Overcrowding is a public health crisis – we need 3, 4, 5 bed council homes now!
Southwark Council has spent more than two years blaming Milton’s family for being severely overcrowded and punished them by placing them into band 4 of the waiting list where they would never be able to get the permanent council housing they desperately need. Even during the height of lockdown, when Milton was still going to work as a cleaner, worried that he would bring Covid19 home to his family and their tiny studio flat, the council insisted they were to blame for the overcrowding.
But last week, with the incredible solidarity of HASL members and Public Interest Law Centre, Southwark Council finally placed the family into band 3 on the housing waiting list. This is a huge step forward for Milton’s family and they are overjoyed, but they are STILL awaiting the statutory overcrowding priority that they are owed!
200 Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth members joined together across London to
support Milton and the family’s campaign. It was really moving to witness such a strong display of unity in a time when the group has been forced to remain apart. We shared our photographs from home and our workplaces in an ever-growing twitter thread!
Sky-high private rents, welfare cuts, low wages and the long-term sell off of council housing cause overcrowding. Nobody chooses to live in cramped, often unsanitary conditions in which it is immensely stressful to cook, sleep and home-school.
So why are Southwark council so intent on blaming their own residents who are living in some of the most severely overcrowded housing in the borough?
We know that Milton’s case is not a one-off. We’ve seen many other similar decisions blaming families for overcrowding and we’re supporting our members to challenge them and campaigning in support of all overcrowded families.
The Coronavirus has highlighted and compounded the existing immense health risk of living in overcrowded housing. We’ve been making videos of our experiences of overcrowded housing during lockdown. Sharing small and crowded conditions has huge impacts on mental and physical health. It’s now clear that these households are also at a significantly greater risk of the virus.
Many HASL members are from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority groups who face extensive racist prejudice from landlords and local government on a daily basis. While only 2% of White British households are overcrowded, 30% of Bangladeshi households and 15% of Black African households are. When this appalling statistic is considered alongside recent data from Public Health England and the New Policy Institute that states the significantly increased risk of BAME people to suffer from Covid, it is even more shocking that local government is willing to deprive anybody of their right to access safe, secure and decent housing.
Milton and his family should never have been treated like this by Southwark Council. They deserve good quality housing, and not to be blamed for their situation. The council should be focussing it’s resources on how to help people, especially during a pandemic. They need permanent council housing now, and no other family should have to go through this again!