From small Acorns grow mighty oaks: here’s why you should join the UK’s fastest growing tenants union
- 80,000 people on social housing lists
- Many tenants sometimes struggle to pay rent and bills
- Acorn are focused on tackling the housing crisis
In a recent survey conducted by student housing charity Uni poll it was reported the average cost of student accommodation had jumped up by a third in a six year period. One of the main causes for the significant rise in price is the slow shift to up market renting in the private market.
The average annual rent for 2018/19 is £6,366, up six per cent on the previous year and by a third on 2012/13. In London the average is £8,875 and for the rest of the UK £5,928.
This is estimated to take up 73% of the average student loan in rent prices alone.
This does not just affect students. Manchester has one of the fastest rising rents outside of London. This has left over 80,000 people on social housing lists. Many renters are now vunerable at the hands of rogue landlords who often let their tenants live in subpar conditions while still profiting from it.
Some quick maths: 300 properties, rented at let’s say an average of £900 a month, means this landlord makes back that £25,000 fine in just under three days. For repeatedly refusing to provide an absolutely basic necessity to a tenant.
— ACORN Manchester (@AcornManchester) December 13, 2018
Due to the sharp rise in rent and huge cuts to housing benefits from the conservative government, many tenants sometimes struggle to pay rent and bills leading some to even face eviction from their landlord, a contributing factor in the current rise of homelessness in the UK.
Currently one organisation in the Uk and Ireland fighting for tenants rights is Acorn Tenants Union who are doing excellent work on behalf of both private tenants and students renting. I spoke with Kat, a leading member of Acorn to discuss the union.
Kat used her own words to describe the union.
“Acorn is community union, we started in the UK five years ago in Bristol, we have now got branches in Brighton, Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, and Belfast with a sister organisation in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“Acorn’s part of a bigger project, so there’s Acorn International, we have got branches all over the world including India and Guatemala, but in the UK we started off primarily because of the housing crisis because it was so tangible and it’s such a wide spread problem across the UK and Ireland.”
I also asked her to tell me what Acorn does to help people.
“So, in Manchester we established about a year ago to this date, we’ve got a couple of different components to what we do. The first is member defence so on the ground we defend individual members, that may be from eviction, to get their landlords to make repairs to lobby against rogue landlords but we also campaign for wider policy change, so it’s tackling the housing crisis or whatever the problems might be.
“In Manchester we are just focused on housing but we do plan on branching out to other things. So we focus on an individual level, stopping evictions making repairs and campaigning for a wider policy change on a national level.”
Can students join Acorn?
“Yeah we’re actually in the process of staring a student Manchester Acorn branch, we’ve got a few students who are involved. At the start of the year we had quite allot of students because students notoriously get screwed over by their landlords, usually because they don’t live there for very long, they’re not in a position where the landlord respects them and so they’re often living in houses that are subpar, that are unsafe and that aren’t fit for purpose. We often step in on their cases and it became such a big thing that we decided to start student acorn in Manchester separately.”
How do you join Acorn?
“If you go on the website or type in Join Acorn the Union it will come up with a form and you can choose what city you’re in and well immediately get in contact with you, telling you what’s going on. We have monthly meetings, monthly socials, we do recruitment, we do door knocking so, if we knock on your door in your area say hi, make us a cup of tea because it’s cold out.”
Acorn Manchester now currently have over 100 members and is still growing fast. Both students and private tenants are feeling the need to fight back against rising rent prices and rogue landlords to create fairer renting conditions for everyone in society. This could be one of the first steps to fixing the current housing crisis that stands in Britain today.
Being a member of Acorn can offer huge benifits, Acorn can assist in any rent or deposit disputes, will make sure tenants have a good standard of living and will assist in any disputes tenants may have over repairs or general maintence of their property . They seek to uphold the rights of tenants not just in Manchester but across the U.K. and Ireland too.
For more information, go to Acorn’s website.
For more information on the survey, check out the Housing charity Unipol’s research.