Grassroots housing movements can change a city

By Veronica Harradence (@v_harradence)

Grassroots housing movements can change a city. This is a sentiment that has inspired individuals across Manchester to form their own branch of ACORN. ACORN, a housing and anti-poverty union, currently run in Manchester by volunteers, aim to support and win campaigns. We are group of people who passionately work and fight for a huge range of issues in relation to poverty and the housing crisis. We aim to support and supply people with the platform and skills to feel empowered to proactively create political and economic power of their own to the benefit of all.

In 2016 and 2017 Manchester City Council granted nearly 15,000 new homes to be built across the city. However, not one of these new homes fall under the government definition of affordable, and are unattainable for most. This is just one example and explanation of why Manchester is in the midst of a housing crisis and one reason why ACORN are working towards challenging and changing this, in favour of everyone.

Since ACORN Manchester formed in January 2018 we have focused mostly on housing issues, which have included lobbying landlords to make repairs, preventing illegal evictions and campaigning for policy change. Most people are aware of the huge homeless issue that Manchester is currently in the middle of, which can be a lot more visible dependent on your location. Aside from Brighton and two inner London Boroughs, Manchester has the highest figure of homelessness across the country. Long term, safe and secure housing is in dire need for many individuals, families and neighbourhoods across Manchester. Cuts and organisational inefficiency make these basic rights inaccessible and unaffordable to the many and are affecting the most vulnerable. More broadly, ACORN combats inequality. In the UK today inequality is rife. The richest 10% of households hold 45% of wealth, while the poorest 50% own just 8.7%. We are fighting for everyone to have their fair share, supporting people to know their rights and to positively take a stand for our communities.

ACORN are often involved in a variety of events, sometimes working alongside and collectively with other unions and organisations nationally and locally such as Greater Manchester Housing Action. This Friday 15th June from 5.15pm at the Central Methodist Hall ACORN Manchester will be having a live discussion with Barcelona en Comú to discuss the importance of grassroots housing activism, and how it can lead to a broader movement to transform our cities.

Barcelona en Comú are a citizen party, their policies and agenda include defending communities, working towards social justice, transforming institutions with the desire to distribute power whilst empowering communities and citizens to control the future of their city. En Comú, formed in 2014, was inspired by the success of PAH, Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca or Platform for People Affected by Mortgages. This movement was triggered by the financial crisis of 2008 and the collapse of the Spanish housing market, where unemployment soared by 20% in Spain. It worked with an aim to take direct action in campaigning for housing rights. PAH organised citizens to defend themselves from unlawful evictions, challenging repressive laws and blocking bailiffs, whilst one of their most prominent activists and founders, Ada Colau, went on to become the first female mayor of Barcelona.

There will be discussions at this event in relation to all of the above, the political economy of the housing crisis on a larger scale in addition to input from ACORN Manchester in relation to recent wins and the logic behind organising. We will discuss where to focus our direction going forward as well as welcoming and encouraging audience input and interaction.

ACORN is a mass membership organisation which means the more members that join, the more we can win and the more counter-power we can build in our city. Our involvement with campaigns and cases have made the difference between individuals and communities being continuously ignored for months on end by a variety of organisations, landlords or councils, to being able to fix the problem in less than one day (our record is one hour!). ACORN have successfully supported those who have been unlawfully threatened with an eviction notice to then obtain a 12-month contract and repair work. We have taken direct action against banks, landlords, letting agents and councils and won.

The power of a union like ACORN and PAH and the power of citizen led parties like Barcelona en Comú are undeniable and are incredibly important in working towards ending poverty discrimination and to empower communities and citizens. Achieving this in Manchester is proving to be attainable with the continued support of people that want to fight for a more equal, just, and community-led city.

There's power in a union, join today at


14 June 2018