ACORN: The Union Group Pushing for Housing Reform
ACORN stands for the Association of Community Organisation for Reform Now and it began with a fight for justice within one community. They had 100 people supporting their campaign when they started but now have over 1000 tenants and community members in nine cities across the country fighting for housing justice. They aim to tackle rogue landlords and preventable evictions and are attempting to raise awareness of the housing crisis to Government members. It is no secret that Brighton has dealt with poor quality, high-cost housing since the insurgence of students, young people and young professionals wanting to live and work in the city. Whole neighbourhoods have been bought up by landlords who hike rent price and have no interest in the conditions of the housing they offer. Members of Brighton’s community became fed up by this capitalistic system of living and have brought ACORN to Brighton in attempt to fight.
In the UK, half a million people have had to borrow money in the last year to pay their rent, despite being in employment. A further 1 in 3 renters say they struggle to make ends meet month-to-month and 1 in 5 renters have faced, or are currently facing, eviction due to lack of funds. ACORN say “too many of us – renters, workers, families – are being treated as second class citizens. We want equality”. They cite many reasons for the housing crisis but emphasise that the ‘right-to-buy’ scheme, introduced in 1980 by the conservative government, has not helped low-income families in any which way. In 1979 42% of Britons lived in council housing and today…only 8%. Over a million council houses were sold off under the scheme with the hidden provision that the respective councils were not allowed to replace the property that was sold. There are no figures available but through hearsay it can be suggested that most of these rented out ‘right-to-buy’ houses are unkempt, rundown and are not proper nor comfortable living conditions. ACORN’s mission is to encourage the building of more council housing as well as long term tenancy agreements.
In Europe, 3 year, 5 year and lifetime contracts are among the norm of renting whereas in the UK the average contract is written for 6-12 months. This leads to millions of Britons being forced to regularly move house – affecting families, education and denying the tenants the right to settle into their own home. Outside of the contracts given in the UK the landlord has the right to evict for no reason and to raise rent prices, which again feeds into chronic cycle of unaffordable housing. ACORN’s website cites Nadine Masseron’s interview on the BBC in which she expressed “Every year the estate agent tries to put up the rent by £50 a month. Every year I go through that, begging, pleading, ‘please don’t”. Alongside the lack of sustainable housing, temporary homelessness rates are soaring high with £3 billion spent of taxpayers money on emergency housing/accommodation. ACORN argue that this amount could be significantly lower if the housing crisis was dealt with.
To become involved with ACORN they ask you to pay a membership fee but only that of 1 hours pay, every month. If you feel as though the housing crisis is out of hand or want to help the local community fight back against corrupt landlords and rising rent prices, then ACORN is the organisation to invest in. They hold regular meetings and encourage as many members of the community as they can to get involved, to read more or sign up visit their website or Facebook page to find out more.