Today, Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth people were involved in the occupation of 21 & 23 Park street buildings in protest at Southwark council’s sell off of these council houses. See our press release from earlier here. Sadly, the buildings were sold off this afternoon for almost £3 million, diminishing Southwark’s public housing stock. Through this sell off Southwark council have shown their complete lack of interest in ensuring quality, secure and truly affordable housing for residents and have made it clear that they do not think people on low incomes should be able to live in the Borough area.
On the plus side, the protest occupation is still going strong. Although the police did visit this afternoon with the intention of removing the protestors, the police acknowledged that the law brought in last year to criminalise squatting in residential properties did not apply in this instance as this is a political occupation – section 144 of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act makes it a criminal offence to live in a residential building, occupying it in protest is not the same as living in it. This is an important challenge to section 144 and shows a potential loophole for people to occupy residential buildings.
If you can, get down to 21 & 23 Park street, just off Borough market, to show your support. Donations of food would be welcome.
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth are meeting this Wednesday, 6.30pm at Renton Close Community Centre, Brixton Hill where we discuss our housing problems, provide support for each other and discuss collective action. It is important that this meeting is a safe space for people to be able to discuss any housing problems they may have without fear of confidential information being broadcast in the public domain. Therefore, it would be unsuitable for journalists to attend this meeting.