Issue no.1 – The Letting Game – Letting you down

Looking for a room near Southmead hospital. Forget about it. £700 for a dingy box as big as the domestics’ cupboard, no sitting room. My ward colleagues come over from Newport or Gloucester. That’s a two hour drive on top of a 12.5 hour shift. That can be fatal. Another nurse tells me how he offered the landlord £50 extra per month rent, because he is so desperate. Still no success. He lives with his wife and small child in one room, in the flat of his brother. Have you tried to sleep after a night-shift with a toddler in the room?! Young colleagues, and we’re talking mid-30s here, still live with their parents, despite pretty toxic dynamics. It will be hard to grow up if you stay under the infantalising gaze of your mum and dad!

Most houses in Bristol are old and run down anyway. They have been paid off a dozen times! Back in the day, when the working class movement was strong enough, the state would build houses particularly for nurses! In 1939 there was a successful rent strike in Birmingham when the council tried to implement a rent increase in the name of the war effort. Working class women were having none of it, and thousands of them refused to pay their rent until the council changed their mind.

During the last bigger teachers, railway, postal and nurses strikes in 2023 a union platform emerged, called ‘Enough is Enough’. In Bristol, 300 people came to the founding event. One of their demands was a rent cap. A good idea, but because the law doesn’t allow ‘political strikes’ the unions were too scared to actually attach this demand to the strikes. And there was too much competition between the unions about who should lead ‘Enough is Enough’, so the whole thing tanked.

Another campaign emerged, called ‘Don’t Pay’, calling for a mass boycott of inflated energy bills. Thousands of people joined the campaign online, but online campaigns are not enough. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything! Between the two hospitals we are 18,000 people! Imagine 18,000 people blocking the M32 or the port in Avonmouth depot demanding a rent cap for Bristol!

In the meantime we can support each other with problems with landlords. Tenant unions like ACORN show that it is possible to resist bad housing conditions and evictions. If you have issues with your landlord or your housing situation, drop us a line and we will see what we can do together!

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