Lucille is part of a group of concerned Oxford renters who are working to establish a tenants union to make renting in the city fairer, more secure and more affordable.
In the no man’s land of tenants’ rights, Oxford is a city of great power and inequality, where ⅔ of the population is renting. The influx of wealthy students, high paid university staff and transient nature of this population has exacerbated people’s powerlessness.
Oxford needs a rebalance of power. People in the most vulnerable situations need to be given a chance to empower themselves and use their collective power. This can happen through a member-led tenants’ union.
The goal is to rebalance powers between landlords and tenants. Making housing fairer, more accessible, and enabling people to be housed decently, as we all deserve.
There are short term actions, such as avoiding evictions, getting landlords to do repairs, and agents to act decently. Mid- to long-term campaigns involve fighting to repeal section 21, rent caps, standardising contracts, repealing restrictive HMO policy, increasing landlord transparency, and many more ideas.
The process is simple. We gather a group of people, we doorknock, we meet, we discuss, we act and we go again. This process will create links, raise awareness and empower people.
Connection by connection, win by win, we can build the power of people, and raise the voices of the unheard.
At meetings we’ll have food, child care, and space to talk and to plan. Meetings will be welcoming, festive and enable people to connect and feel hopeful that together we can change things.
This is already working in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle & Belfast.
Again the process is simple, it creates real social change, through solidarity and empowerment. It is about relationships & power.
On Wednesday 4th of April, the tenants Union had its first open meeting. The room was filled with a general feeling of frustration towards the situation and a ‘we can change this’ energy. One thing was clear: the situation is appalling, and this concerns everyone.
In the midst of Brexit, it is clear that the UK is very far behind all other European countries when it comes to housing. Examples from Germany, France and other places show that a better system is possible and we cannot be complacent with the situation. We need to take back control, not through division, this time through solidarity.
So what did we talk about at the last meeting?
What issues are we facing?
- Short and unstable nature of tenancies keep people close to homelessness.
- HMOs made out as a ‘lifestyle choice’ to live with your friends.
What resources are available?
- Council’s advice surgery
- Citizen Advice Bureau
- Universities administration – for students
- Aspire – supporting people in maintaining housing through the trailblazer project. This has been working really well but only has funding for a year which will leave people with little options.
- Organisations working with homelessness & precarious housing situations: Mayday trust, Shelter, Crisis,
- The Rent Strike! group
- Future resource: a tenants’ union!
Solutions and hopes
- Increasing the transparency of landlordism through listings of benevolent landlords and blacklisting of non-respectful ones, standardisation of contracts.
- Tenant contract to the landlord when moving in, to show the landlord that tenants know their rights.
- Tenants Union Manifesto
- Council powers, what are they?
- Which area of Oxford should we focus on ?
Our next meeting is from 6.30 – 8.00 on Wednesday 24th April at Open House. Join us!