An exposure of the housing struggles across the Atlantic is an essential read for activists in Britain, says MARJORIE MAYO
There’s No Place: The American Housing Crisis and What it Means for the UK
by Glyn Robbins (Red Roof Publishing, £10)
A S KEN LOACH’S endorsement of this terrific book explains: “Glyn Robbins knows what he’s talking about. If words are weapons, this is the ammunition we need to fight for an end to homelessness.”
Robbins is uniquely qualified to write about the implications of US housing struggles for those in Britain today. As an activist and a highly qualified housing professional with a doctorate in urban policy, his book shares his findings from a wide-ranging study tour of eight US cities and regions.
Reflecting on the similarities between the US and Britain, he points to the ways in which working-class communities are being eroded as “the clock is turning back to an earlier housing age of marginal existence at the whim of private landlordism.”
Despite the considerable differences, both within the US and between the US and Britain, he argues that the British housing landscape increasingly resembles its US counterpart.
In both countries, there are relentless government attacks on municipally owned rented housing as part of a wider assault on public services, an unchecked rise of private landlordism as part of a broader advancement of private-sector, profit-seeking interests and growing corporate links between US and British housing in the context of global speculative property investment.
Both in the US and Britain, socially divided cities are characterised by displacement and denigration of poor and working-class people and communities and there is ideological promotion of housing as a commodity, not a home.
The analysis is clear and backed with supporting evidence and Robbins goes on to explore the background to contemporary housing struggles in each of the cities and regions that he visited, from Boston to Washington DC, which are rooted in their own particular histories.
Verbatim accounts by local activists are accompanied by photographs of local people and their struggles as “global capital tightens its death grip on our communities,” as Michael Kane, executive director of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants — social housing tenants — explains.
Each chapter points to the potential parallels, as well as to the differences with, local housing struggles in Britain, including contemporary struggles such as that against the 2016 Housing and Planning Act.
Robbin’s research dates from 2015 and since then much has changed, with the election of Donald Trump in the US and another Tory government taking power here. The Grenfell Tower disaster provides chilling evidence of the immediate and increasing relevance of Robbin’s analysis of the housing crisis today.
Making an optimistic call for international solidarity, Robbins concludes: “The fight for housing justice is important in its own right. But our demands for decent homes for all become more urgent when inked to other campaigns for social equality.
“This is a period when the fight to save our homes assumes global and historic significance.”
This is a very readable book, highly recommended for Morning Star readers and especially those involved in campaigning for decent and secure homes for all.
Copies of There’s No Place can be ordered from email@example.com