London Renters Union
2019, 2017

The London Renters Union is a community of renters organising in solidarity with one another, and building the power needed to transform the housing system.

The London Renters Union organise primarily with private renters, and believe everyone has a right to good quality, secure, cheap housing. They support each other by collectivising around local housing issues, and empowering renters to take control of their housing situations around evictions, disrepair, and homelessness. They have successfully resolved at least 70 member disputes through collective action and solidarity. Through this process, and training and mentoring in renters’ rights and organising skills, the London Renters Union build community power to challenge the laws stacked against tenants and demand transformations to the housing system.

No fault evictions are close to being banned by the government after their joint campaign, and banks have scrapped discriminatory clauses for housing benefit claimants. The Union recently met with the Mayor of London who then came out for rent controls.
They are a London-wide organisation, with active branches in 3 boroughs and more to come. They counted over 1700 members in the first year and a half of operation.

The London Renters Union model is based around the empowerment of marginalised renters, already the most impoverished of the housing tenures in the UK. For them diversity is not a checkbox exercise, but the essential nature of a powerful movement; stating:

we can only build the power we need to transform the housing system and be taken seriously if we are made up of and represent the mass of ordinary renters.

By ensuring their meetings are facilitated by skilled facilitators and by providing childcare and travel costs, the London Renters Union create welcoming and warm spaces that empower members who face marginalisation to participate. In addition, their paid staff and volunteer organisers spend time organising one-to-one meetings with new members who face structural oppression to encourage and support them to participate in meetings and develop and support their leadership in the union.

Furthermore, by prioritising the experiences of marginalised renters in the work and communication, the crew are pushing for the solutions to the housing crisis needed and advanced by those most impacted, and not just the reforms that will work for those with prior access to political and discursive channels.

The membership in Newham is overwhelmingly POC (People of Colour), and includes many mothers, often with disabilities. One of the key demands is No Borders in Housing, and the team is discussing a range of outreach events about the connection between housing and a number of different social struggles and identities. In Hackney, they are currently running a joint campaign with East End Sisters Uncut around Islamophobia in local housing provision. Though they are organising around many members’ issues that involve disability and disablism, the team feel that they have not yet made sustained links with the disability justice movement and would like to strengthen this side of their work, so if you’re reading this and have any good leads, get in touch with theĀ LRU directly.

The Guerrilla Grant

Supporting the Newham branch organising as well as creating a sustainable infrastructure for the organisation at large.

This grant serves 3 purposes:

1. To strengthen the deep organising work LRU is doing in Newham, part-funding the salary (around 1/3rd) of the organiser there so that she can continue to develop and activate the membership there.

– To bring marginalised voices to the fore in strategy and demands processes on local and city-wide level.
– To continue to increase the proportion of active membership in Newham through leadership development.
– Things to be currently close to substantial policy change, but finalising the details of these shifts and building new campaigns will take sustained work over the coming years. The aim is to effect policy change on a local level around processes of temporary accommodation provision within the next year, and build from this local organising into wide-scale campaigns with substantial public support on housing provision and rent levels over the next 3 years.

2. To build a sustainable staff support framework by funding reflective staff supervision time for the new staff.

– To ensure the union is a supportive workplace that learns from cumulative experience, retaining staff so that they can run a long-term workplace rather than burning staff out.
– To give a day a month for each new staff member for reflection time – this both provides a framework for organiser development in an anti-hierarchical workplace, and importantly a way to build up a clear sense of the strengths and limitations of the model for use in union-wide reflective processes.

3. To continue to grow outwards into a mass organisation, funding essential union trainings & resourcing a fund to support new branches.

They are hoping to hire a New Branches organiser in December, but they need to resource the new groups they will be working with to organise. The union invites new and core members to trainings to understand and implement their organising model.

– To train up 60 volunteer organisers over the year
– To support the development of at least 3 new groups starting to organise locally.
– To run sustained outreach in multiple boroughs and increase their membership by 50% in those areas within the first year of organising. Though generalised membership levels are important, as local branches are the primary organising unit, having concentrated membership that can organise in an area is a priority.