Tenants Union UK is changing. From this autumn we will be focussing our organisational efforts on housing issues in Greater Manchester. We will work to strengthen and grow our branches across the city-region, and we’ll be relaunching to reflect this: welcome the Greater Manchester Tenants Union.
By consolidating our activity onto the specifics of housing in Greater Manchester, our aim is to build a strong and vibrant regional union, one that is active and deeply rooted in our diverse communities, and which can play a full part in the growing national tenants and renters movement, alongside our allies the London Renters Union, Living Rent, ACORN and many of the other new groups starting around the country.
Taking inspiration from housing movements across the world — from Los Angeles to Barcelona to Cape Town— we act with the principle that organisations that are rooted in and led by working class communities can change a city, and that organising around housing issues can create a platform to build working class power from below.
Although we would like to support tenants everywhere, we have realised that for us to have the most impact we must focus on building up community power: house by house, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. It is difficult for us to provide more than signposting and casual advice for tenants outside of Greater Manchester because that’s where our staff and the bulk of our organisers are based. True power as a tenants union comes not from providing a service — but from building solidarity and a spirit of mutual support among tenants in their communities.
Here in Manchester, while investment and regeneration may have enlivened the city centre, and recent years have seen the city continually placed on ‘cultural hotspot’ lists in the U.K, this has come at a price. Once marginal areas on the periphery of the city centre have become ‘investment opportunities’. The average tenants are being displaced, moved out and uprooted from the community they know and love. In the city-region’s core, in Manchester and Salford city centres, billions of pounds have been invested in the construction of skyscrapers and luxury apartments. Big investors have entered the rental market as corporate landlords. This is driving processes of gentrification and displacement, as rents rise and working class people are priced and pushed out.
Common across our region, and not confined to Manchester and Salford, are the hallmarks of Britain’s broken housing system, a system rigged against tenants. Exploitative landlords who charge rents for mouldy properties. Evictions and harassment. Disrepair. Social landlords who are run by remote PFI schemes with no duty of care or responsibility to their tenants. Rising rents, precarity and thousands trapped in temporary accommodation. On top of this, the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the fragility and stark injustices of the system, as the threat of eviction looms for tens of thousands across our region.
Housing is in crisis, and only an organised tenants movement can combat this — taking action against landlords directly and putting pressure on the government and councils for legislative change. The scale of the crisis in our region is such that Greater Manchester needs its own Tenants Union, tailored to the specificities of the crisis here, and fine tuned to the local political and cultural landscape.
Our ambition is to build a federated Tenants Union across Greater Manchester. We will do this by building local branches, rooted in and led by working class communities. By fighting and winning cases against bad landlords, campaigning on local issues that matter to people, conducting neighbourhood research and mapping of the housing crisis, and building community solidarity and pride, we will build these branches. By joining one of these branches you’ll be part of a local group that will offer mutual support and solidarity with housing cases, and connect you to city-wide campaigns.
We know the system is stacked against tenants. But we also know that there is strength in our numbers and power in our solidarity. Landlords understand how weak they become when tenants work together so discourage you from knowing your rights and disempower you from fighting back. It’s time to change that. Join us.