further 4-week ban on evictions and extended notice periods from 3 months to 6 months. ACORN Leeds member and organiser Sam commented “we’re here today because it’s not enough.”
“Almost a quarter of a million private renters in the UK have fallen into arrears. So, unless the government amends the law to make it so no one can be evicted because of coronavirus rent debt, then when this eviction ban ends, we’re looking at a tidal wave of evictions and homelessness.”
ACORN’s Housing is Health campaign calls for Robert Jenrick and Welsh Housing Minister Julie James to end section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and to amend section 8 of the housing act. Alongside this, ACORN has been running regular Community Protection Training sessions online where members share information and teach skills on how to resist evictions.
“Movements like ACORN are the future” organiser Sam comments further.
“Renters are getting organised because we’ve been dealing with a system that’s stacked in favour of landlords for too long, and we’re not going to take it anymore”. “ACORN was founded a little over a year ago and we’ve just exploded! We have nearl“Movements like ACORN are the future”y 250 members and I think it goes to show tenant-power is on the rise…there’s a real community and solidarity between renters, and it shows people are willing to back each other and look after each other.”
If you would like to get involved and support ACORN visit acorntheunion.org.uk to find out more.