Category Archives: Uncategorized

Noise protest at Southwark council in support of Milton’s family

Over 50 HASL members joined our noise protest outside Southwark town hall at the start of this month in support of Milton’s family and all families living in overcrowded housing. As well as families coming from Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, some of our members traveled from their temporary accommodation out in Croydon. Other members joined us from Haringey and Hackney. You can watch some videos on our twitter here.

Our noise protest lasted over 2 hours making sure that the council could not ignore us and resulting in the housing manager coming down to speak with the families. He promised Milton’s family that they would receive a decision on their case by the following week. Unfortunately, this deadline has not been met. We have been keeping the pressure up on twitter and we might have to return with even more people and even more noise.

Milton’s family has faced extreme bullying from the council over the last 3 years. The family of 4 have been living in a tiny studio flat for four and a half years after this was the only property they could find after facing discrimination by private landlords and unaffordable local rents. Due to the serious level of overcrowding, the family should qualify for band 1 which would allow them to be quickly re-housed into suitable social housing. Instead of supporting the family, the council wrongly accused the family of committing fraud over an innocent admin error, threatened them with criminal prosecution for causing overcrowding and have insisted that the family’s overcrowding is a ‘deliberate act’. The family have been repeatedly asked by the council why they need to live in Southwark.

Last December, another HASL family successfully challenged Southwark council’s decision that their overcrowding was a ‘deliberate act’ in the Court of Appeal. The judgement should help other severely overcrowded families including Milton’s but from our experience so far, it seems that the council are ignoring this important ruling.

Along with Public Interest Law Cetnre we are also supporting a number of other HASL members who live in severely overcrowded housing to be treated fairly and respectfully and to claim their rightful position on the housing waiting list.

Thank you to everyone who joined who helped make it such a strong and powerful protest! We all know that no one chooses to live in overcrowded housing, hopefully Southwark council will finally get the message!

Lambeth council – don’t evict Denby court residents!

Help Denby court homeless families demand better treatment from Lambeth council, call to stop the evictions, and demand a better development plan for Lambeth families – 100% council housing on council owned land!

Denby Court in Kennington is one of the many council estates that Lambeth Council have earmarked for “regeneration”/demolition. While the council were waiting to demolish the buildings they used the estate as temporary accommodation for homeless families. Even though no demolition work is expected until August 2021, and there is currently no planning permission for the new development, the council are already threatening to evict the homeless families on the estate.

Families from Denby court attended a recent HASL meeting and told us how they have already spent years living in properties in Denby court which are overcrowded and in disrepair. Now they are being told they will be moved to new accommodation soon with little information of when exactly they will be moved, or where they will end up. As Davida recently told the Guardian:

“None of us wants to stay in the poor conditions we are living in but we want to be treated like people who have rights, not just moved on again, during a pandemic, to more temporary accommodation miles away from our schools and support networks.”

None of the families who joined our meeting had been clearly told what was going to happen to them. Some of the families have been pressured by the Council to give up their homeless duties and accept private accommodation. Some have been told that they will be housed in temporary accommodation outside of their home borough of Lambeth. Neither of these options are acceptable and this situation is causing serious distress to the families.

Some of the families we spoke to have medical and care needs – the last thing the Council should be doing is moving them at little notice far away from their support networks and children’s schools. Another resident described how Denby Court was her third temporary accommodation, and now she and her children are facing being moved into a fourth.

Lambeth Council must immediately stop any eviction plans and reassure the residents that they will be able to remain in their homes until longer-term solutions can be found by listening to the needs and wishes of the residents. Some of these longer term solutions could include giving direct offers of permanent social housing, allowing the families enough time at Denby court to bid for permanent social housing through the housing waiting list or finding suitable temporary accommodation in the local area to minimise disruption.

As if trying to evict and displace vulnerable homeless families was not bad enough – the new proposed development is not even a good deal for Lambeth residents. Denby Court estate is on council owned land – the council should be using this to maximise the number of family-sized council homes to help address the severe housing crisis we face. However, only 49 of the 141 new properties will be at Council rent. Lambeth council must do better than this for their residents! All new homes built on council land should be council homes!

It is positive to see that there will be 4 bedroom council homes on the new estate – as there is desperate need for larger family sized council homes – but there are only 5 of these planned for the whole estate.

The demolition of the estate should not be considered until a fair solution is found for its current residents and a better plan is made which has more family-sized council homes for a development on council-owned land. 

Show your support from Denby court homeless families!

  • Sign their petition here
  • If you’re a Lambeth resident, please use our template email below to email the Lambeth Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness Jennifer Brathwaite: jbrathwaite@lambeth.gov.uk
  • If your local MP is Florence Eshalomi please email her as well: florence.eshalomi.mp@parliament.uk

Email template:

Dear

I am writing to you in support of the homeless families at Denby Court estate.

 I am really concerned at  the treatment these families are facing by Lambeth council and I hope you can intervene to support these vulnerable homeless families. 


As you are probably aware, Lambeth council has decanted the council tenants from the estate and has been using Denby court as temporary accommodation for homeless families. Now that Lambeth wants to push ahead with demolition of the estate, Lambeth is trying to evict the families in temporary accommodation. The options offered to the families seem to be private rented housing or temporary accommodation out of borough. This approach by the council is completely unacceptable. It is causing serious distress to the families.


I am asking that the council immediately stop any eviction plans and give reassurance to the residents that they will be able to remain in their homes until longer-term solutions can be found by listening to the needs and wishes of the residents.    
Some of these longer term solutions could include giving direct offers of permanent social housing, allowing them to bid for permanent social housing through the Choice Based Lettings or finding suitable temporary accommodation in the local area to minimise disruption. 


Finally, the new proposed development on the site of Denby court does not seem to be a good deal for Lambeth residents. This is council land and the council should be maximising the number of family-sized council homes to help address the severe housing crisis we face. New developments on council land should be 100% council housing. However, under the current development plans, only 49 of the 141 new properties will be at Council rent.

If the council can justify demolition of the estate in the future, rather than refurbishment, then the proposed development needs to offer more family-sized council homes (3, 4, 5 bed council homes) for Lambeth residents so that homeless households and families living in overcrowded housing can be suitably housed. But demolition of the estate should not be considered until a fair solution is found for it’s current residents and a better plan is made which has more family-sized council homes for a development on council-owned land. 


I really hope that you will support your constituents with their urgent housing cases and that they are given reassurance that they will not be forced to leave against their will. I hope long-term solutions can be found for all the families at Denby court.  


Yours sincerely, 

HASL’s template email for Southwark council’s housing waiting list consultation

By Karelen aged 13

Southwark residents  – Use our template email to fight for the rights of Southwark families in temporary accommodation and overcrowded housing!

Texto en español a continuación

What is HASL? Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth is a community housing group made up of families and individuals who are homeless in temporary accommodation, living in overcrowded housing or face other housing problems.

What’s happening? Southwark council are looking to make lots of significant changes to the housing waiting list rules. These changes will affect us all! Before the council can introduce the new rules, they are conducting a public consultation to ask for the views of Southwark residents on the new rules. Southwark council have launched an online survey, however, we have noticed that lots of the new rules are not included in the online survey. Some of the new rules and questions on the survey are not explained clearly. Because of these problems with the online survey and other accessibility issues with the survey, we have made a template email that you can use to give your views (more on this below).

  • We are very concerned about how the consultation process is being conducted – during a lockdown – and with an online survey that does not explain all the major changes clearly.
  • We are also very concerned about many of the new rules which we believe will reduce the rights that households on the housing waiting list currently have.
  • We are particularly concerned about a major new policy that would divide homeless families by “rewarding” those who take private housing with band 2 and leaving other families stuck in temporary accommodation for even longer.

What can I do?

Use HASL’s template email to respond to the consultation. Over 80 HASL families, living in temporary accommodation or overcrowded housing, helped to write and agree these template email answers to ensure that these views are represented. We discussed the new rules and our answers over 2 zoom meetings. We believe these answers follow our principles that housing should be allocated according to housing need and in the fairest possible way.

Click here for our template email in English

Click here for our template email in Spanish

Please use our template email to help you to respond to Southwark council’s consultation and feel free to edit and add your own words to the email as well. If you use this form, the email will be sent directly to Southwark council’s consultation email address. A copy will also be sent to our HASL email and we will delete all responses when the consultation process is over. The template email and questions do not have information that can identify you – the form does not ask for your full name, address, or date of birth. But we do ask for your email address to show the council that you are a real person.

You can read the new 88 page (!!) draft housing allocations policy here

The current housing allocations policy is here

If you would like extra support from HASL to use the template email, if you have any questions or if you want to be involved and hear more about HASL’s activities on this important consultation, send a message to our group phone 07930 062282 or send us an email: haslcases@gmail.com

You can email Southwark council if you need information about the consultation in another language, if you have any questions about the consultation or if you want to submit more information or suggestions: housingconsultation@southwark.gov.uk

Residentes de Southwark – usa nuestra plantilla de correo electrónico en lucha para los derechos de las familias de Southwark en acomodación temporal, y vivienda superpoblada!

¿Qué es HASL? Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (acción por hogares en Southwark y Lambeth) es un grupo comunitario de familias e individuos que están desalojados, viviendo enacomodación temporal, viviendo en casas donde no hay suficiente espacio o enfrentándose a otras problemas de vivienda.

 ¿Qué está pasando? Southwark Council están en camino a hacer muchos cambios importantes al reglamento de la lista de espera para hogares sociales. Esto cambios nos afectarían a todos!

Para introducir nuevas reglas, el Council esta obligado a consultar las opiniones de residentes de Southwark sobre los cambios propuestos. Southwark han lanzado una encuesta en línea, pero hemos notado que muchas de las nuevas reglas no están incluidas en esta encuesta. Algunas de las nuevas reglas o las cuestiones posadas a residentes no se explican claramente en la encuesta. Por esto no recomendamos que se use esta encuesta en línea. Hemos preparado una plantilla de correo electrónico que pueden usar para enviar sus opiniones sobre este asunto (más sobre esto a continuación).

enlace a la encuesta en línea del consejo https://consultations.southwark.gov.uk/housing-community-services-department-community-engagement-team/housing-allocation/

  • Estamos muy preocupados por la manera en que el proceso de consulta esta siendo manejado – durante lockdown – y con una encuesta en línea que no explica todos los grandes cambios claramente.
  • Estamos muy preocupados que muchas de las nuevas reglas que creemos causaran una reducción de derechos de la gente en la lista de espera para hogares sociales.
  • Especialmente estamos preocupados que este gran cambio de reglamento serviría para dividir familias desalojadas por el hecho de “premiar” aquellos que toman un arriendo privado con una priorización más alta en “Band 2” que dejaría otras familias atascados en alojamiento temporal por tiempos más largos.

¿Qué puedo hacer?

Usa la plantilla de correo electrónico de HASL para responder a la consulta. Esta plantilla fue escrita y acordada con más de 80 familias en nuestro grupo que están en acomodación temporal o en vivienda superpoblada para asegurar que nuestras opiniones sean representativas. Hemos discutido estas nuevas reglas y nuestras respuestas en 2 reuniones Zoom. Creemos que las respuestas siguen nuestros principios que los hogares sociales deben ser repartidas a aquellos con la mayor necesidad y de la manera más justa posible.

haga clic aquí para nuestra plantilla de correo electrónico en español

haga clic aquí para nuestra plantilla de correo electrónico en inglés

Por favor use nuestra plantilla de correo electrónico para responder a la consulta de Southwark Council y siéntase libre de editarlo o añadir tus propias palabras también. Si utiliza este formulario, el correo electrónico se enviará directamente a la dirección de correo electrónico de consulta del consejo de Southwark. También se enviará una copia a nuestro correo electrónico de HASL y eliminaremos todas las respuestas cuando finalice el proceso de consulta. El correo electrónico y las preguntas de la plantilla no tienen información que pueda identificarlo; el formulario no solicita su nombre completo, dirección o fecha de nacimiento. Pero le pedimos su dirección de correo electrónico para demostrarle al consejo que es una persona real.

Puedes leer el documento de 88 paginas (!!) del reglamento de asignación de hogares sociales nuevo que ha sido propuesto aquí

El reglamento actual de asignación de hogares sociales esta aquí

Si quisiera más apoyo de HASL para usar la plantilla de correo electrónico, si tiene cualquier pregunta o si quisiera saber más de las actividades de HASL alrededor de esta consulta muy importante, envíenos un mensaje a nuestro teléfono de grupo 07930 062282 o envíenos un correo a haslcases@gmail.com

Puedes enviar un correo a Southwark Council si necesitas información sobre la consulta en otro idioma.

Si tiene preguntas sobre la consulta o quieres enviar más información o sugerencias: housingconsultation@southwark.gov.uk

Join our Twitter storm for 3, 4, 5 bed council homes! Monday 22nd March 9am

Kids from Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, Akwaaba, and English for Action living in overcrowded housing and temporary accommodation have designed posters calling for 3, 4, 5 bed council homes. They have also written personal messages on their posters:

“You wouldn’t get enough sleep if your house was overcrowded”

“Sharing a room with parents or sleeping somewhere that is not the bedroom isn’t fun!”

Join us on twitter (and facebook and instagram) on Monday 22nd March from 9am to make sure Minister for Housing Robert Jenrick can’t miss them!

On the 1 year anniversary of the lockdown, we’re sending these posters to Housing Minister Robert Jenrick to remind the government of the urgent need for high quality, safe, secure family-sized council homes and the need to abolish No Recourse to Public Funds so no one is refused good housing based on their immigration status. Children need space to play, rest and study!

Welfare cuts, high private rents, and a desperate shortage of council homes have meant that the number of people in temporary accommodation and overcrowded housing have reached some of the highest ever levels. In London last year, there were almost 90,000 children living in temporary accommodation. Across England there are 3.6 million people living in overcrowded homes.

Over the last year, families have found themselves trapped in unbearable, cramped living conditions 24/7, worsening their mental and physical health. Children have struggled with home-schooling in noisy cramped spaces. Overcrowded housing has been linked to the spread of Covid 19 and residents are more vulnerable to ill-health and death. 

Yet, throughout the pandemic, the government have refused to give families any reason for hope. The government have not introduced a single housing policy to help families and individuals suffering in the worst housing conditions. No Recourse to Public Funds continues to push people into poverty and homelessness. The government have refused to talk about council housing even though this is the obvious solution to the housing crisis we face. 

To solve the overcrowding and housing crisis, we need 3, 4, 5 bed council homes and an end to No Recourse to Public Funds so that everyone can have the good housing they need. 

We’ll be tweeting Robert Jenrick with over 50 drawings by children from housing and migrant support groups from across London. Please retweet and quote tweet our posters so they can’t be ignored.

HASL twitterAkwaaba twitterEnglish for Action twitter
HASL instagramAkwaaba instagram
HASL facebookAkwaaba facebookEnglish for Action facebook

HASL’s response to Lewisham Council’s housing waiting list consultation

Recently we have been campaigning against the proposed changes to Lewisham Council’s housing waiting list rules. These changes will see severely overcrowded families pushed down the housing waiting list making it impossible to get social housing for some and making the wait even longer for others. Our members were featured in this South London press article about the proposed changes. HASL members also collectively created template answers for people to complete the consultation with.

The consultation closed on Sunday 14th March. Here is HASL’s full response, including our members’ stories, why we want Lewisham to drop the changes and our members’ proposals for making Lewisham’s waiting list fairer:

Lewisham residents – we need your support!

Lewisham residents – Use our template answers to fight for the rights of Lewisham families in temporary accommodation and overcrowded housing!

En español abajo

Lewisham council has launched its Lewisham Housing Allocation Scheme Policy Review which is in the form of an online survey which can be found by clicking here

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth is a community housing group made up of families and individuals who are homeless in temporary accommodation, living in overcrowded housing or face other housing problems.

HASL is very concerned about many of the new proposals contained in the survey that will have a hugely negative impact on families in overcrowded housing by reducing their banding. We also want to make sure families in temporary accommodation are not forced into the private sector through the council’s use of their private sector discharge policy.

It is really important that Lewisham households, especially households suffering at the worst end of the housing crisis, respond to the survey to challenge these bad proposals and share their views on how the council can make the fairest policy which supports everyone, especially those with high housing needs.

HASL is here to help you!

  • Together with our Lewisham group members, we have prepared template answers (please click on link below) which you can use to help complete the survey – and please feel free to include your own views as well.
  • At the end of the survey, you can add your email address so that you will be emailed a copy of your answers. If you are happy to for us have a copy of your answers so that we can keep a record of them, please forward this email to haslcases@gmail.com.
  • You can email Lewisham council if you need the survey translated into another language, if you have any questions about the survey or if you want to submit more information or suggestions: housingconsultation@lewisham.gov.uk
  • If you would like extra support from HASL to complete the survey, if you have any questions or if you want to be involved and hear more about HASL’s activities on this important survey/consultation, send a message to to our group phone 07930 062282 or send us an email: haslcases@gmail.com
  • The survey does not give any room to explain about your personal housing circumstances or to give your own suggestions and proposals. Email us your personal testimony/story explaining your current housing situation and how the new policy would impact you and we will collect these together to submit to the council. Send your testimony to haslcases@gmail.com
  • The survey asks in question 21 what type of housing you live in – for example, private rented, temporary accommodation, social housing but the survey does not give space for you to say if you are currently overcrowded in your housing. If you are currently overcrowded, please let them know by adding this sentence to the end of the first answer:

My family lives in overcrowded housing in the private rented sector and this policy directly affects me.

The deadline for responding to the survey is Sunday 14th March

Residentes de Lewisham – Usen nuestro modelo de respuestas para luchar por los derechos de las familias de Lewisham en acomodación temporaria y vivienda superpoblada!

El ayuntamiento de Lewisham ha publicado su Revisión de la política del esquema de asignación de vivienda de Lewisham que está en la forma de una encuesta online la cual puede ser encontrada aquí: https://consultation.lewisham.gov.uk/strategic-housing-and-regulatory-services/https-lewisham-gov-uk-media-lewisham-housingal/

Housing Action Southwark y Lambeth es un grupo de alojamiento comunitario formado por familias e individuales sin techo en acomodación temporal, viviendo en una casa sobrepoblada o enfrentando otros problemas de alojamiento.

HASL está muy preocupada por las muchas propuestas contenidas en la encuesta las cuales tendrán un gran impacto negativo en las familias sobrepobladas reduciendo las posiciones de sus bandas. También queremos asegurarnos que las familias en acomodación temporal no están siendo forzadas en un sector privado a través del uso de la política de descarga del sector privado del ayuntamiento.

Es realmente importante que los hogares de Lewisham, especialmente los hogares sufriendo en las primeras situaciones de crisis, respondan a la encuesta para desafiar estas malas proposiciones y compartir nuestras visiones en cómo el ayuntamiento puede hacer la política más justa que apoye a todos, especialmente a aquellos con altas necesidades de alojamiento.

HASL está aquí para ayudarte!

● Juntos con nuestros miembros de Lewisham, hemos preparado un modelo con respuestas (haga clic en el enlace de abajo) las cuales pueden usar para completar el cuestionario – y por favor siéntanse libres de incluir sus propias opiniones.

● Al final de la encuesta, usted puede añadir su correo electrónico para que le envíen una copia de sus respuestas. Si están de acuerdo en enviarnos la copia de sus respuestas para mantener un registro, por favor envíelo a este email: haslcases@gmail.com.

● Puede enviar un correo electrónico al ayuntamiento de Lewisham si necesita traducir la encuesta a otro idioma, si tiene alguna pregunta sobre la encuesta o si desea enviar más información o sugerencias: housingconsultation@lewisham.gov.uk

● Si desea apoyo adicional de HASL para completar la encuesta, si tiene alguna pregunta o si desea participar y escuchar más sobre las actividades de HASL en esta importante encuesta / consulta, envíe un mensaje a nuestro teléfono de grupo 07930 062282 o envíe envíenos un correo electrónico: haslcases@gmail.com

● La encuesta no da espacio para explicar tus circunstancias personales de alojamiento y dar tus propias sugerencias y propuestas. Envíanos por correo tu testimonio personal explicando tu situación actual de alojamiento y como la nueva política te afectaría y estaremos recopilando estas para enviarlas al council. Envia tu testimonio a haslcases@gmail.com.

● La encuesta pregunta en la pregunta 21 en qué tipo de acomodación vives – por ejemplo, renta privada, acomodación temporal, alojamiento social pero la encuesta no da oportunidad de decir si estas sobrepoblada en tu casa. SI estás actualmente sobrepoblado, por favor hazme saber añadiendo esta frase al final de la primera respuesta:

Mi familia vive en un alojamiento sobrepoblado en un sector de renta privada y esta política me afecta directamente

La fecha límite para responder a la encuesta es el Domingo 14 Marzo 2021

Overcrowding campaign success!

Families living in overcrowded housing and their supporters have achieved a significant victory for overcrowded families living in Southwark. The council have responded positively to the community-led campaign and a successful legal challenge. The term ‘deliberate act’ has been removed in a new draft of the allocations scheme. The council has also promised to take a number of concrete steps that will benefit families in overcrowded housing including reviewing negative decisions. The council has also invited HASL and other local community groups to a meeting to discuss improvements to their allocations scheme.

This is a welcome change of approach from the council but it should not have taken years of campaigning and legal action for Southwark council to finally listen to our concerns. Families have for far too long had their priority on the waiting list significantly reduced simply because, as a result of high rents, benefit cuts and a shortage of council homes, they were unable to afford suitable accommodation. Most of the families affected are from migrant and BAME households, and therefore faced additional structural barriers when accessing housing.

In September, PILC and HASL together with 30+ local community groups wrote an open letter to Southwark council about the culture of blame and refusal faced by families in overcrowded housing, who were trying to access support from the council. We highlighted how the council’s actions are targeting low-income families from BAME and migrant backgrounds.

Southwark council’s initial response continued to blame families in overcrowded housing. The council argued that living in overcrowded housing was a ‘choice’, suggested other areas of the country where families could live, and accused them of trying to ‘exploit’ the housing register.

As our concerns were taken not taken seriously, we launched an email campaign against the council. Over 250 protest emails were sent to the leader of the council in support of the campaign, demanding a change to the council’s policies and practices on overcrowding.

Those emails highlighted the hardship that families were facing as a result of the council’s cruel policy – which described severely overcrowded families as having ‘deliberately’ caused their overcrowding, and then penalised them by reducing their priority on the waiting list. In other cases, housing officers were not interpreting the housing allocations scheme properly when deciding wrongly and with no evidence that families had ‘deliberately worsened their circumstances’ (and were living in overcrowded accommodation on purpose) so as to exploit the housing register.

In response to the campaign:

  1. The leader of the council, Keiron Williams, agreed to meeting with HASL and other local community groups to discuss improvements that could be made to the council’s housing allocations scheme;
  2. The council’s housing manager agreed to revise guidance to staff administering the housing allocations scheme, specifically in relation to the ‘deliberately worsening of circumstances’;
  3. The council will be reviewing all cases issued with a decision that there has been a ‘deliberately worsening of circumstances’;
  4. All officers within the housing department will be issued with updated guidance; and
  5. The council will be consulting on a new allocations scheme. The council requested our participation to ‘help shape the future of allocations in Southwark.’

We welcome the council’s response to our campaign, and will now fight to ensure that:

  1. The updated guidance to staff is clear so that decisions are now made fairly and lawfully.
  2. The council’s scheme is re-drafted clearly, fairly and operates in a way that supports rather than penalises families facing hardship. The scheme must make clear that no family should ever be penalised or blamed for living in overcrowded conditions.

Thank you to all the community groups and individuals who have supported our campaign! It’s not over until we all have the high quality, safe, secure, 3, 4, 5 bed council homes we all need and deserve!

HASL’s 2020

2020 has been a very difficult year, especially for people living in bad housing conditions such as overcrowded housing and temporary accommodation away from their home borough and other unsafe housing situations. But our group has still achieved so much together this year despite the difficult circumstances.

Even though we were not able to have our regular group meetings in person we have adapted to running our group meetings online by zoom on a weekly basis to make sure that we can see each other and support each other regularly. Throughout the pandemic, our regular zoom meetings, practical support and online campaigning has made sure that we have continued to protect our housing rights and fight together for the high quality, safe, secure 3, 4, 5, bed homes we all need. Every day across south London our members are supporting each other and taking collective action on housing issues we face.

We have achieved many victories together this year – victories for families who have finally been able to move into permanent council housing and also wider victories which will benefit many others as well – and we hope that next year we will be able to celebrate these together with a party in Burgess park when it is safe to do so. We wanted to share some of our highlights with you – sorry if we have missed anything!

We want to thank all our members and supporters for your amazing support for the group this year. Our group is run by our members and the group would not function without everyone’s participation. Thank you to everyone who has helped in any way including, helping run and contribute to our zoom meetings, telling friends about the group, liking our social media posts, joining our online protests, helping to make videos and so much more! We’ve also loved working together with our friends Public Interest Law Centre and English for Action and many other groups and new friends we’ve made over the year.

We’re looking forward to seeing you (on zoom) in the new year and making plans together for 2021!

Campaign and legal victory against Southwark council’s cruel treatment of families in overcrowded housing

We had a really big victory earlier this month when Favio and Elba won their case in the Court of Appeal overturning Southwark council’s decision that their overcrowding was a ‘deliberate act’. We hope this Court of Appeal judgement will also help other families in severely overcrowded housing who are being unfairly blamed by Southwark council for causing overcrowding. This legal victory is part of a long-running campaign by HASL families in overcrowded housing.

Our campaign for the removal of the ‘deliberate act’ term and for the end of Southwark council’s culture of blame and refusal continues. You can still support our email protest to Kieron Williams here

The South London Press covered Favio and Elba’s case here and we wrote an article about it for Tribune here.

In June, we launched our postcard protest with over 200 HASL members and supporters joining in support of Milton and his family who are another family that Southwark council were blaming for causing overcrowding. Alongside legal action by Public Interest Law Centre, Southwark council finally backed down and awarded the family higher priority on the housing register.

In September, together with Public Interest Law Centre and 30+ community groups, we launched an open letter to Southwark council about the treatment of families in overcrowded housing and the culture of blame and refusal these families are subjected to. The unacceptable response from Southwark council, where the council still described overcrowding as a ‘choice’ by families, led to our email protest.

At the start of the first lockdown our members made video diaries highlighting the difficulties they face in severely overcrowded housing.

Over the year, with the help of good housing lawyers, we’ve helped to overturn many of Southwark’s bad decisions targeted at overcrowded families. With our campaign and legal challenge we want to make sure families do not have to receive bad decisions in the first place and that they can get the help they are entitled to!

Victory defending Lambeth homeless families’ rights

In June, HASL and Public Interest Law Centre won a campaign and legal victory defending homeless families’ rights who had been unfairly removed from the housing register under Lambeth council’s “homeless prevention” scheme called Temp to Settled. As a result of our victory, hundreds of Lambeth families had their housing register accounts re-instated so that they can bid again for permanent social housing. You can read more about it in the Brixton Blog here and  Inside Housing here. It was also reported on Nearly Legal here. We’ve made a leaflet explaining the new rights and future problems that may arise. 

We have been campaigning on this issue for years. In December 2018 Susana helped to make this video explaining her case and in March 2019 we held a protest inside Lambeth’s new Civic Centre with our banner ‘don’t kick us off the housing list’ where we met another family affected by this scheme.

One of our members who was part of this successful legal challenge against Lambeth council still faces eviction by her private landlord. She was served a section 21 notice during lockdown. She describes her experiences in this blog with her demands for more social housing and an end to section 21.

Too Long In Temporary

Lambeth homeless families in temporary accommodation in band C face years and years stuck in poor quality temporary accommodation when they urgently need safe, secure council housing. Lambeth’s housing allocations policy demotes homeless families into band C, below those who take the risky “homeless prevention” option. Homeless families are stuck Too Long in Temporary!

We’ve been supporting our member Janeth and her family’s case, who have been in temporary accommodation for over 6 years. Janeth made a video about her case which we launched in September and we’ve been campaigning on Janeth’s case and in support of all homeless families. The South West Londoner and the Brixton Blog covered Janeth’s case and the situation for families in temporary accommodation. Janeth is still waiting for a medical decision from Lambeth council in response to the review letter that her lawyers submitted in August.

Lewisham overcrowding challenge

One of our Lewisham members is living with her family in overcrowded private housing. Because they do not yet meet the 5 year residency criteria Lewisham council have refused the let the family join the housing waiting list. We think this is unfair and that it discriminates against migrant families who are less likely to have built up time in the borough and also face additional difficulties and discrimination in the private rented sector meaning they are more likely to live in overcrowded conditions. Our member is taking a legal challenge against Lewisham council and we will be campaigning for Lewisham council to support their overcrowded residents and review their decision to apply the 5 year residency criteria to people with a housing need.

Another Lewisham family in temporary accommodation was suddenly told by the council that she was being moved into temporary accommodation in a Harlow office block that has been in the national and local news for it’s terrible conditions. We supported her to challenge this decision and she was able to remain in her suitable temporary accommodation.

Other important victories

Just before lockdown, a Lewisham family who are long-term members of the group moved into a permanent council home. 2 other Lambeth members also moved into permanent council homes after they were finally awarded the correct medical priority with the help of HASL and PILC. These two women were both suffering serious medical problems which were made worse by their bad housing. After getting band B for welfare needs, they were both able to successfully bid for council housing which meant that during lockdown they at least had suitable housing. 

We have supported 3 families overturn wrong benefit decisions which saw them returned a total of almost £15,000. In one case, a single mum had her Universal Credit wrongly stopped in February and spent most of lockdown with no income. With the help of Osborne’s solicitors this decision was overturned and she was refunded £7,500. All of these families had been facing serious hardship and the threat of eviction due to these benefit issues but they are in a much more secure position now.

While we recently celebrated our win against Lambeth council’s Temp2Settled scheme, one of our members had been wrongly kept off this scheme, leaving her lower down on the housing waiting list. With the help of GT Stewart solicitors, she was able to fight for higher band B priority on the housing waiting list that she should have been entitled to from the start.    

With the help of Z2K a HASL family was able to overturn a negative PIP decision and get the benefits that they are entitled to.

With the help of housing lawyers, we helped to overturn 2 ‘intentionally homeless’ decisions that lead to evictions and have a devastating impact for families. These two families now have a full housing duty.

When bidding reopened around September, a number of HASL families have been able to successfully get permanent council homes after help from HASL making sure they have their correct position on the housing register. 2 families who were statutory overcrowded in 1 bedroom homes have both been able to move to the 3 bed council homes they need.

Our group has also helped families to make homeless applications and challenge unlawful gatekeeping, helped people get their correct banding on the housing register, helped people understand their rights, helped people to find lawyers for their housing cases, helped people to request suitability reviews which has seen them re-housed closer to their home borough, and provided emotional support as well. In our group zoom meetings our members have been incredible at providing support, sharing experiences and rights information.

Workshops and events

Our regular housing support group with  English for Action students has now been running for over 1 year. We’ve loved working together with EFA students and teachers working on the housing issues they face. EFA students have been amazing at supporting HASL campaigns as well.

We also ran housing rights workshops with our friends Mums Space and Espacio Mama over zoom. In June, we ran a housing rights and Covid 19 zoom webinar attended by over 60 people. We ran a workshop with our members explaining about the judicial review process.

We’ve enjoyed speaking at a number of events. In March, our member Ximena spoke at the Law Centres Network Latin American Rights conference about HASL and our organising on homelessess and housing rights. Pamela and Fowsiyo spoke at about how we organise together at a Brent Transformed event where we had the chance to meet up with housing campaigners in north London. We joined the Housing Law Practitioners’ Association for a zoom discussion on ‘access to justice’ and we also spoke on a panel at their annual conference. It was really lovely to speak and attend the HLPA annual conference listening to great speakers and learning the latest updates on housing law.

We joined New Economics Foundation for a zoom talk about what happens after the eviction ban ends speaking alongside the brilliant Magpie Project and we also spoke at the wonderful RebLaw event about our experiences and perspectives on the Homelessness Reduction Act. One of our members was involved with Greater Manchester Housing Action helping to organise a series talks about the housing crisis.

Social housing not scapegoating

We were proud to support this important solidarity statement organised by Shelter and Baobab Women’s Project calling for Social Housing Not Scapegoating in response to the far right targeting hotels where asylum seekers were being housed. We will always fight for migrants rights and housing rights. No one should be homeless, everyone deserves a safe, secure, good quality council home.

Lewisham council – don’t ban overcrowded families from the housing register

A judge has granted permission for a HASL member’s case to be heard in the High Court. Our member, whose family live in overcrowded housing, is challenging Lewisham council’s decision refusing them access to the housing register because they have not lived in the borough for 5 years.

We are a family of 5 people, I have 2 sons aged 14 and 16 and a 7 year old daughter. We live in a small 2 bedroom flat. My 2 sons sleep in one room and my husband and I occupy in the other room with our daughter. This situation is very uncomfortable because we have very little space. That is why we requested to join Lewisham’s housing waiting list but they rejected us 2 times for not living in the borough for 5 years. We feel very upset by this situation and we feel that it is very unfair and oppressive. We are challenging this decision and we hope it will also help other families as well. Thank you to HASL for your help and your guidance.

Overcrowding is one of the biggest housing problems our members face and an issue we have been supporting each other with and campaigning on together for years. High private rents, benefit cuts, widespread discrimination by private landlords and a desperate shortage of council homes mean that families are forced to rent smaller flats than they need. Even before Covid 19, these living conditions had serious impacts on families mental and physical health. With lockdowns confining people to their homes the situation for overcrowded families has been even more unbearable. Overcrowding itself is a serious public health issue.

The obvious solution to overcrowding is 3, 4, 5 bed high quality, safe, secure council homes. So why is Lewisham council’s response to overcrowding to increase the local connection criteria to make it more difficult for overcrowded families to join the housing register?

We believe that it is blatantly unfair to apply a strict residence criteria to families suffering with a housing need. They are forcing overcrowded families to endure these living conditions for 5 years before they can even join the housing register for the chance to access more spacious social housing. It’s not acceptable for children to spend over 5 years of their childhood in overcrowded housing and for this to be the council’s policy.

In HASL, we see the discriminatory impact this has particularly on migrant families who are less likely to have accumulated this time in the borough – many migrant families face additional difficulties and discrimination when trying to find housing in the private rented sector meaning that they are more likely to end up having to live in overcrowded conditions. Often, they may have had already moved homes several times trying to improve their housing conditions making it harder to build up time in a particular borough.

The consequences of the discrimination faced by migrant and BAME households accessing housing is shown in the disgraceful statistic that while only 2% of White British households are overcrowded, 30% of Bangladeshi households and 15% of Black African households are. Policies such as Lewisham’s only deepen these inequalities and injustice.

It should not take legal action for Lewisham council to support their residents living in overcrowded housing and we hope they will urgently review their decision to apply the 5 year residence criteria to people with a housing need. Alongside the legal challenge, we’ll continue our campaigning in support of overcrowded families and for the 3, 4, 5 bed council homes we all need and deserve.

How you can help!

Please share our blog and tweets to Lewisham council in support of overcrowded families and feel free to write your own tweets.

Lewisham council recently announced that they will be reviewing their housing allocations policy and will undertake a consultation exercise with local residents and stakeholders. If you’re a Lewisham resident, please think about engaging in this consultation – in HASL, we’ll be discussing how we want to respond to this consultation and we’ll be publishing our ideas and guidance about responding to this consultation soon.

Lewisham council must give more support to severely overcrowded families

Back in January, Lewisham council’s housing committee discussed including ‘statutory overcrowding’ in their housing allocations policy recognising the ‘public health impact’ that it has. Our member explains her case below and we outline why her family and many other Lewisham families in similar situations need their serious overcrowding recognised with band 2 on the housing register to allow them the urgent move they need to more spacious social housing.

We have been living in Lewisham for 8 years since 2012.  We have 2 children, they were 2 years old and 4 when we started living here in this flat. Today they are 12 and 10 years old. We join the housing register in 2014 and were placed in band 3 for council housing.

The flat where where we live is small, with only one small bedroom and below us we have a fast food business and the smoke rises a lot to our house until our house fills with smoke, the ventilation is very bad. For 6 years we are fighting with the council asking them to pay attention to us, my children have grown up and they are not small, my young son has constant absences from school due to his asthma which has not improved. In 2015 he was admitted to hospital for breathing problems. He has even developed an allergy to the constant dust that comes from the street.

My eldest son has been medically presenting problems with concentration and anxiety, and many detentions at school, difficulty sleeping, constant fights between siblings due to lack of space.  All this for us is hard to fight every day with the lockdown that we have.  Since 2013 I have been presenting neck and back pain due to the much stress that I live day by day, my health has worsened year after year today I have Osteoarthritis with severe pain and I have been dealing with depression for several years, I have had migraines since  7 years ago, and I have insomnia.  We ask the Lewisham council to pay full attention to our case, please.

Overcrowding is one of the biggest problems our members face. High private rents, benefit cuts, widespread discrimination by private landlords and a desperate shortage of council homes mean that families are forced to rent tiny studio or one bedroom flats. As well being severely overcrowded, these flats are often in very poor condition as well. Even before Covid 19, these living conditions had serious impacts on families mental and physical health. With lockdowns confining people to their homes the situation for overcrowded families has been even more unbearable. Overcrowding itself is a serious public health issue.

Our member describes her family’s situation above. The family of 4 live in a tiny one bedroom flat. They meet a legal definition of overcrowding called ‘statutory overcrowding‘ – an incredibly high level of overcrowding. She describes how the family’s health has been seriously affected by the overcrowded and poor living conditions. Her sons are growing up fast creating even greater overcrowding. As you can see from the photos, every inch of the home is used with a bed almost inside the small kitchen space positioned between the fridge and the boiler, and storage cupboards and shelves from the floor to the ceiling trying to use every bit of space there is.

Their position in band 3 on the housing register where they have been waiting for 6 years does not reflect the family’s very high housing need as ‘statutory overcrowded’ and their urgent need for a quick move due to the related serious medical problems. With the help of housing lawyers, the family applied for band 2 which would allow them the urgent move into permanent council housing that they desperately need. We are waiting for a decision from Lewisham council but Lewisham council have recently been discussing recognising ‘statutory overcrowding’ and the ‘impact on public health’ in their housing allocation policy.

Back in January, Lewisham council’s housing committee discussed a report by the housing manager on overcrowding. In the minutes, they noted: “the importance of having statutory overcrowding as an extra measure given the potential impact on public health”. In conclusion, they resolved to look into “adopting the statutory definition of overcrowding as an additional measure of overcrowding within its Housing Allocation Scheme“.

We hope they will follow up these discussions with the urgent action needed and award this family band 2 for the serious overcrowding and health conditions as well as updating their housing allocations policy by including statutory overcrowding. This would be a very welcome and urgently needed measure to recognize and support families living in severely overcrowded housing who have been stuck in these conditions for years. Lewisham acknowledged the public health impact of overcrowding before Covid 19. With Covid 19, the harmful impact of overcrowding housing has been even greater.