Featured Project: Open House

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From May 11 to May 19, London will be host to a series of workshops and other events attempting to bring light to the ongoing housing crisis. I became interested in Open House because I have been trying to understand the function of housing as a marker of boundaries. In particular, housing — as a manifest sign of socioeconomic status — demarcates, in a very visual way, the boundaries of socioeconomic communities. Neighborhoods, a type of geographically-bound community, are at least partially defined by the housing therein. Many of us have had the experience of driving through a city or town, and feeling shocked when, all of a sudden, we no longer see big prim houses, but rather, trailers. This is particularly evident in Bennington, when driving between the various districts (Old Bennington, downtown Bennington, North Bennington). It is uncomfortably easy to see that there are large wealth discrepancies in play.

I asked the people behind Open House to tell me a little bit more about it:

Open House is a space for individuals and groups to meet, share tactics and organise together around housing. A group of friends – all of whom have been involved in housing campaigns and struggles for quite a while – felt that there was a need for this space as housing becomes more precarious in the UK. 

In London, we are seeing a huge process of social cleansing as local councils start to evict their own tenants and/or move them into housing outside of the city (sometimes 100s of miles away from their community, schools and friends) – this is because of the bedroom tax and housing benefit caps which are making it impossible for low income families to afford to live in London. Councils are demolishing, not building, social housing and replacing it with small amounts of ‘affordable housing’ at 70% of the market rate – which is still too expensive for most people and, once sold on, is no longer affordable at all. Squatting in residential buildings has been criminalised, leading to prison sentences for homelessness and even deaths from cold weather. The rents are rising all across London, pricing out ordinary people. Meanwhile, the city is being gentrified, remodelled around the needs of the rich, with luxury flats and new shopping complexes springing up across the city.

There are lots of local groups across London focussing on fighting different aspects of the housing crisis. We wanted to facilitate a temporary space (9 days) where they can talk to each other and co-ordinate their struggles to build on what is already happening and create a platform for future action to reclaim the city.

Keep an eye on Open House. I will write a follow-up once the event gets underway. And luckily for those of us who are nowhere near London, Open House will be updating its site with write-ups of all the sessions!
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