Report by Nisha Damji
Lambeth council is set to raise over £100 million from selling off its properties across the borough, many of which are former so-called ‘short-life’ homes.
From April 2011 to December 2013, the council generated £85 million from the sales, with that figure set to rise to over £100 million by the end of next month, budget documents reveal.
Around £40 million of this has come from evicting and selling off the homes of a number of ‘short-life’ tenants across the borough, some of whom lived in their homes for more than 30 years.
Lambeth United Housing Co-Op spokesman, Julian Hall, told the Blog: The money raised so far is £8m in excess of the target Lambeth set themselves, but still they persist in breaking up communities. I don’t know of any other UK local authority that is evicting people to find its finances that are currently in reserve.
“Lambeth United Housing Co-operative have repeatedly presented the council with a plan that would save millions of pounds if they retained our homes as social housing. The savings involved are potentially up to £12m.”
Cllr Pete Robbins, Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, defended the council’s actions: “With severe government cuts to capital budgets for schools and affordable housing it is important that we use our resources efficiently.”
Cllr Robbins also stressed that the council’s priority is to deliver “new council housing to help the 1,400 Lambeth households in temporary accommodation, the 1,300 severely overcrowded households and the 20,000 people on our housing waiting list”
However, the council confirmed that they won’t be ring fencing any of the money for social housing in the borough, it will instead go into the main council pot. A separate promise has been made to refurbish the remaining flats in Rushcroft Road.
Mr Hall added: “These evictions and sell-offs mean less housing stock is available, more people are added to the waiting list and none of the monies are being used to ease the waiting list by building new units.”
The figures don’t reveal the cost of carrying out the evictions such as legal fees, fees to property guardian companies or the costs relating to bailiffs.
A recent FOI request highlights that the council has spent over £1 million on a single contract with bailiff company, UK Evict, between 2009 and 2013.
More short-life stories, by Kaye Wiggins
Nisha Damji is currently studying for her NCTJ Journalism qualification at Lambeth College. Follow her on Twitter @Brixtonsfinest