The Land Is Ours: Campaign To Abolish Eviction

The Earth is a free gift to mankind, and we all need our small inviolable chunk for a secure home. As land is enclosed and privatised, commodified and financialised a secure home becomes less and less affordable.

Secure shelter is SUPPOSED, under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to be a right yet the housing bubble means more and more of us are being made landless and the right to shelter is being ERODED.

ARTICLE: Slaves To Rent: UK housing is worst value for money of any advanced economy

If landlords were no longer able to evict tenants, the housing bubble would burst. So. The simplest way to enforce the right to shelter is to ABOLISH EVICTION.

We welcome all groups and individuals to affiliate or join us by sharing the Anti Eviction Campaign logo, Kevin Cahill’s manifesto below and linking to this page.

Fighting eviction in the UK: Tenants’ union AcornAdvisory Service for Squatters (ASS)ShelterRenters Reform CoalitionGeneration Rent – Laura NinaTrevor Mealham

Abolish Eviction Manifesto: Securing the right to a home in 2024

by Kevin Cahill. 26th April 2024

Kevin’s books on land ownership draw on his research into hidden landholdings and the Crown Estate for The Sunday Times

On a planet whose origins we are still discovering, in a universe whose nature still eludes us, we are the only known intelligent life so far found.

So here we are, all eight or so billion of us. We are, to put it mildly, slow learners. We glorify the military and murder each other far too frequently, in wars that should never happen in the first place. There is a human right of self defence, of course. But there is no such thing as a just war. The earliest effect of almost all wars is the hunting out of their shelters, of human beings, most often women and children. There are laws attempting to protect housing in time of war. This has not stopped Israel demolishing about 90% of all civilian homes in Gaza, in it alleged ‘just war’ against Hamas.

But out of the rubble of history we can discern three basic rights that should persist across the earth, at all time and in all places.

The three basic UDHR rights that precede all others.

These are the right to life, the right to shelter and the right to food and water.

To work, those rights have to be supported by law and those laws have to be applicable locally and internationally. They must be free. Rights exercisable in remote courts, or at a financial cost which might not be payable, are not rights at all.

This document is mainly about the 2nd right, the right to shelter.

Put simply, if you are born on a hillside in a storm the first right, the right to life, is already in jeopardy, for parent and child. It follows that the right to shelter and a home are essential for all human beings, from the very beginning of life.

Historically, shelter began with caves as far as we can tell. Nowadays, and that is what we have to deal with here, homes in the form of houses and flats are present in most countries. These are what shelter is.

In the more bureaucratic and urbanised countries private home ownership is now common, but subject to various, sometimes hidden, legalities.

The most insidious of these is leasehold, a system where some previous owner of the site or land, continues to exercise the right to impose financial charges, sometimes in perpetuity. The fallacious notion here is that ownership rights are hereditary and perpetual. They are neither.

This will, no matter how presentationally benevolent, always pose a threat to the need for any form of occupation to be secure.

Security of tenure is inherent to the right to shelter. Without security of tenure, the right to shelter doesn’t work.

The idea of leasehold, prevalent in the UK and its former colonial possessions, arises on the essentially false idea that the monarch, in a theory made popular by Roman emperors around 2000 years ago, is the ultimate owner of all land. In this way the right to shelter is subordinated to an essentially capitalist type system with the rights of the occupants subordinated to historic financial constraints. This is a reversal of how things should properly work, with long term fabricated extensions of ownership, often arising originally from theft or robbery, subordinated to the current occupants right to a secure shelter. The capitalist system won’t implode or collapse if this is done. It will simply operate in the right order, with basic rights framing the basic financial conditions, as opposed to the other way round.

Again, in the current situation most of the world’s financial systems take one form or another of unreformed capitalism, even in one-party communist states like the People’s Republic of China. Under most socialist systems the right to a home or shelter appears to be guaranteed but is often as lost in socialist bureaucracy as are homes in so-called capitalist systems.

In the UK and Ireland there is a dual system of housing based on freehold and leasehold, in which freehold is assumed ‘absolute’ which it is not. But it does function because the ultimate legal landowner in the Republic of Ireland, which is the state, and in the UK, which is the Crown, do not normally interfere in freehold dwellings. But these anomalies focus us on why the commonest human need for a secure home arises; this is the family unit of parents and children, commonly, but not universally, a mother and a father and children. If families are to have secure home ownership the family has to be the significant legal determinant in the basic legal arrangements. In countries where divorce is common, such as the UK and the USA, the system has adapted but with great clumsiness, excessive bureaucracy and excessive cost. This is complicated by the fact that in both those countries a home is also a capital asset, in a market place.

These two perspectives on bricks-and-mortar housing, firstly as a human need and secondly as a freely tradable investment are fundamentally incompatible. So the latter has to go.

In the late 1800s when the US was still parcelling out the land stolen from the indigenous peoples of the territory, the homesteads on offer, which usually included farmland, were legally created in an absolute form of ownership, sometimes known as allodial. The disadvantage here was that the occupier couldn’t raise a mortgage on the ‘homestead’.

So how to find a workable system of shelter or housing, that meets the 2nd fundamental human right, the right to shelter. And is secure?

The first step is relatively simple but may take years to evolve.

You place the financial structures affecting shelter in a legally subordinate role to the right itself.

The right to shelter defines the conditions under which shelter is provided. Not the other way round. That way a system, such as that in the UK and the USA, where there is a developed housing market that is a very large element of the financial system, has to accommodate two key elements of the right to shelter; the right to security of tenure, and an absolute right not to be deprived of shelter for arbitrary or financial reasons, with the burden of providing shelter delegated, irresponsibly, to the state, or rather the taxpayer.

One of the most successful historical experiments in effecting the provision of near universal housing or shelter, happened in what is now the Republic of Ireland. During an extended war of independence, variously datable from 1840 (and Daniel O’Connell) to the Irish Free State in 1921, the colonial occupier Great Britain, directly linked to a great many of the landowners in Ireland, found their Irish relatives being made bankrupt by the landless locals refusing to pay rents on their smallholdings on which they had no security of tenure. The Imperial government in London started a process of bailing out their associates in Ireland in the 1870’s. And thus began the process of creating a large element of freeholds, dwellings and small holdings, in Ireland. That process, accelerated by an unnecessary famine in 1845, which was accentuated by Government and local landowner mismanagement and grotesque incompetence, killed or drove into exile a quarter of the islands population. The famine collapsed confidence in the Imperial government and their Irish landlord associates, of being capable of delivering the first right, the right to life. The Irish figured that you needed possession and security of tenure, to safely keep a roof over your head. At one time recently the scale of freehold home ownership in the Irish Republic reached 81.8% (in 2003)

After a series of calamities within the unreformed capitalist system that figure had fallen to 68.1% by 2014, but was still one of the highest in the world. Ireland now has a rental and housing market infested with capitalist vulture funds and the kind of bandit capitalism that hit Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, according to the ultra capitalist George Soros.

Along with the vulture funds have come something almost unknown in the Republic of Ireland since the end of the famine period; repossessions, evictions and homelessness.

What the Irish Republic demonstrates is the need to have the three first rights firmly in situ, before you let unreformed capitalist carpetbaggers loose in the place.

The UK staggered into private home ownership, slowly, mostly after World War 1 (1914-1918), mostly by mistake and unconsciously.

Despite the invasion of the current market by leasehold and other financial ‘diseases’, private home ownership stands at just 50% of the population. About 20% of the UK population lives in social housing (renting a council or housing association home) Another 20% rent privately. The UK is currently suffering both a housing shortage at crisis levels, and rising homelessness, again.

During the Thatcher era a pretence was made of increasing private home ownership using the slogan ‘a property owning democracy’. The Thatcher government initiated a policy of selling off council housing to the tenants, forgetting or failing to invest the proceeds of sale with the councils so they could replace the sold off dwellings. This generated a significant shortage of new homes for sale or rent, in the market place, where those in possession of homes saw significant capital appreciation. And the market place saw a significant increase in rented homes, which may have been the Thatcher policy all along.

Politically its much easier to deal with renters in insecure dwellings, than with independent but bolshy freehold owners. In principle, the idea of a property owning democracy is a valid one. It gives the owner a degree of security and a stake in the currently unavoidable capitalist system. But it will only work if all homes, rented as well as freehold, have the same basic legal security of tenure.

Renting is much commoner on the continent of Europe but home ownership is growing in popularity. Renters on the continent, if they don’t have a basic right to security of tenure, have stronger legal protection against arbitrary eviction than in the UK.

Ownership and eviction

Security of tenure is the key to the successful restructuring of the actual housing market. This applies to the freehold ownership market as well. Neither corporations nor individuals should possess the right of eviction, for arbitrary or unexplained reasons, against people who own or rent.

With all dwellings protected by law, and with the well established legal principle of equality of arms applied to all transactions affecting a dwelling, the burden of proof must fall on the party seeking eviction, with dwellers, renters and freeholds given access to legal aid to balance the alleged rights of ‘owners’ This can be done using insurance but the appalling imbalance between owners and renters needs to be reversed. Rented property needs to be subject to registration, with offshore ownership prohibited. And subject to regular inspection against a set of standards without which a licence to rent should not be issued, at all.

The issue of ownership of land in the UK is the actual determinant according to which the housing stock, for sale or rent, reaches the market. The UK remains subject to huge and unregistered landed estates, mostly in rural areas. But its from the periphery of those estates that building land mostly emerges. Many of those estates are owned offshore, to avoid tax. The land registry needs total reform, so that the actual ownership of all landed estates and land, is, by law, located in the UK. And a legally responsible agent appointed.

There is no ancient right that says that ‘flogging off’ bits of land via a company in Switzerland or the Caribbean, should enable the owner, usually resident in the UK, to avoid capital gains tax, in the UK. Properly imposed capital gains tax makes land development tax simply another way of making extracting taxes from the super-rich, too complex to happen. Apart from the fact that most of the land that might have had a development land tax imposed on it is long gone into bricks and mortar already.

The United Kingdom, alongside most of Europe, is possessed of so-called ‘human rights laws’, none of which, however, include a right to secure tenure of a dwelling. To do so might inconvenience the bandits of unreformed capitalism, loose in our midst.

The European version, a gift from the UK, is called the European Convention of Human Rights. Both the UK and European human rights statutes contain a right to privacy which is now, despite all the vast and catastrophically expensive bureaucracy involved, extinct. This has happened in two ways, one of them pertinent to the need for a right to security of tenure as a basic right. Initially the UK Parliament transferred, via legislation, the agency for privacy, from the individual holder, to a part of the bureaucracy, the Information Commissioners Office.

That peculiar institution then arranged to hide itself behind over 900 pages of ‘regulatory balderdash’ relating to privacy. Far away in Strasburg, the European Court of Human Rights says that to bring a rights case to the court you must exhaust the issue in your local courts. Doing that in the UK, with professional legal support will set you back between £100,000 and £500,000, or more.

So, wedged between domestic bureaucratic corruption and incompetence, and political deviance, the distance between a workable right of any kind that an individual can use, are oceans of prohibatory regulation growing at the same rate as the distant cosmos and as useful to an ordinary citizen as is the ever enlarging periphery of that infinite universe.

Protection from eviction: a new Bill of Rights

The counter revolution in the UK needs to start with a constitution that jails people who breach it. Then, after the right to life, a right to security of tenure for each individual’s dwelling. And finally a land registry that records all landowners in the UK and taxes, in the UK, those who sell land, on any basis, in the UK.

The second way privacy was destroyed was by direct criminal attack. The UK House of Commons set out the facts, twice, naming the criminals on 17th April 2018 and again on 14th Feb 2019. The UK media never reported the Parliamentary evidence, itself bound up with possibly the greatest case of corporate tax dodging ever perpetrated in the UK, by the same OCG (Organised Criminal Group) which had destroyed privacy. Central to both crimes was excessive but non functional and corrupt bureaucracy, and laws which were worked around, mainly by lawyers, for money.

At the western end of the UK’s parliament building is the Victoria Tower. The tower contains most of the statutes enacted in the UK over hundreds of years. A good way to begin a revolution of rights would be to burn the Victoria Tower to the ground.

The object of most of the statutes in the Tower is to empower the powerful, protect the rich and demolish any rights that ordinary people might have. In recent years the statute book has become the means by which privacy was extinguished and tax dodging sanctioned. The statute book is actually a criminal instrument, not a repository of law.

And the first three rights in a new bill of rights, should be the right to life, then the right to security of a dwelling and finally the right to food and water. After that maybe we could start a whole new statute book, written for the people, by the people?

a landrights campaign for Britain

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