Posts Tagged ‘Public housing’

The campaign the save a housing cooperative, which Lambeth Save Our Services supports, has got some good coverage in both last week’s South London Press and this week’s South London Press
part 1
part 2

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demo 12 april 2013

As we stood in the snow today, holding the banner and passing out leaflets — about what the bedroom tax is, why people need to know and why we need to stop it — we did wonder how people manage activism in places where it’s really cold. Like Russia.

We definitely thought we needed to occupy more things until the summer gets here, as Spring definitely seems bent on giving us a miss, and doing things inside seems like the best ‘new’ idea anyone’s ever had. It wasn’t nearly as miserable as any of us thought, and I have proof.

March 23rd, 2013 - Lambeth SOS Stop the Bedroom Tax

Look how happy people look!

March 23rd, 2013 - Lambeth SOS Stop the Bedroom Tax

I have been wanting a raincoat like that for a very long time. I think of it as Philip Marlowe, but everyone else thought French Resistance. I guess they’re cool too (This is from a fashion site, so I’m not sure if it’s real or a film. But I like it):

I don’t think it would be a terrible thing if we were to all look like these ladies! The Lambeth Action Pensioners Group was stylish as ever as well

March 23rd, 2013 - Lambeth SOS Stop the Bedroom Tax

And of course, Dan showing his true colors

March 23rd, 2013 - Lambeth SOS Stop the Bedroom Tax

The bedroom tax is going to hit in April, and it cuts housing benefit by 14% for anyone who has an extra room. Here in Lambeth we all know that there are no empty smaller units for people to move into. The council has no plans to build more, and they are busy evicting people from the cooperative housing once known as ‘short-life’, but now in existence for decades. Those folks are supposedly getting bumped to the top of the lists.

IMAG0247After the leafletting we retired to the Albert for a short meeting about what next, it was a really nice coming together I thought, and there were a lot of us! Ellen from the Pensioners Action Group was saying how many of these cuts will affect grandparents whose children have moved out, or who have been left widowed. These spare rooms are vital to our elders, allowing them to have visits from their children, but also as so many of them take care of grandchildren. These spare rooms are vital to the ways that extended families are getting by and getting through these hard times, we need to fight for them.

Councils in Brighton and Hove have come out to publicly declare that they will not evict anyone over the bedroom tax. This is now the policy of the Scottish National Party. When the Green Party recently wrote to Lambeth’s Labour council to ask if they would follow this example and defend the community that elected them, Liz Peck replied that:

“…as a council we have a responsibility to all our tenants to collect rent and there should be no difference in how we treat arrears coming from the bedroom tax to those that accrue as a result of other Government policies. To do so would send a message to residents that they do not need to work with us to tackle the problem caused by the bedroom tax and that they can continue to under-occupy with the council meeting the shortfall.”

In short, they will implement the tax, and start evicting tenants. It is clear that we must bring pressure to bear to keep our community in their homes! We are currently confirming the time and place for the next meeting around the issue to be held in mid April. We’ll post that on the website and on facebook. The campaign is still forming as cities all over the country are protesting the tax. The action today was called by Defend Council Housing as part of the Benefit Justice Campaign, and of course was also sponsored by Lambeth SOS, Lambeth Unison, the Lambeth Pensioners Action Group, Disabled People Against Cuts and…I hope I’m not missing anyone out!

The beautiful UK Uncut has also called a day of action around the bedroom tax for the 13th of April. For more information check out their new facebook page here, and we’ll be in the thick of things, so you can email us as well!

For more info on the bedroom tax, and how it connects to all of the other cuts, pressure on job centres to cut people off the lists and everything else, there is a short and immensely powerful video from the guardian, and a few articles giving fairly clear roundups of everything that is hitting our community, one from the AntiCapitalist Initiative, another from johnnyvoid, and a third from the Guardian. That’s just a start, the volume of information is rapidly building

599071_543001465730770_1280623140_n[below please find the speech from the delegate for Lambeth Living to the Mayor and Council on February 27th. I’m afraid the council wasn’t at all responsive, so you’ll be hearing more about this campaign…]

Mr Mayor, Councillors, thank you for agreeing to listen to me.

My name is Edward Owoyemi and I am the UNISON Convenor for Lambeth Living.

 

The managers in Lambeth Living have put forward proposals to reduce by half the sick pay entitlements of their staff.

We think that this proposal is irrelevant to the priorities of tenants and residents. The last tenants survey told us that their priorities are repairs and maintenance, being treated fairly and the quality of their homes.

Nothing about attacking housing workers’ sick pay.

Our members are opposed to reducing sick pay. It is an attack on workers when they are at their most vulnerable and could cause real hardship to real people. It is an attack on the entire workforce and, if it is not withdrawn, it is very likely indeed to lead to a dispute.

Why are they making this proposal?

I am afraid that we really don’t know.

We asked management if they could give us detailed information about how many staff had been off sick and for how long. We asked for this information more than three weeks ago.

We are still waiting.

We asked management if they could tell us what sick pay had cost Lambeth Living over the recent past. We asked for this information more than three weeks ago.

We are still waiting.

We asked management if they could tell us what they had done to comply with the public sector equality duty in coming up with these proposals. We asked for this information more than three weeks ago.

We are still waiting.

Lambeth Living have no business case for this proposal.

The have no equality impact assessment of this proposal.

They have set out to provoke and annoy their entire workforce.

And they don’t even seem to know why.

This would not be happening to us if we worked directly for you, the Council.

The trade unions have an agreement with the Council that you will not change the conditions of service of staff without trade union agreement.

We are here to ask you please to use your influence with Lambeth Living to encourage them to adopt a sensible and progressive approach to employee relations and to withdraw the threat to our sick pay.

Lambeth Council is at an advanced stage of flogging off the last of its “short life” properties to private property developers. Evictions of the people in them are starting next month and those emptied are being sold at auction.

Once Lambeth had about 1200 of these properties, houses in such bad state of repair that they were given to people on the housing list at no or low rents to do up themselves. Today they have about 170 left. Some residents have been in these “short life” houses for 30 or 40 years and are now in their 60s and 70s.

Many are run by housing co-operatives a number of whom have now grouped together in a “super-co-op” to campaign against the sell off and propose an alternative co-operative solution ( see  http://www.lambethunitedhousingco-op.org.uk/ ) But this is no block to council selling these houses off to the private market and destroying the co-ops, and with them well established communities. The residents have often spent thousands of pounds putting in new windows, central heating and on general repairs. They were given to them precisely because at the time the councils wouldn’t spend the money on them.

Last July a small group of cabinet members decided to push ahead and terminate all short life properties, revoking the licences and putting them on the market. Since then there have been a series of court cases with the Council trying to evict or harass people to leave. Private Eye reckons that at least £175,000 has been spent paying the legal firm Devonshire’s bills so far.

Lambeth council rejected offers from social landlords to take over these properties. A local Co-op Ekarro offered to pay 25-27% of value to keep them in social ownership – it was refused. For a long time Lambeth claimed it was negotiating a deal with Notting Hill Housing Association and needed the tenants to leave to achieve it. It soon became clear this housing association turned property developer was going to sell off 80% to the private market keeping only 20% for social housing! This deal fell through as well. So with its eyes on £32 million worth of property Lambeth turned to the private market itself, entering a hugely expensive process paying off a series of corporate vultures.

Money no object

When a property is vacated the Council pays to make it uninhabitable to “stop squatting”. Later, it pays a multinational Camelot to go in and make it habitable again for its “Guardians”, people often in desperate housing need who live in the property. The council then pays a fee of anything up to £100 a week for Camelot “protecting” the property.The Guardians, who have no tenant rights, live in the property paying Camelot a deposit of £500-600 and paying a “rent” of up to £65 a week. Little wonder this Netherlands based multinational had a turnover of £20 million in 2011.

The council then has to pay auction houses like Andrews and Robertson fees to sell properties at an average of 30-40% below market prices. A recent 10-bedroom house in The Chase in Clapham, cleared of short life tenants, was sold for £1.6 million. At the same time a much smaller house in the same street was being marketed for £2.6 million.

How much will be left of the £32 million after the lawyers, multi-nationals and auction houses take their cut is anyone’s guess. Where the money will go is another unanswered question. What is certain very little will go into providing new social housing because Lambeth does not build any. Lambeth Council has said “We are selling off properties that are uneconomic to refurbish and part of the money generated will go into the Single Capital Programme of which in part will be used to allocated housing” (our emphasis)

Lambeth Council argues that all evicted “short life” tenants will be offered priority on Choice Based Lettings in council housing. But this misses the point – the members of these co-ops do not want to move and see their communities destroyed. Neither do they want to take someone else’s place on the council waiting lists because Lambeth is selling off publicly owned housing into the private sector without replacing it. Lambeth already has 25,000 on its waiting lists and only 25,000 councils properties – by selling its housing it is just contributing to London’s housing crisis.

Fighting back

The co-op members are not going quietly. They are fighting the council in the courts, where in a series of shambolic appearances by council lawyers, things have moved very slowly. The Co-ops have the support of local MP Kate Hoey, who even forced an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the issue last December.

With evictions now starting and property going under the hammer at auction protests must be stepped up locally. Lambeth SOS is supporting all short-life tenants and Co-op members who want to fight. For information about the campaign contact Stuart King on 07944 040363.

Public service trade union, UNISON, has today condemned the chaotic management of Lambeth’s troubled “Arms Length Management Organisation” (ALMO) Lambeth Living.

On the evening of Wednesday 26 January it was announced to the board of the ALMO that the Chief Executive had left. This happened on the same day that staff had been told, in response to rumours, that the Chief Executive had not left and came just weeks after the sudden departure of another Director.

“Housing staff are trying to get on with their jobs, but are being badly let down by senior management and the ALMO Board led by Keith Hill,” commented UNISON Branch Secretary Jon Rogers. “There is no question now but that Lambeth Living has failed and that Lambeth Councillors should bite the bullet and take direct responsibility for the management of council housing in Lambeth.”

UNISON is calling upon Lambeth to stop the ALMO proceeding with damaging cuts to front line services which were championed by the senior managers who have now left.

“Estate Services Officers threatened with redundancy have been out there day in, day out, helping tenants,” said Mr Rogers, “in the mean time some of the senior managers who decided to sack these hard working staff have been leaving. Lambeth Living as an organisation is now a bad joke.”

Friday, 05 November 2010 in the South London press. Full article: http://www.southlondonpress.co.uk/news.cfm?id=39143

COUNCIL house rents could more than treble in a borough due to government reforms, figures reveal.

New tenants could see a rise of more than 330 per cent in the next year under the plans.

The Chancellor George Osborne said last month that social housing rents for new tenancies would be set at 80 per cent of the private sector.

In Southwark, the council said this would see the average weekly cost for a four-bedroom home increase from £95 to £416.

A three-bedroom home would increase from £86 to £322 and a two-bed from £80 to £193.

From April next year the Government also plans to cut local housing benefit.

It will be £250 a week for a one-bedroom property, £290 a week for a two-bed, £340 a week for a three-bed and £400 for a property with four bedrooms or more.

Councillors believe thousands of people will not be able to afford the higher rents and be forced to live elsewhere or seek help from town halls to be housed in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs.

Lambeth council said it had started to house people in B&B accommodation after a major supplier of temporary properties said it was no longer accepting housing benefit tenants.

Lambeth’s cabinet member for housing Councillor Lib Peck said: “A lot of the private landlords will just withdraw from the scheme because they won’t get enough money from housing benefits.

“We are going to face a real problem with housing people. These are people who are classified as homeless and need temporary accommodation.

“Bed and breakfast accommodation is awful. It is costly and unsuitable for the people who live there.”