Fighting precarious housing
Through this two-year programme, funded by the Trust for London, we supported small-medium sized community organisations who work directly with people experiencing housing problems.
The programme was made up of three six-session long courses on housing rights for community and grassroots organisations, and four strategic forums for a range of participants to discuss strategic and policy approaches towards housing justice.
Legal education and information on housing rights
Housing rights courses
Courses were aimed at three specific groups, identified at the start of the grant by consulting with practitioners in housing rights in disadvantaged London boroughs:
- people with complex needs,
- refugees and migrants
The first course (completed December 2019) was conducted in person; the second (completed June 2020) and the third (completed November 2020), were conducted online in the format of six pre-session video presentations and interactive webinars.
The courses consisted of six sessions each:
- introduction on the right to adequate housing and agreements;
- benefits and housing;
- dealing with disrepairs;
- dealing with Sec 21 evictions;
- dealing with local authorities in the context of homelessness;
- living in temporary accommodation.
The resources we produced
Our online housing guides were viewed 1,744 times over the life of the grant (October 2018 - October 2020). We produced eight bespoke films and four adapted films over the course of the grant. You can view the films here:
The people we reached
We reached 67 participants from 41 community organisations. Our indirect reach to Londoners facing housing and homelssness issues was 11,652 with a further 3,703 accessing our video and information resources online.
Testimonies from participants on how they have found the course
Housing rights for people with complex needs course:
- 'A Council tenant lived in a property that everything was falling. All has been repaired now'
- 'I've been able to help disabled clients with housing issues'
- 'I have passed on information to my network and been able to help peers with their housing issues'
- 'I have shared with other front line staff, gives us more confidence if dealing with housing issues'
Housing rights and women course:
- 'It was great. LOADS of time for questions and we always felt like we could get answers. we never ran out of time and didn't try to pack too much in. all the solicitors and staff were brilliant'
- 'I thought the format was really good. The information in the videos was well broken down and the webinar was very useful to ask questions'
- 'It was just right - easy to follow - the webinars were just the right length and the content was well chosen'
- 'I really liked this format - it allowed us to practically test how we understood the law and get feedback and advice on the areas that fall between the gaps'
- 'Excellent - easy to follow and I got a huge amount from the case studies and discussion in the group'
- 'Everything was great, follow up resources with transcripts of the questions and answers that were asked were great'
- 'I think it was a really well put together programme . I've attended a lot of Zoom sessions on various subjects and none of them went as smoothly as yours ! Pretty happy with it , make that very happy'
- 'really enjoyed the format and was challenged by the exercises in a productive way'
Housing rights for refugees course:
- 'its one of the best trainings I have been on for a long while and in this virtual format too'
- 'you have done everything perfectly'
- 'I can't really think of anything [you could have done differently], I really enjoyed the series'
- 'It was pitched perfectly … To give up 2 hour of my Saturday morning for 6 weeks was well-well worth it.'
- 'was a good balance, thought the structure worked really well'
- 'I thought they were perfect, not too fast paced and loads of opportunities to ask questions between each section'
- 'Good to have lots of time to ask questions and discuss. The scenarios were good and felt like an appropriate level - reasonably complicated but not too tricky'
- 'it was easy and helpful so that i could understand your roles and in what you are specialised'
As part of the project we also ran four strategic forums throughout the Autumn of 2020, focusing on building skills and exploring strategies to influence change through either legal or policy mechanisms.
Effectively engaging with Councillors and MPs
The forum aimed to improve understanding of how to best leverage the role of Councillors and MPs, which channels and mechanisms exist at Council level, and the pros and cons of using them to address different housing-related problems. Sue Lukes, Councillor, Islington Council, presented very effectively on her role as a Councillor, with positive feedback from participants:
- 'Many thanks for this evening's session. I have found it most engaging, concise and informative'
- 'It was incredibly helpful to understand more about the layers, mechanisms, roles and limitations which exist. Sue, in my opinion, was also an amazing example of a supportive and empowering advocate for those she represents'
- 'Could you please extend my thanks also to Sue. It was refreshing to hear such honesty, compassion and understanding'
- 'I certainly feel more empowered, able and confident to engage effectively with counsellors and MPs to support the people who we work and to encourage people to understand and exercise their rights'
- 'Many thanks again for a brilliant session and hope that you all have a relaxing evening'
Using Judicial Reviews to counter unlawful practices by Local Authorities
Part 1. What you need to know about using Judicial Reviews in the context of housing
Some housing-related problems involving local authorities can only be addressed through Judicial Reviews (JR). However, this is a highly technical procedure. The first session – primarily meant for community groups, advisers, support workers –provided a non-technical overview on JRs in the context of housing, including what is a JR, what types of housing problems can be addressed through a JR and some key limitations around the use of JR, and what the process entails. The session was run with our associate David Thomas and was attended by 11 participants from 10 organisations.
Part 2. Strategies for using Judicial Reviews to address housing problems
The second session brought together and built connections between community groups, advisers and legal professionals with the aim of exploring tactics on how to make Judicial Reviews work in community contexts. 13 people participated in the session, in addition to three speakers:Polly Glynn from Deighton Pierce Glynn law firm, Matt Ahluwalia from the Public Law Project, and Izzy Koksal from Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth. The session included a few short presentations about existing initiatives on Judicial Reviews and explored how these mechanisms could be used in practice.
Campaigning for better housing
This forum focused on key aspects of organising and campaigning, and tools and strategies that help build collective power. The forum aimed to bring together campaigners, community groups and advocates interested in campaigning and organising for better housing. The workshop facilitated sharing experiences and learnings of groups with ongoing struggles for decent housing. In particular, it highlighted experiences of Focus E15 and London Renters Union (LRU), two community groups with powerful experiences in campaigning for housing, as well as inviting contributions and sharing from other participants. The session consisted of an interview-style conversation with representatives from Focus E15 and LRU followed by an open group discussion. 17 people attended and comments were positive:
- 'Thanks so much, really interesting discussion'
- 'Thank you for this extremely informative and useful seminar'
- 'Thanks for organizing and sharing your work'
All of the forums were well attended, generating positive feedback and building connections between existing initiatives.