City Forum Brighton #CityForumBTN @DemsocBTN

Spent the day in City Forum Brighton where community was discussed.  How to build community seems to be the underlying question, and how to get members of those communities talking to each other and expressing their concerns to City Council. Perhaps more than that, is how to reach all the various communities within the city to ensure that everybody knows where to go to get what they need, i.e. what’s available.

I attended three sessions:

  1. Transportation
  2. We Live Here/Community Councils
  3. Street Share/Sunshine Bank

If you want the details of what happened today, you can read the demsoc blog. 

I don’t quite to know what to make of this group.  They say they have no political affiliation.  Their main purpose seems to be getting people in the city talking to each other.  Which is a good idea.  I suppose in a way it’s like a pre-city council session. You take your ideas here, discuss them with others,  and if you’re determined enough take it to city council.

My fundamental concern is stable housing. You can’t build community when you are moving every 6 months. Nor is it nice for the neighbors who have to put up with new tenants moving in, and all the stresses they experience with new people living in the same house (split into private flats, for example).  When you share a common street entrance you want to know the people you live with; and every time someone new moves in you have to adjust to their living patterns.

And what about the tenant?  The one who has to move?  I’ve written about it before, and I suspect I’ll write about it again, tenants need stability.  They need it not only for their own health, but also for their community health.  People need community if they are to thrive and achieve their full potential, and make valuable contributions to society. If you’re moving every six months you can’t do much more than look for a place, pack and unpack and pack again. I know. I’ve done it.

Housing is my pet topic and I didn’t bring it to the floor at City Forum, someone else did.  And why is that?  Why did I hold back on that, and speak instead about the need for an integrated public transportation system?

Because I’ve taken my housing concerns to my MP?  Because I find the vast majority of people at these type of events don’t want to hear about private rental concerns?  Because I feel the concerns of private renters are swept under the rug?  Here we go again with Banksy’s Homeless Elephant.   I really don’t want to talk about it.  I want it to be solved and live a full life.

Someone suggested to me today that the housing problem in Britain is due to there being so many people on a small island. As if the problem is density of population rather than distribution of property, and legislation to protect renters.  At the very least, legislation to place renters on equal footing with landlords.  It seems some people don’t get that the renter is PAYING to live in the property and without that income, chances are the landlord wouldn’t own it.  This is particularly true with buy-to-let property owners.   What’s the difference between them and the tenant?  Approval of a mortgage?  A down payment?

Rough sleepers, and the homeless were also brought up as a group that is disenfranchised: you can’t register to vote if you don’t have an address.

I think the housing issue needs to be addressed first and foremost.  It’s hard to build community with people who are moving around.

Or is there another way?

Can we build a system that includes transients? And at the same time, work towards changing legislation to help people stay in their homes?  And it’s not just renters faced with evictions, mortgage holders unable to meet payments are also at risk.

We have to solve this housing issue. I don’t think people should have to be property owners to have a stable home. Nor do I think it’s correct to amass property purely for the sake of amassing wealth. We aren’t meant to live our lives as slaves to the landlord-bank.

Back to City Forum.  It felt good to participate in a community dialogue about the city I live in.  It feels to good to have lived in the same house, on the same street for a year.  It feels good to know my neighbors.  I’m a renter.  How long will I stay here?  I don’t know.






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