Author Archives: HASL

Solidarity with the Aylesbury Estate Occupation!


Numerous Southwark housing campaigns and other local activists warmly welcome the ongoing occupation of a number of empty homes on the Aylesbury Estate. The current occupation of Chartridge block on the Aylesbury Estate has brought a much-needed spark of inspiration to local residents and housing campaigners.

Southwark Labour council has been publicly claiming how the Aylesbury was not going to be another Heygate, as ‘lessons have been learned’. The Heygate Estate decant programme has been widely denounced as an exercise in both the undignified displacement of locals and initiating the gentrification of the Elephant & Castle. However, exactly like on the Heygate, Southwark has been displacing the Aylesbury residents out of their immediate area and subjecting leaseholders, many of them elderly people who’d lived in the area their whole lives, to unnecessarily brutal Compulsory Purchase Orders. Abysmally low offers for their homes are forcing them to leave their neighbourhood and communities for good.

The right of tenants to return to a ‘regenerated’ Aylesbury would force them to take non-council tenancies in more expensive Housing Association flats, something many residents do not want. In 2001 a majority of Aylesbury residents voted ‘No’ in ballot on the Councils desire to transfer the estate out of council ownership. Not only is this ballot no longer being honoured, the Council has been unwilling to undertake a new ballot of residents on the question of refurbishment instead of a total demolition.

The Council attempts to dismiss the occupiers as ‘not representative’ of the Aylesbury residents while claiming Southwark is building ‘more affordable homes than any other London borough’. Council-backed developments such as the One The Elephant tower contain zero (0) ‘affordable’ homes, let alone any social-rented ones.

Local people know that council-rented homes are the most affordable and secure. Promises by the Council to build 11,000 new council homes in the next 30 years have been met with hesitant support, with no guarantees that this will not simply involve demolitions of estates without residents being balloted.

In a borough that has some 18,000 people on the waiting list for council (and not housing association, nor ‘affordable‘) homes, none of the above can be tolerated any longer.

Since they reclaimed the homes on the Chartridge block, the Aylesbury occupiers have been holding public meetings every day at 6.30pm, and each meeting has been packed with neighbours from the estate itself, other Southwark residents and campaigners from across London. The occupation clearly highlights the disasters of Southwark’s own and London housing and development policies in which profit gained from land speculation comes way before the people whose homes and lives are destroyed in the process. ‘Ordinary’ Londoners, be they the Aylesbury occupiers, FocusE15 mothers or the New Era Estate residents, are showing that alternatives exist and they work.

Our homes are not for sale.

Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group
Aylesbury Tenants and Leaseholders First
Better Elephant
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth
People’s Republic of Southwark
South London Revolutionary Communist Group
Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign
Southwark Defend Council Housing
Southwark Notes
Southwark Tenants

HASL Kids Day & Christmas Party

Want to help get the quality, secure, affordable homes that we all need?

Come along to the Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth kids day and Christmas party!

Saturday 13th December, 1pm at Papa’s cafe, 10-17 Pulross Road, Brixton, SW9 8AF


Come and celebrate the successes we’ve had!
Come to meet and find out more about the group.
Everyone welcome, bring your kids! – whether you’ve been involved in HASL for some time, are new to the group, or keep on meaning to get involved.
Join and share our facebook event.

Solidarity Call Out for Abahlali Basemjondolo

Two black women in South Africa were recently violently killed – most likely by state actors – to little public reckoning. Although these women were both killed in separate incidents, they were both active members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) the shack-dwellers movement which has challenged local ANC rule for better housing and exposed local corruption.

Housing activists in New York, London and Budapest have called protests over the weekend in solidarity with all housing activists in South Africa facing repression particularly AbM to highlight their action. Details for the London demo below:

London – Abahlali UK Solidarity

Please take a moment to sign this petition that will be submitted to South Africa House, London on Saturday 22nd November. 

Watch this 5 minute video on the assassinations:

Below is the petition text:

Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) is a grassroots, democratic and member-led organisation based in Durban, a city in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. AbM have an impressive record of exposing corruption and asserting the constitutional rights of thousands of the marginalised shack-dwelling people. We, the undersigned, are in support of the resolve of AbM members to strive for more participatory forms of development and to advance the struggle for access to urban land.

We condemn all assassinations, political murders and other acts of violence and intimidation against AbM members and housing rights activists. In the past 18 months, four housing rights activists have been killed. This includes two prominent AbM members:

1. Thembinkosi Qumbelo (assassination, Cato Crest) – 15 March 2013
2. Nkululeko Gwala, aged 34 (assassination, Cato Crest) – 26 June 2013
3. Nqobile Nzuzua, aged 17 (police murder, Cato Crest) – 30 September 2013
4. Thuli Ndlovu, aged 36 (assassination, KwaNdengezi) – 29 September 2014

We also note that more than 450 political assassinations have been documented in post-Apartheid South Africa with the majority taking place in KwaZulu-Natal province. We are troubled by the reports of collusion by the police and elected officials in the recent attacks on the Cato Crest. We place our solidarity with all activists facing repression in South Africa.

We believe that it is the right of people to engage in activism that is free of repression.

• We call on the South African government to create safe spaces for peaceful dialogue between housing activists and local, national and provincial authorities
• We call on the South African government to investigate the murders of these activists through a formal process of inquiry.
• We believe that the democratic state of South Africa has a duty to protect its citizens.

(with thanks to The Multicultural Politic for the main content of this post)

A response to Cllr Richard Livingstone

Following a popular HASL blog post on regeneration practices in Southwark, Richard Livingston, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for housing, got in touch stating he was happy to look into the case.

Hence we ask him:

1) To ensure the council uses its discretion to provide D and her family with temporary accommodation immediately in Southwark during the period in which the decision regarding her homelessness application is being reviewed. The review has been filed today (Thursday 2 Oct) and details will be sent via email to Livingstone. We also request that Livingstone ensures that the council make sure that D is quickly housed in secure, affordable, local social housing after being stuck in temporary accommodation for 9 years; D has serious medical problems and two young children.

2) To investigate high rents being charged to homeless people in Southwark owned temporary accommodation on a decanted housing estate (Aylesbury) where residents were living on a building site.

3) To investigate whether temporary tenants and precariously housed tenants (such as ASTs) in decanted housing are being made homeless following eviction or if they receive genuinely affordable housing in the borough after being moved on, i.e. is Southwark actually “keeping people in their homes?”

4) To investigate the culture of gatekeeping and intimidation in benefit and housing offices in Southwark. D’s is not the only case. We can report, from our experience, the systematic practice of preventing access to services, benefits and housing in Southwark to those entitled. We suspect the cause lay in both the scarcity of these resources, aided in no small part by Southwark Council, the working conditions of staff in Southwark offices and a working practice encouraged by management.

We would like a response on the first point by the end of the week. On points 2, 3 and 4 we are happy to negotiate a deadline for response.

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth

Keeping people in their homes, a Southwark Council guide to homelessness


A few nights ago, at a meeting in Camberwell, Cllr Richard Livingstone, Cabinet Member for Housing at Southwark Council, waxed lyrical about the council’s grand plans to build 11,000 new council homes, adding, at one point, it was ‘important for the council to keep the people in their homes’.

Southwark Council’s Richard Livingstone, a crusading force against evictions? Not quite.

Housing practices around ‘regeneration’ are well documented and not exclusive to Southwark alone. Here’s how it works in practice: First council tenants are en masse rehoused (‘decanted’) from council estates and leaseholders are pressured into leaving. Next councils use the empty homes to generate income and prevent squatting etc often by allocating them to some of the people from housing waiting lists, these persons and families are given deeply insecure/shorthold/temporary tenancies. The net effect for the council can be fewer people on housing waiting list and a continued income stream before regeneration goes ahead. However for the new ‘temporary’ tenant with few rights the horizon can simply be homelessness.

D got in touch with Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth last week after being evicted from temporary accommodation she held for seven years on the Aylesbury Esate due to rent arrears. The rent for her ‘temporary’ and cramped family home was £205 per week, paid to Southwark Council. Initially, D was able to afford the rent until she became ill forcing her to take a lower paid but more manageable full time job. Her weekly income was marginally higher than the weekly rent. Seeking support a Southwark Council worker misinformed D on two occasions; as is the general culture of gate keeping in all benefit offices she was turned away from making an application for the housing benefits she was in fact entitled to. With these benefits affordability of the flat would remain in question however without them D soon fell behind with the rent payments.

Even more outrageous behavior from Southwark came when on the day of the eviction the council asked D to come into the housing office. D sat there from 9am believing she was going to resolve the issue. While waiting D received a phone call from her kids in the afternoon: bailiffs were breaking in the door finding D’s frightened children inside. In the office D appealed, only to be made to leave. “We thought your kids would be at school” council workers told D. We want to know if this disgusting tactic is a regular practice of Southwark Council to aid the work of bailiffs?

Now evicted the council also issued a letter stating they had discharged their duty to rehouse D on the grounds of D making herself ‘intentionally homeless’ due to the rent arrears. HASL accompanied D to the council’s homelessness office, to make a fresh application, but the council officers refused this point blank.

Appalled by the council’s treatment of D HASL has been advised to seek a review of Southwark’s decision not to house her. Southwark should exercise its discretion to provide appropriate temporary accommodation under s.188 (3) of the Housing Act. Further, Southwark have withheld D’s belongings and shown only contempt and disregard for D’s circumstances. This must be resolved.

This is what regeneration in Southwark looks like. Get involved with HASL to fight for secure housing and empowered communities. Text 07741910527 to join our anti-eviction phone network and be informed of upcoming events and actions.

Lambeth Council push homeless into the private sector



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!

Labour’s Lambeth Council: hands tied by landlords and government

HASL4 In Lambeth for the last four years Labour’s Council of quietism has done little to resist, if not explicitly aid, both Tory austerity and the desire of landlords to see poor tenants swapped for the young and upwardly mobile.

In fact it would be too simple to say that the Council are passive administrators of austerity. Their keenness to restructure Lambeth to mirror it’s neighbour Southwark, with shiny unaffordable developments sweeping from the South Bank to the Heygate, is worth reflecting on. Lambeth has heartly engaged in evictions on Rushcroft Road last year. The Council leader Lib Pek, joined by Chuka Umunna and Tessa Jowell have appealed for further criminalisation of squatting, a scapegoating of the most vulnerable for the causes of homelessness akin to UKIP’s scapegoating of migrants for an economic crisis caused by elites. The pursuit of evictions of short-life tenants, many residents in Lambeth for forty years, some old and vulnerable, is a display of a Council that shares the hunger of private landlords for fresh assets while the former local residents join the long queues at the Housing Office.

However if anything has illustrated this Council’s apathy as to the concerns of its poorer residents it is the handling of the bedroom tax in Lambeth. This petty Tory policy is once more a demonisation of the poor during a crisis caused explicitly by the wealthy, a policy with which Lambeth Council has dutifully carried out.

Two weeks ago HASL occupied Lambeth Town Hall’s Lobby to support a local resident facing the bedroom tax being applied carelessly to her front room. When finally we were greated by a Council worker we we’re told that Lambeth’s hands are tied – the landlord decides how many bedrooms a property has and it’s not up to the Council to intervene.

Not so, legal representation from Lambeth Law Centre and the resident have argued while appealing the decision in a tribunal last week. We claim it is the Council’s authority to determine to what rooms the tax applies, as Councils in the North of England have done – councils taking a stand against Tory policy. If the Council and the tenant don’t determine the use of a house via a simple visit (limiting the stress and the resources required of a tribunal) then a landlord might as well say a tent in the yard is a bedroom and a hole in the roof is a shower.

The representative of Lambeth in the tribunal made the case “our hands are tied.” In fact his aim was to remove the council from our protest entirely suggesting we “knock at the right door, not the council but the landlord.”

After this display of apathy we’re left wondering if a vote for Labour tomorrow is simply a vote for handmaidens of both austerity from central government and gentrification from private landlords. If we are going to vote our direction to the council should be one of activism.

A decision on the tribunal is yet to be heard.

It’s Our 1st Birthday!


Struggling With High Rents, Poor or Overcrowded Housing? Angry at housing & welfare cuts? Sick of evictions threatening you & your community?

Join us to celebrate the 1st birthday of Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth Help us make our second year even better than our first.

Wed 30th April


Renton Close Community Centre, Renton Close, Brixton Hill, London SW2 1EY

Family Evicted by Demolition Sent Miles from School and Work

This afternoon, members of HASL went down to Lambeth Council’s housing office in Brixton to talk to people there about their housing problems and find out what kind of help (if any) they were getting from the council.

One person we met was E, who has a 7 year old daughter and is almost five months pregnant. Ten days ago she, her partner and her daughter were evicted by Metropolitan Housing Association from their home on Lambeth’s Clapham Park estate so that they could demolish it.

The council refused to help the family until they were actually homeless (even though they could have done so four weeks beforehand) and they have already been shunted around temporary accommodation in two different locations in south London. Today E was told that the only accommodation available from tonight is bed and breakfast accommodation miles away in Hackney. The family are being told to stay their indefinitely.

E works night shifts in Camberwell and her daughter goes to school in Clapham. Finishing work at 8am, it will be impossible for E to get to Hackney to pick up her daughter and get her to school anywhere near on time, meaning disruption to her education. Apart from this, the massive stress the whole situation is causing risks damaging the health of E’s unborn child.

We joined E to challenge the staff in the housing office on their decision to send the family to Hackney and ask how E’s daughter was supposed to get to school. The council officers we spoke to had no answers to this, but were adamant that they had nowhere suitable to house the family. They added that if E didn’t take the B&B accommodation on offer, the would provide no further help.

HASL will be supporting E and her family to demand suitable permanent accommodation which is close enough to E’s place of work and her daughter’s school, and will be discussing what further action to take at our meeting on Wednesday if the situation has not been resolved by then.

Bedroom Tax Loophole

Getting a Refund and Our Letter to Lambeth and Southwark Council

You have probably read in the news about the bedroom tax loophole which means that tenants in social housing of working age who have lived in their home since 1 January 1996 and had a continuous Housing Benefit claim should have been made exempt from the bedroom tax. If this is the case for you, you are entitled to a refund of the bedroom tax payments you have made since April 2013. If you had a continuous housing benefit claim but were forced to move due to domestic violence or damage caused by fire, flooding, explosions then the exemption still applies to you. The government are tying up the loop-hole so from March onwards, the bedroom tax will be back in place. The deadline for appealing is May. The loophole may give some people a slight reprieve, so we’ll keep on organising against all the brutal welfare and housing cuts.

If you think you may be due a refund, follow the good advice below copied from Leeds Hands Off Our Homes. There is a template appeal letter that you can use here. Come along to our next meeting on Thursday 13th February at Southwyck Community Hall, Moorlands road, Brixton, SW9 8TT.

What to Do if You Think You Are Owed a Refund.

  • Print out a copy of the DWP Internal bulletin on the 1996 loophole.

  • Gather as much information about your tenancy as you can-  letters, contracts etc. It may be that councils/housing providers do not keep accurate records of tenancies going that far back – any paperwork  and evidence of your tenancy you have will be vital here.

  • Contact or go to the central housing office with a copy of the DWP bulletin and as much information as you can get on your tenancy. Ask them for your housing benefit to be reassessed in light of the DWP bulletin and your evidence.

So far we know of several tenants who have done this. One was told that it would take 3 weeks for him to get a response, but the government guidance here is clear; until the law is amended, certain people are exempt from the bedroom tax.

Finally, this is not a solution to the problem of the policy, nor the Welfare Reform Act in total. But it might help a few people stay in their homes. For everyone else, we’re not giving up.


Useful advice here and here. If you’re supporting tenants to whom this applies, this letter may be useful:. All of this advice was initially published on the Leeds Hands Off Our Homes site.

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth have contacted both Lambeth and Southwark council to ask them what action they are taking to inform affected tenants of their exemption and refund. The letter we sent them is published below:

Dear Lib Peck, Pete Robbins, Peter John, Ian Wingfield and Richard Livingstone
You will be aware of the bedroom tax loophole which was discovered recently meaning that tenants who have lived in their property since 1 January 1996 and have been eligible for housing benefit for all of that time are exempt from the bedroom tax under the present regulations (the government will tie-up this loophole in March). We understand that the Department of Work and Pensions has sent a circular to local authorities stating that exempted tenants should be refunded all money deducted under the policy since 1 April 2013.
Please can you tell us:
How many people in Lambeth/Southwark you have estimated to be due a refund because they have lived in their property since 1 January 1996 and had a continuous Housing Benefit claim?
What steps you are taking to ensure that you contact these people and support them in claiming a refund for the wrongly applied bedroom tax?
What compensation will be offered to people who were forced to move out of their home (and the stress and suffering they will have experienced because of this) but should have been exempt from the bedroom tax?
We look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely,
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth