At least two families will be evicted this month from homes they have renovated and lived in for up to 29 years, in the latest round of Lambeth’s short life housing saga.
‘Short lifers’ were allowed to move into often derelict council houses during the 70s and 80s, forming housing co-ops and making the properties habitable. They were granted short term leases by the council and largely left alone until 2011, when the council sent out possession notices to all 170 properties.
Karina Blackhurst , who moved into her house on Clapham’s Park Hill 29 years ago and who has accepted a new property, is being evicted in her daughter’s A-level week and has asked for a postponement, to no avail. She told the Weekender: “They are saying they will come round and change the locks!
“This has been our family home for 29 years, we have lovingly taken care of it. We are being offered no compensation and are being treated like squatters. Lambeth won’t talk to us, they just send solicitor’s letters. The stress and uncertainty has been horrendous.”
Lambeth wants to sell the properties on, indeed a council spokesperson said 71 properties have been sold since 2011, generating £16 million of capital receipts to invest in council housing and school places.
But short life tenants question why the council is suddenly so keen to sell. Nicholas Cope of Stockwell Park Road (pictured above) said his short life neighbours were moved out by the council eight years ago but instead of the property being sold it was left to become derelict once more, with squatters removing lead from the roof ahead of its final sale.
“They sold it for £600,000 in the end,” he said. “But it would have been worth a third more if they had sold it straight away. So why are they in such a hurry now?
He too has received an eviction notice for during his daughter’s A-level week, but unlike Karina’s his family has nowhere to go.
“We did Choice Based Lettings but we weren’t priority so we didn’t get anywhere. They’ve shown us a place which had excrement all over the front door and another place which was tiny for a family of four. So we’ll be out on the street. All we want is to stay here and pay rent, that’s all we’ve ever wanted.”
Julian Hall of Rectory Gardens, Clapham, is challenging the repossession in court, but if he loses faces paying £20,000 of the council’s legal costs. Some residents have been told they will be eligible for an ‘occupation charge’ of up to £55,000.
“It’s obviously extremely daunting,” he said. “The whole thing is to frighten us out of defending our homes. I have put a lot of effort, money and emotion into my home. And it’s not just a roof, these are communities. Hardworking people who have maintained their own homes in co-ops with no help from the council. For the co-operative council this is a joke.”
A council spokesperson said the council’s legal bill to date for the repossessions was ‘unavailable’.
Cllr Pete Robbins, Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: “We will not favour a small group of residents, some of whom are living in properties worth £2million, to the detriment of the 24,000 tenants who desperately need investment in their homes.”