As well as having a protest outside the council meeting on 20th November we also sent a delegation inside. Pilgrim Tucker from Unite Community read the following statement. It was greeted with cheers from the public gallery and muted murmurs of approval from some councillors
My name is Pilgrim Tucker. I am the co-ordinator of Unite the Union Community membership in London. I am presenting this deputation with members of Unite Community in Lambeth and other housing activists on behalf of many local groups and individuals who are urging Lambeth Council to do more for their residents on the issue of social housing in the borough.
For some time now we have been working alongside tenants, residents and members of the community on the issue of decent, affordable homes for all. What we have found and continue to fight against is the anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity caused by the wretched bedroom tax and benefit caps brought in by this government.
These measures will hit thousands in our community. Across the borough tenants are living with the fear of homelessness because of rent arrears and the possibility of being uprooted from neighbourhoods where they may have lived all their lives.The council should act to prevent this insecurity, by reassuring the tenants that they will not be evicted due to the bedroom tax, and set an example to housing associations that are already starting legal proceedings against tenants.
To add to this council property and land is being sold to private developers leading to a reduction in social housing in the borough. Where new tenancies for social housing for tenants are proposed they include unaffordably high rents and shorter, more insecure tenancies.
The policy of ‘short life’ recall threatens people who have been in their homes since the 1970s. Pensioners are among these people who have maintained social housing that the council abandoned. These people were given categorical promises by their Labour councillors that their right to stay in their homes would be defended!
The council says it is using the proceeds from the sale of council owned land and void properties to refurbish existing council properties, but this is a short sighted approach. We need to stop the sale of existing council housing and go further – to start to build new social housing which is available at rents that ordinary local people can actually afford to pay.
Without such action we will see soaring rents and the destruction of secure tenancies for our communities, and risk the loss of the vibrant diverse population and culture for which Lambeth is rightly celebrated.
To have a decent home is a basic human need without which well-being and progress is not possible. With the increase in soup kitchens and homelessness in Lambeth we call upon this council to:
Make a public commitment that no legal action will be taken against tenants who are in arrears due to the the bedroom tax and benefit cuts.
Take no disciplinary action against staff that refuse to be involved with legal action and evictions against tenants.
Give tenancies to those currently occupying short life co-op housing in Lambeth.
Stop the transfer of council land and property to private developers.
Build 100% council homes at low rents with secure tenancies.
Pressure the government to abolish the bedroom tax, restore benefit cuts and undergo a massive, publicly owned house building programme to end this crisis.