Housing campaigners demand Southwark town hall opens up empty council housing

Housing campaigners will go to blighted Rotherhithe tower block Maydew House tomorrow, Tuesday 23rd June at 6pm, to press their Council to take radical action to deal with the housing and health emergency. Maydew House was emptied by the Council nearly five years ago. This has deprived 144 Southwark households of a council home ever since.

Now the spread of COVID-19 has shown up the massive overcrowding in the borough. Campaigners argue that empty council homes like those waiting to be demolished on the Aylesbury Estate and Maydew House should be refurbished and filled immediately. Overcrowding makes it impossible to self-isolate and puts whole families and other types of households at risk of the disease.

Groups including Southwark Defend Council Housing, Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations, Southwark Law Centre and Latin Elephant sent an open letter to Council Leader Peter John on Tuesday 2nd June. The groups believe that thousands of empty private homes could also be requisitioned by the Council and turned into council housing. This would go a long way towards solving the housing and health emergency.

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 is gaining support with over 500 signatures.

Maydew House from Southwark Park

Tanya Murat from Southwark Defend Council Housing said: “There can be no good reason to keep empty council homes empty for any longer. The Council first wanted to reduce the number of council homes in Maydew House by 42. Now they claim that there will be an overall increase in council housing on the Abbeyfield Estate, although we think the rents are likely to be higher. But five years after people were removed from Maydew House no building has happened. They should have just refurbished the flats five years ago and keep them as council housing.”

Sally Causer from Southwark Law Centre said: “We are living through a time where a safe, secure and affordable home could not be more important yet nearly 11,000 households in Southwark are living in cramped conditions, overcrowded temporary accommodation or in hotels and B&B’s. When considering the plight of those in our community living in these situations during a pandemic it is unacceptable that Maydew House has been left empty for so long, and we call on Southwark Council to refurbish the building and make sure it stays as 100% council housing.”

Jerry Flynn from 35% Campaign said: “The Coronavirus crisis has shown that homes can be found for the homeless by determined action.  It would be tragic if the opportunity to build on this and solve the homeless problem permanently was lost.  Refurbishments like Maydew House are very welcome, but Southwark must get on with it now and bring the new homes into use.”


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