A protest camp named after Councillor John Lines who’s responsible for the city’s housing, was established last Thursday on derelict land owned by Birmingham City Council. Cllr. Lines has denied there is a homeless problem in Birmingham and also denies there is money available to build new ‘social housing’. The occupied land has been unused for around seven years whilst there are over 30,000 people in the city waiting for housing. The protest is against the Council holding on to land that could be sold at a ‘friendly’ price to Housing associations thereby allowing Housing Associations to draw up to £100m of grants to provide ‘social housing’. “At a cost of £50,000 per unit, the £100m could provide around 2,000 homes” said one of the protesters. They claim the Council’s approach is speculative - by holding onto unused land and buildings with a view to selling them off to the highest commercial bidder.
'The John Lines’ Homeless Village' consists of tents, a fire, cooking facilities and is located on the Pershore Road in Balsall Heath. Originally the camp was intended to last a week, but now protesters are trying to stay there as long as they can. Up until now the Council have made no plans to meet or talk with the protesters. They have been served with a notice to quit by Birmingham City Council and are due in court this Friday.
A group of around 30 people from different parts of the city regularly sleep over at the camp, some of whom are on waiting lists for social housing and some homeless people have also joined the camp. The protesters have also attended and disrupted a council meeting yesterday where according to the local press, they threatened to occupy the roof of the home of Councillor Lines, and Lines in return has 'threatened to set his dogs on them'.
Protesters at the camp are keen on meeting visitors who want to express some solidarity. They are also in need of food, blankets and donations.