Defend Council Housing (DCH) activists have occupied a flat in Streatham, south London, in protest at Lambeth council’s policy of selling off its housing stock despite the chronic shortage of accommodation in the borough.
The activists are demanding that the council withdraw the flat from the market immediately – along with the other properties that are due to be auctioned by the council next Monday 6 April.
One of those occupying the flat told Socialist Worker, “The council has a policy of selling off properties that it claims would be too expensive to do up.
“But the condition of this two-bedroom flat shows the madness of that policy. In fact it is in better condition than the flat the council gave me two years ago.”
The flat, at 27 Howland House, (on the Sackville Estate, Leighham Ave, off Streatham hight Street, SW16 2TG) is just one of the council flats currently being sold off at rock-bottom prices by Lambeth council.
Steve Hack from DCH told Socialist Worker, “Why is the council selling flats at a time when more and more people are facing homelessness through repossessions and redundancy?
“There are already 17,000 people on Lambeth’s housing waiting list and almost 2,000 people in temporary accommodation. Two thirds of those need a two-bedroom home just like the one at 27 Howland House.
“We demand that Lambeth withdraw this, and other council properties, from the planned auction on Monday.
“Lambeth council say they can only keep to their budget by selling properties and having massive rent increases. We believe that it’s not good enough to punish ordinary council tenants—and the thousands of people who would like to be council tenants—because of a financial crisis we didn’t create.
“If the government can find money to bail out failing banks then why not give local authorities the resources they need to tackle the housing crisis?”
In February 2009 Lambeth council said that it had 688 “long cycle” empty homes and 194 “short cycle” empty homes. Lambeth tenants council voted against the sale of any “void” properties this week and demanded that the local authority explain their policy of sell offs.
UPDATE At 5pm police evicted the occupation. But local residents are still determined to stop the sell-off of empty council houses in Lambeth.
Defend Council Housing and local residents have called a protest rally at the flat for Saturday at 11am and will protest at the auction on Monday morning. For more information call 07834 828 292