We had a lovely Friday afternoon protesting the latest auction viewings of Lambeth’s ‘short-life’ cooperative housing, housing in bad condition that decades ago was squatted or given to people on the housing waiting list for them to occupy and make liveable in return for rent. This week it was 10 and 21 Lillieshall Road in Clapham, just a five minute walk from Rectory Gardens. Apologies for the photos, my phone was clearly a little damp! But it only adds to the atmosphere.
We started out in the rain, and the reporter and the BBC cameraman were looking quite bedraggled as I walked up a few minutes late to join everyone, but spirits were high. Residents not at work were also out, and did the most beautiful job of engaging those who had come to see the residences before auction.
Julian has been quite brilliant in mobilising and bringing all of the residents together, below you can read his text for the deputation that the ‘short-life’ cooperatives sent to Lambeth Council. It lays out the importance of keeping this housing and the multiple vague statements of support and promises that have been made by Lambeth’s representatives.
The auction itself is taking place Mon 17th December, 12 noon, Hotel Russell, Russell Square. Be there if you can!
Deputation to Full Council Meeting, Lambeth Town Hall, 21st November 2012
Re: “shortlife” housing co-operatives
Delivered by Lambeth United Housing Co-operative
We’re sure that there is no one in this chamber who is now unaware of the issue of “shortlife” housing in Lambeth…
…and the complete nonsense that label has become nearly 40 years later!
Members of self-reliant, registered housing co-ops – of 4 decades standing – are being threatened with eviction by a supposedly co-operative council…
…and the process of “shortlife recall” is out of control…
…it threatens some of Lambeth’s longest-term residents and it undermines the credibility of this council’s collaborative aspirations.
We’ve reached this situation because of years of neglect on this issue by Lambeth – punctuated only by its abortive permanency deals and promises.
It can’t be right to betray communities and then purge them to raise funds through evictions…and in the process for Lambeth to pay out large amounts of money to lawyers, vacant property managers, contractors and auctioneers.
There’s a litany of failings here – and I know that there are plenty of people in this room who are uncomfortable with this –
…but If the council is not already aware of how this situation is perceived let me spell it out…
…first, how about some input from Lambeth’s own Co-operative Council Commissioners?
“I do certainly sympathise with your position” says one, “and view that it would be in the spirit of the 2011 Housing commission report, for Lambeth to work with you more collaboratively.”
Here’s another commissioner:
“I think it is important that they understand how to deal with legitimate challenges such as the ones you have raised. If they do not understand how to do this, there will be no hope for the development of a Cooperative Council.”
And finally one more Co-op Commissioner who simply said:
“Next time I see Steve, I am going to encourage him to get a grip on matters before the project loses its credibility.”
Well, let’s hope he finds the new leadership more credible!
And let’s not also forget Lambeth’s own councillors including Cllrs Wellbelove, Haselden and O’Malley who said:
“We have reminded colleagues and officers that some of these homes would not be standing if it was not for the work of the people living in them.”
They also remarked that…
“It would be senseless as well as expensive to evict people only to have to re-house them again.”
Even the people who come to buy our houses are not impressed!
“Why don’t they just give you tenancies?” one said.
“It’s ridiculous isn’t it, after 25-30 years or more?” said another
“I’d rather be dealing with Westminster, at least they are honest about being nasty.”
But also on the flipside of this, is one charming lady who typified the purge of a community:
“I’ve listened to what you have said about your community being here for nearly forty years but I don’t care, I want that house.”
…and whoops there goes the neighbourhood!
We are not asking for favouritism but the chance to continue living along co-operative lines.
We are not asking the council to repair our homes, we want to continue to do this within a co-op – at no cost to the borough – and apply our experience to empty homes.
So, Lambeth – rather than funding reserves and services through evictions – engage with the ‘Super Co-op’ solution that will both guarantee and extend social housing in the borough.