Campaigners send message to Southwark Council: Stop demolitions and requisition empty homes

Council housing campaigners will stage a protest outside a massive development which has no low-rent flats on Thursday at 6pm.

The protst at One the Elephant, St Gabriel Walk, Elephant and Castle, will press Southwark council to take radical action to deal with the housing and health emergency.

They say the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown have highlighted the massive overcrowding in the borough, which has made it impossible to self-isolate and puts whole households at risk.

Groups including Southwark Defend Council Housing (SDCH), Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations (SGTO), Southwark Law Centre and Latin Elephant sent an open letter to Council Leader Peter John on Tuesday 2nd June.

Campaigners also point out that One the Elephant also contains NO AFFORDABLE HOUSING and many empty flats.

The groups believe that thousands of empty homes could be requisitioned by the council and turned into council housing. This would go a long way towards solving the housing and health emergency.

They are also asking people to sign a petition urging the Council to requisition private empty homes, stop demolishing the Aylesbury Estate, open up and let all empty council homes and support the #shutthesites campaign.

Tanya Murat from SDCH said: “The housing crisis has always been a health crisis; Families living in poor, overcrowded accommodation, people sleeping on the streets, rents way above most working peoples’ ability to pay, benefits that don’t cover the rent. All these issues affect people’s mental and physical health. At the same time, we’ve seen an explosion in the building of luxury homes and there are more than 2,000 officially empty homes in Southwark. Millions more people face pay cuts, unemployment, unsafe living conditions and homelessness. We are writing to Southwark Council to urge our representatives to take measures to solve this crisis and save thousands of lives. We want to work with the Council to pressure the government to open up empty homes.”

Cris Claridge from SGTO said:Will Mahon from Action on Empty Homes has informed the SGTO that 1 in 25 homes in Southwark are long term empty and there are 2,635 whole home Airbnb lets.

Some of these empty properties are council properties awaiting demolition, so property developers – including housing associations can build properties, many of which will be bought for investment; the rich buying second homes and leaving them empty. We call on housing associations with empty properties during this crisis to make their founders proud and make all of their empty properties available for the people who need them.

Communities see the potential in empty homes and the negative impact empty homes they have on their neighbourhoods. Southwark Council, Landlords and the community must work together to access properties, raise funding and bring empty homes into use to provide the secure homes for local people which they would like to see delivered.”

Sally Causer from Southwark Law Centre said: “Over 500 people made homeless applications to Southwark Council in the past 2 months. On average there are 138 households seeking homeless assistance each day from the Council. Last week Southwark received 27% of all homeless approaches in London, yet homes stand empty or are being used as Air B and B properties. We recognise that Southwark Council is doing its best to house homeless people safely with little government support, but it’s a losing battle unless there are drastic changes in national policy.”

Pic: Southwark Council


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