Why I went viral on Twitter after talking about being evicted on Sky News | Kirsty Archer

The patronising interviewer, who is a landlord, demonstrated the contempt with which many landlords view renters, writes Kirsty Archer, a member of London Renters Union

On Monday I had the weird experience of going viral on Twitter after an altercation with a Sky News journalist. Following the governments announced plans to scrap section 21 eviction notices, I was invited on to Sky News to talk about the time I was served such a notice in February. I made a complaint about the serious disrepair in the flat I have been renting with a friend since August. We now have to get out by the end of the this month.


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As it stands, section 21 gives landlords huge power over our lives and discourages renters from making complaints or requesting repairs, for fear of section 21 revenge evictions. Since 2015, around 140,000 other tenants have been victims of revenge evictions making section 21 the leading cause of homelessness in England, displacing huge numbers of working people and migrants from their communities each year.

I wanted to use the interview to talk about the very real emotional and economic toll that these evictions have had on me and other renters.

I prepared what I wanted to say and, having been invited on, at least expected a chance to get my point across. The problem? The interviewer, Jayne Secker, who is a landlord, patronised me and demonstrated the contempt with which many landlords view renters.

As soon as I started explaining my situation, she interrupted to minimise the impact my housing situation is having on me: Yeah, thats just the housing market, isnt it? she said. She then went on to tell a bizarre story about tenants shes rented to that dont know how to change a lightbulb and asked me: Do you think youve found that you arent equipped with all the necessary skills to rent?

The idea that I am somehow responsible for being evicted from my home because I dont have the necessary skills to rent is deeply patronising.

What makes this painful is that, like many renters left in such a precarious position, since receiving the eviction notice I have experienced increased levels of stress and anxiety. I should know about the profound relationship between mental health and housing since I work for the charity Rethink Mental Illness; in fact, I cant help but think how lucky I am that I am not experiencing more severe mental health issues because of the kind of damage sudden homelessness can cause.

Secker shone a light on the mainstream medias poor representation of people from low-income backgrounds.

Without rent controls, housing will remain unaffordable in London and much of the south-east, and landlords will still be able to force out tenants by raising the rent. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


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To be fair, she has since sent me a gracious personal apology, which I am grateful for. I really hope that this saga will change her attitude towards renters (and, who knows, perhaps towards housing).

But how on earth have we arrived at the situation where journalists are so detached from the struggles most working people face? For me, it brings home how divided we are by class and income. Across much of Mondays media coverage of the rental market, the housing needs of low-income people are seen as secondary to the bank balances of those who are wealthy enough to own and rent out property. The rest of us are seen as second-class citizens.

Thankfully, renters are getting organised and turning their anger about the housing crisis and mistreatment by landlords into effective political action.

Mondays announcement by the government that it plans to scrap section 21 and introduce open-ended tenancies comes after relentless campaigning by a collation of renter unions and housing campaigns led by Generation Rent. They include Acorn, London Renters Union which I belong to Tenants Union UK and the New Economics Foundation.

The London Renters Union provided me with support at a recent branch meeting, and organises renters to stand up to the landlords and estate agents that exploit them by using direct-action protest tactics.

Its fantastic that the renters movement is rapidly growing, but theres still a long way to go to resolve the inequalities at the centre of the housing crisis.

We need real systemic change. Without rent controls, housing will remain unaffordable in London and much of the south-east, and landlords will still be able to force out tenants by raising the rent. As a result, the displacement of working people on low income and migrants who are forced to rent privately will continue.

My favourite response from landlords to Mondays government announcement were the claims that they would sell up and no longer see property as a good investment. There arent enough clapping-hand emojis to express just how much I welcome this. The housing crisis is not caused by tenants who cant fit lightbulbs or turn the heating on, as my interviewer implied. Its caused by the greed of landlords, which is enabled by a rigged housing system and by government failure to invest in social and affordable housing. If landlords want to sell up then great lets bring privately rented homes back into public ownership so housing can become more accessible and affordable for the rest of us.

Kirsty Archer is a member of the London Renters Union. She works for a mental health charity and rents privately in south London.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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