London Renters Union (UK)
1.Who they are
London Renters Union is a social movement tenants union that has grown directly out of of the housing movement in London. After years of organising for housing justice and the right to the city in different groups they have learned that we need for a mass, democratic, permanent institution to build renters’ power to transform the housing system. A network of grassroots groups started planning the union in 2017 and in January 2018 they started building their first branch in Newham, one of the most deprived London boroughs, using ‘deep organising’ – door-knocking, one-to-ones and other forms of intensive relationship-building. 50 volunteer activists, organised through working groups and supported by two temporary staff members, have been developing participatory structures, an inclusive culture, a visual identity, our analysis and demands, and external relationships.
2.What they did
They built an effective framework of member support, through which members have helped each other on over 70 cases, many of them being successfully resolved, with others outstanding. In some cases, this has involved supporting members in formulating letters to send to a key power holder, and delivering them collectively, and in some cases entering negotiations with those power holders. This has led to many members being re-housed, having long overdue repairs done, or deposits retained. They now have over 1100 members, over 80 of whom are regularly engaged in the union through one of their three branches or working groups. In Newham, where their paid organiser is based, most of their members are migrants, working class or people of colour. Their branches are well organised, with local teams for outreach and member support. And our cross-union working groups are powering our work on communications, fundraising and union democracy. We have laid strong foundations for growing the union more and will be establishing new branches this year, as well as strengthening our existing ones.
3. Learnings for the FundAction community
While many big cities across Europe and abroad are facing similar challenges related to the rise of housing expenses, London is one of the cities in which this situation is making it harder for citizens. London Renters Union great achievements are a source of inspiration for many activist initiatives struggling to make their cities more livable. Their radical grass-root approach and their work on building communities that support persons at risk of losing their houses are really important examples for activists working on housing, but also for the FundAction community as a whole. They used the Renew grant to pay a coordinator that kept the union function working smoothly, to support members in their campaign activity, to several trainings on member support, renters rights, etc.