Lambeth Council push homeless into the private sector

 

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Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth have uncovered Lambeth Council’s dirty tactics of pushing homeless applicants for social housing into the private sector. Since November 2012 councils in the UK have been granted the authority by the Conservative government to dispose of homeless people into the private sector, yet as recently as June this year Lambeth claimed in Freedom of Information Requests not to have used this power. The Localism Act, see also here, which introduced the policy, undermines access to decent and affordable housing for all and means that councils can claim that the demand for social housing has fallen thereby allowing them to continue to sell off or underdevelop social housing stock.

Despite their statements otherwise, Lambeth are in fact pushing families and individuals applying for council housing into the private sector, as one member of HASL has recently experienced. Lambeth are effectively forcing those bidding on council housing while in (most often very cramped and unsuitable) temporary accommodation to “cooperate with the council to prevent homelessness” by taking up privately rented accommodation. Those who comply are moved to a higher council housing priority band, from C to B. As one HASL member has said “I have no choice.”

Applicants for social housing are forced to decide between waiting in unsuitable temporary accommodation on a lower priority band or being moved into the private sector where:

- In the overwhelming majority of cases Housing Benefit alone will not cover private rents in the borough.

- Renters are forced to work but remain in a poverty trap being told, like one member of HASL, not to earn too much; she can only apply for jobs with a low wage or risk losing her housing benefits and becoming homeless.

- Many landlords refuse to rent to those on benefits (For an example see here)

- For these reasons the individual or family remains threatened by homelessness.

Lambeth are discussing what work they can do to pay extortionate rents in the area, yet as we have said before, housing benefit already acts as a subsidy for private landlords.

Finally, Lambeth’s tactic bribe of a move up the priority band for social housing becomes voided as more people enter band B than ever before. Again thanks to the powers granted via the Localism Act councils can determine with government guidance who is deserving of the slim quantities of social housing. Increasingly across London this is becoming reserved for those in work or ‘volunteering’ and as politicised provision for ex-servicemen.

Instead of maintaining a housing policy where homeless families and individuals are given social housing in the borough, Lambeth Labour Council have willingly adopted a Tory policy via blackmailing people into picking precarious private tenancies. Tenancies with such high rents can only be payed for with the perfect mix of benefits and low wages otherwise you’re back at Olive Morris House once more declaring yourself homeless.

Social housing for all!

Solidarity with protestors challenging LASPO section 144

Protest occupation

We’ll be supporting our friends of Camden Housing Action Group who are in court next week for their protest occupation against the sell-off of council housing by Camden council. More details below. Please join and share their facebook event here.

2 protestors who occupied a residential building owned by Camden council in protest at its sell-off and the wider sell-off of council housing across London, will be at Highbury Corner Magistrates court next Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th August.

They are being charged under the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act section 144 which makes it a criminal offence to live or intend to live in an abandoned residential building. Section 144 criminalises homeless people trying to find a home. It also criminalises protesters who are trying to take action against the housing crisis through protest occupations such as this one.

Come along for court support to show your solidarity. Join us outside the court at 9.30am, bring placards and banners. We’ll then head in for the court case at 10am.

Quality, secure, affordable social housing for all! Scrap LASPO section 144!

More info on the protest occupation here: http://camdenhousingaction.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/camden-council-houses-occupied-in-stoptheselloffs-protest/

Previous cases successfully challenging LASPO section 144 include:

http://housingactionsouthwarkandlambeth.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/occupation-against-southwark-sell-off-still-going-at-park-street/

http://rooftopresistance.squat.net/fuck-s144-some-quick-analysis-of-the-brighton-case/

http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2013/11/513573.html

Get involved!

This Saturday we attended the London Coalition Against Poverty (which HASL is a part of) Annual General Meeting. LCAP meetings are always really helpful and interesting meetings as they provide the chance for the different housing and welfare action groups from across London to share what issues they have been facing, tactics they have been using, and other ideas for action. We used some of the time to plan what we would like to do over the year ahead – as our communities face soaring rents, increased evictions, benefit sanctions, rising food bank use, and falling wages. Our short brain storming session led to a load of exciting projects that we’d like to take forward including:

Direct action casework training sessions to talk about and role play tactics and reflect on the model. The training sessions would be useful for those already in groups and also for those who are interested in starting up a local group in their area.

Information trainings – for example, working tax credits workshop, benefit sanctions workshop. These two types of training would of course overlap, so as part of a benefit sanctions workshop we would also have time to discuss practical collective action to enforce and extend our rights.

Information gathering and actions on councils discharging their duty to homeless people through the private sector and also on housing associations who are mistreating their tenants, regenerating and evicting estates, and essentially behaving like private landlords.

It’d be great to have more people’s input and energy with these projects and any other ideas you’d like to contribute. If you are interested in getting involved or you’d like to be kept updated on LCAP’s activities drop us an email at haslemail@gmail.com and we’ll get back to you. Come along to our next meeting which will be on Friday 3rd October at 1pm in Kilburn (more details to be confirmed) hosted by the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group.

As HASL, as well as contributing to the LCAP activities above, we’ve also got lots of plans for activities locally.

We’re organising an anti-gentrification walk around Brixton to take a look at some of the major changes/cleansing in our neighbourhoods, including some of the struggles emerging on estates such as Myatts Field North and Loughborough Park Guinness Trust, stories from Brixton past, and the growing number of artisan food places and new housing developments with no social housing, ending up at Windrush square and sharing food together.

We’re also hoping to organise a film showing of the Berlin housing struggles film Rent Rebels.

We also regularly meet to support each other with our housing issues by sharing information (both from our personal experiences and from our developing understanding of the more formal/legal rights and processes) and ideas, and planning actions around these.

Again, if you’d like to get involved in helping with any of the above or join our announcements email and text alerts, get in contact! haslemail@gmail.com or come along to our next meeting, Wednesday 27th August, 6.30pm at Renton Close Community Centre, Brixton Hill, SW2 1EY. Everyone angry at social cleansing, soaring rents and benefit cuts and who wants to do something about it welcome!

Join Guinness Trust residents’ twitter storm. Stop the evictions, local social housing NOW.

HASLmeme

Tweet @GuinnessPartnership Wednesday 23rd July, 1-3pm

If you add a full stop (.) at the start of the tweet, it will allow all your followers to see it too.

Guinness Trust residents on Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) on the Loughborough Park estate are facing eviction as their so-called social landlord, Guinness Partnership, has written them out of the regeneration plans. After many years living on the estate and being a part of the local community, AST residents are being evicted, made homeless and forced out of their community. We have written about this previously here, and have held a lively protest on the estate.

Residents have described the process as social and ethnic cleansing. The residents have also told us of the intense stress and worry that they have had to endure over the last couple of years, living on what is essentially a building site and watching the new homes be built whilst they wonder where they will end up living.

The residents have started up a campaign, supported by us and Lambeth Housing Activists, calling on Guinness Partnership to rehouse all AST residents in local, social housing (preferably in the new houses they have built on Guinness Trust, Loughborough Park so as to keep the community together). On Wednesday 23rd July from 1-3pm, join our Twitter storm letting Guinness Partnership know what you think about them making people homeless and destroying communities. Tell them that we want local, social housing for all AST residents. Feel free to use the tweet buttons below and also to write your own personal tweets to Guinness Partnership. Retweet other people’s tweets to get the word out and put the pressure on Guinness Partnership.

Not on Twitter? You can email Guinness Partnership on gs.mail@guinness.org.uk or leave a post on their facebook page here (where they apparently respond to your post within 3 working hours)

In solidarity with all those fighting evictions, social cleansing, gentrification, high rents and for our communities.

See you on the tweets!

 

Myatts field day of action – 25th July

Graffiti on the Myatts Field North redevelopment

Graffiti on the Myatts Field North redevelopment

Next Friday (25th July) at 10am at a location to be confirmed tenants will be taking action against the redevelopment of the Myatts Field North estate in Brixton which is being done through a Public Finance Initiative (PFI). A PFI is where a company has fronted the money and Lambeth will pay it back for years at rip off rates. Residents are already seeing:

  • Higher rents
  • Energy monopoly (EON will control the residents energy prices for the next 45 years)
  • Lease holders are being evicted and given poor compensation for their home
  • Green space has been lost
  • Residents have had no say in any of this so far

Myatts Field Residents say:

“We welcome housing groups , tenants from other estates and trade unions to join us at 10am on Friday 25th July (location to be confirmed!).
Wednesday 23rd July we will also be holding a residents meeting in the Bramah Green Community Centre at 7pm , members of the public are welcome to join in.

Please let us know if you are interested in coming to any of the above so we have an idea of the numbers .

The tremendous vote against privatisation on the neighbouring Cowley estate and the angry mood of residents living on the PFI redevelopment shows there is a momentum building in favour of council housing for all, and against the councils complicity with the private sector.”

Guinness Trust residents protest against evictions

 

Guinness Partnership - No evictions!

Guinness Partnership – No evictions!

Some photos of billowing banners and a sunny protest here

On Friday, Guinness Trust shorthold tenants held a loud and lively protest on the estate against evictions and demanding local, social housing. Assured Shorthold Tenants (ASTs) are threatened with eviction and homelessness as part of the estate’s ‘regeneration’. More information here including a tweet button to let ‘social’ landlords Guinness Partnership know what you think of their social cleansing plans.

Over thirty people joined the protest which saw the Guinness Partnership close their office on the estate for the afternoon. The residents’ campaign is supported by Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth and Lambeth Housing Activists. A number of secure tenants joined the protest and a group from the House Of Brag queer social centre in the old Joy shop, who have been making links with local Brixton struggles, came down to support. People played drums, chanted, and spoke with residents and passersby about what was happening to the ASTs.

There was a huge amount of support from the people we spoke with, especially other residents on the estate. On hearing that the Guinness Partnership were making his neighbours homelessness one man said: “it’s wrong, it’s wrong”. Another woman who lived on the estate expressed her anger at the Guinness Partnership’s actions and remarked how this was part of the wider gentrification of Brixton. Talking about all the new shops that have been springing up she asked, “who needs soda bread and ham that’s been cured for 28 days?”

Keep your eyes on this blog, facebook and twitter for more actions as part of the campaign calling on the Guinness Partnership to stop the evictions and provide ASTs with local, social housing. Get in touch with us if you’d like to get involved: haslemail@gmail.com

Focus E15 mums' March for Decent Housing. Photo credit: Peter Marshall, Demotix

Focus E15 mums’ March for Decent Housing. Photo credit: Peter Marshall, Demotix

Then, on Saturday we joined the Focus E15 mums’ campaign and people from other housing groups across London for the ‘March for Decent Housing’ through Newham. Like the ASTs on the Guinness Trust estate, Focus E15 mums are demanding local, social housing after Newham council tried to move the mums out of London into private accommodation in Manchester and Hastings. The campaign saw them win a partial victory as they have been housed in their home borough of Newham, however, the Focus E15 mums are calling for local, secure and affordable social housing for their families and for everyone.

 

Struggling with a housing issue? Angry at high rents, poor housing, and evictions in your communities? Come along to our next meeting, Thursday 10th July, 12pm, Papa’s cafe meeting room, 2-10 Pulross Road, SW9 8AF.

 

Energy rights workshop with HASL and Fuel Poverty Action – Tuesday 8th July

Join us and Fuel Poverty Action on Tuesday 8th July, 6.30pm at Art Nouveau, 77 Atlantic Road, Brixton, SW9 8PU to learn about our energy rights, how we can enforce these, and how we can take action together for warm homes for all.

It’s summer – but people are struggling to pay rip-off energy bills year round and with winter around the corner, it’s a good time to get clued up on our rights, how we can support each other with our energy issues, and discuss what action we can take together to combat fuel poverty in our communities. A recent article in a Glasgow newspaper showed that people visiting the local food bank were using camping stoves indoors to cook food because they couldn’t afford their gas and electric bills. People cannot afford to cook their food and lives are endangered as people resort to desperate measures such as camping stoves to get warm food.

Please find our poster below and spread the word!

Energy rights workshop