Lambeth Co-op Community Evictions - thoughts?

Discussion in 'Clapham news, issues and general chat' started by Jack, Mar 1, 2014.

  1. Jack

    Jack Administrator Staff Member

    Lambeth Council is currently working to evict a number of people who live in "Co-operative Communities" in the borough. Co-op Communities are essentially social housing for people who moved in decades ago (some in the 70s or 80s) to maintain the buildings when Lambeth Council couldn't. This was at a time when the area was much worse off than it is now.

    Some of Clapham Old Town's Co-Op Housing

    As I understand it, the council would re-home these people in alternative accommodation and their current houses sold off to raise funds for the council. This is because the houses (now some of the most valuable property in London) are in reality often poorly maintained with severe maintenance needed.

    It is not a simple issue, these buildings have been people's homes for a long time and the residents being asked to move are understandably not all happy. Forming an activist group called the Lambeth United Housing Co-op, you can read all about the history of Lambeth Co-ops on their website. Drumming up considerable support from one Labour MP, Kate Hoey, and local Clapper, Vivienne Westwood.

    As an example, some of the housing in question is situated near Clapham Old Town's Virgin gym. In all honesty, the condition of the houses at Clapham Old Town is not good for people to live in, so something does need to be done. But what?

    What do you think should happen here? Is Lambeth Council correct? Should Lambeth foot the cost of refurbishment? Should the residents be prepared to move to alternative housing or be allowed to stay?
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2014
  2. Clapham Trooper

    Clapham Trooper New Member

    No, no, no!! Come on, this is nonsense. Basically, a bunch of people who have moved into houses now worth MILLIONS are being asked to move to alternative housing? Sorry, I genuinely do feel sorry for people having to leave their beloved home, especially people who have been there for years and are elderly. No one would really want that to happen without a seriously good reason. However, there IS a very VERY good reason. Those houses are a STATE. They look terrible, are clearly NOT looked after by their residents and are simply unacceptable. Let me tell you, refurbishing those buildings to a state suitable for living in would cost tens of thousands. To bring them to a modern standard, would probably cost something like £100,000 per building. There is NO WAY I could recommend Lambeth Council take on that responsibility to use the money I've spent my life working for to pay for a multimillion pound house for someone to live in who hasn't paid for it. I'm all for social housing, I really am. I am here for these people, but there's a line in reality and it's been crossed.
  3. LUHC1

    LUHC1 New Member

    I would like to thank Love Clapham for posting details of our campaign to stop Lambeth Council's evictions, though I have to take issue with some of the introductory remarks.

    I note that the first response above does at least express some sympathy with the elderly residents who are going to be booted out of their long-term homes. However, you will need to pin back your ears a bit and take on some more information before you start screaming 'no, no, no!'.

    The evictions are a triple whammy for housing because:

    1. Social housing is being sold off.

    2. People who have long-term homes are being thrown on to the waiting list, displacing others.

    3. The money raised is not being used to build new housing.

    Those affected include people who have been in their homes since the 1970s and are in their 70s.

    The community that us being purged is a close-knit one and people who live in it are constantly making repairs. The bohemian feel may not to be to your taste but we get photographers, art students and so on, going mad for our street (in a good way) and have other fans including well-known writers etc.

    When you compare our street to the new block next to us it is mind-blowing - we have lost count of the number of transient inhabitants moving in and out of some of the new units.

    As far as the issue of upkeep:

    I myself have:

    - repaired rotten window frames

    - repaired ledges

    - repaired roof and guttering and brickwork

    - put in central heating

    - fixed drains, piping etc

    All the work has been done by me or by my immediate neighbours. Only last week I had a neighbour of mine working on my house and you would be surprised by how much work people have done on their homes over the years.

    So please don't tell me that my home is not fit to live in, or say that of others whose houses you have not visited.

    You may be interested to know that these communities were given categorical promises by their local Labour councillors that have now been broken (save for Helen O'Malley who retains her principles). They said:

    “Labour will continue to fight for your right to stay in your home.”

    And they also said:

    “We have reminded colleagues and officers that some of these homes would not be standing if it was not for the work of the people living in them.”

    “It would be senseless as well as expensive to evict people only to have to re-house them again.”

    Furthermore, please do not use the scandalously inflated housing market to hang people. These were houses Compulsory Purchased in the 1970s for tiny amounts of money and were abandoned before people moved in and started to maintain them.

    We are not asking - and have never asked - Lambeth Council to take on responsibility for these houses and have advanced our own Super Co-op solution numerous times.

    The only people to cross a line on this issue are Lambeth Council.
    Emil Tschepp likes this.
  4. Emil Tschepp

    Emil Tschepp New Member

    The co-ops are spread accross the borough and many co-op homes are in-fact in a better condition than much of the social housing Lambeth manages itself. All of these co-ops are under threat with residents either facing or having faced legal action for eviction. The real reason the council is selling of these homes is that they think they can make a fast buck from them.

    I also take issue with the lie that the council regularly peddles that all co-op residents are re-homed in council housing with a tenancy for life. We have been talking with many residents who have been placed into temporary accomodation or given fixed-term or probationay tenancies. One household that was recently evicted is now in temporary accomodation outside the borough but has been told by Lambeth that they do not have any obligation to find them a permanent home.
  5. Clapham Trooper

    Clapham Trooper New Member

    I do understand why you are angry and upset. However, what you are saying doesn't make sense and I fully support Lambeth Council's actions.

    What you are saying is that Lambeth Council should continue to let people live in social housing worth millions of pounds. I can also understand that you have made some work the houses however the condition is not good at all, sorry.

    As a local resident who pays some of the most expensive council tax in the country, I actually EXPECT Lambeth Council to take this kind of action to fund area improvements. Sorry, I know that's not what you want to hear but it's fair for the tens of thousands of residents in the area.

    I definitely no NOT agree with your smear campaign of the council either. If you have a point, make it cleanly.

    All of that said, I am sympathetic to your community and way of life. I think it would be right for the council to try and rehome you all together into a similar location.
  6. Emil Tschepp

    Emil Tschepp New Member

    What smear? Nothing said by either myself or LUHC1 is untrue, all of it is based on personal testimony or experience. Also; excessive capitalisation does not show your opinions, however honestly held, in the best of lights.
  7. Lambeth United

    Lambeth United New Member

    Sorry, what have we said that doesn't make sense to you? It's hard to address that point if it isn't made clear.

    I am confused by the mix of sentiments above. If you have sympathy then how do you reconcile that with evicting people from houses they have lived in for 10, 20, 30 and 40 years in some cases?

    Where do you draw the line at selling off social housing units? Units in some local council estates fetch high prices, are you going to use them as a piggy bank too?

    I do worry about the idea that people pay council tax (as I do too, of course) in expectation that their authority goes about and socially cleanses the local community, and breaks promises it has made to that community too. Your concept of fair seems skewed to me. Also, when you say improvements in the local area, what improvements are they? The ones that TfL are paying for?!

    As for a smear campaign. I mean, really, what planet are you on? I find that accusation extremely offensive. The statements noted above are in black and white on Labour Party leaflets.

    Is your definition of a smear campaign the existence of other people who hold a different opinion and have facts to support it?

    Perhaps you are a Labour Party member concerned at the prospect of defeat in Clapham Town Ward?

    The council has been less than fair in some of its propaganda and we have been responsive to that. Our campaigning efforts have uncovered inconsistencies, broken promises, misleading statements and key information denied. I am sorry you don't like this, but there it is.
  8. Clapham Trooper

    Clapham Trooper New Member

    I'm not connected to the council at all. I'm an ordinary Clapham resident who has lived here for decades and just paid about £600,000 for a one bed flat in Clapham Old Town. I have worked hard for that money. That said, I would HAPPILY swap my flat with you for one of your houses now worth (with much renovation) upwards of £1 million each. In that one street, there must be what, about ten houses? That's about £10 million+ for that street alone. Money that belongs to the local residents. Why should we all pay greater council tax when these council owned buildings falling into disrepair could offset that raise. I do feel for you because no one wants to see people moved out of the places they call home. Of course not. However, you must see sense.

    • Why should you live in million / multimillion pound properties when so many other people in the borough in social housing live in flats and other, lower cost accommodation? You moved in at a time when the council needed people to co-op live in the borough. That need isn't extended 'for life'. It served a need for a great deal of time, it can't go on forever.
    • Why would the council of 2014 continue policies from 20 - 40 years ago? It's "Lambeth Council" in name, but this is not the same council from those years ago. All this talk of broken promises....... It's just nonsense.
    • Why should the COUNCIL own properties that would cost £50,000 - 100,000+ to renovate? No way. I, as a local tax payer, am not paying for those renovations (and as much as you deny it, the buildings DO need it).
    • Why do you have any right to stay in those properties when the council are offering you alternative housing in perfectly good residencies in the borough?
    • Why on your website are you saying the council is corrupt etc etc? Many of the things you highlight have nothing to do with your housing situation and are just slurs to try and encourage more people to side with your situation.
    This is all strong but I so strongly disagree with the council allowing this to continue any longer. I do want to see you rehomed suitably and together. But there is no justifiable reason why you should be able to stay in those houses - as there is no justifiable reason why Lambeth Council should continue to own them and allow them to fall further into disrepair.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014
  9. Lambeth United

    Lambeth United New Member

    It is you who must see sense, and see that you are conflicted in your thinking between knowing that this is not right on a human level and trying to reduce people and community to a balance sheet.

    - The council has not spent a penny on our homes and we are not asking them to.

    - The houses are not worth a million each, though, of course, they are worth much, much more than when many of the residents moved into them and no one else wanted them. You are hanging inflated market value around the necks of long term residents like a noose. It is very judgemental.

    - These are homes were going to be demolished and were CPO'd for peanuts in the 1970s, the community moved in saved them from that fate. Now you want to evict people including OAPs so the council can add to reserves. No other local authority I know of balances their books like that.

    - You understand that people do not want to be moved out of their homes so why do you insist on this being done, especially old and vulnerable residents? Why not have the good grace to let people in their 70s live out their lives in homes they have loved?

    - The co-op has repaired its own properties and would continue to do so, and the scheme we proposed would enshrine that across the borough with the other remaining co-ops. Meanwhile, I haven't noticed any council tax rises in recent years.

    - Permanency was offered to our communities at various points in the 1980s and 1990s but it was the council who pulled away from negotiations. Nevertheless, the idea that it was short-term had long gone.

    - All the talk of broken promises is not nonsense, our current councillors made those promises within the last 5 years. You cannot make promises as the ones they made to a long-established community and then renege on them.

    - Some of the homes people have been offered have been in a poor state, worse than ones they moved out of. Why should people be moved to areas away from friends and family and from their community network or work? To glibly say this is not to understand the notion of community.

    - Why should we displace people on the waiting list? The council send people out of the borough sometimes, they would not have to do that as much if they weren't displacing us.

    - You are naive to think that whole communities can just be picked up and plonked close-by in blocks that would now be sold for not dissimilar prices because of the area.

    - There is nothing on our website that we do not stand by. Specifically, Lambeth's housing department has suffered from corruption and mismanagement and this has been documented in Inside Housing, and it has had a bad legacy for council tenants.

    I work hard too, by the way. I don't earn very much however. Is that a crime? I am willing to pay the rent on my home that I would pay in a new council home and not use the council for repairs. So I put into the pot at one end and I don't take it out at the other. I doubt this is enough for you, who seem to want this purge to go ahead unchecked. Though I am sure others would find it extremely reasonable under the circumstances.
  10. Emil Tschepp

    Emil Tschepp New Member

    I think you are missing a number of critical points, some of which I have tried to emphasise already:
    • The threatened co-ops are spread all over the borough, not just in clapham old town. My co-op is in Stockwell. Damning everyone because you think the old town looks a bit shabby is completely unjust.
    • You keep emphasising the value of the homes, but very few of them have sold for more than £1 million. Those that have had largely been subdivided by their co-op so were not lived in by just 1 family. Two former co-op homes currently up for sale are each listed at £650k - £700k.
    • The council originally compulsory purchased the homes (for demolition) for £2000-£3000 each in the late 1970's. Even factoring inflation we have put many times this value into the homes. Indeed the ownership of some of the homes they are trying to sell is in dispute because they neglected them for so many decades.
    • We and others have put forward proposals which would see the homes renovated and keep residents in-situ while costing the council absolutely nothing at all.
    • Many of the co-op homes which have been sold are still empty, and appear to be being kept empty as investements. This exacerbates the housing crisis for everyone else.
    • The council claims that the proceeds from the sale of the co-ops could be used to build more 'affordable' units, but all the council's current projects are already fully funded while they persist in plans for a new town hall.
    • Not all residents have been offered rehousing, which is why we accuse the council of lying. Those that have are not "perfectly good residencies" and some aren't even "in the borough", we have documented serious damp, subsidence, rot and asbestos issues which is why many co-op residents would rather fight to stay in the homes they have lovingly looked after over the past 3 decades.
  11. Jack

    Jack Administrator Staff Member

    Hey, I can see there are quite strong opinions on here already! :) That's OK, that's what forums are for. Thanks everyone for contributing. We're all part of the same Clapham Community :)

    I wondered, if the people living in the co-op (Emil and Lambeth United) could tell us a bit more about the people who live in them? I find that interesting personally. No worries if you don't want to.

    I always liked the smiley terracotta faces on one of the houses :D
  12. Lambeth United

    Lambeth United New Member

    Hello Jack,

    There has been quite a bit of case study work in the Brixton Blog and on the BBC. Not sure how else best to facilitate this. Drop us a line on though and we could discuss.

    Best wishes
  13. Bill Hicks

    Bill Hicks New Member

    A fascinating, if very sad thread which illustrates clearly the great bleeding gap that has opened up in this city between the rich and the rest of us.

    I've lived in this area for 30 years, paid my Lambeth rates/poll tax/council tax throughout, and I would beg the council not to destroy this community in Rectory Grove or any of the other housing Co-op communities around the borough.

    Politicians love banging on about how they value "community", they urge us all to work together to improve our environments - and yet here is a jewel of an organic, genuine community and they want to break it up and take the money.

    Someone said £10 million for this street? In fact it is priceless. Walk down that way, it's unique, a real urban oasis. The houses may not be Stepford Wives-style pristine, they are lived-in homes where creative people are living creative lives. Remember these were "short-life" houses in the 70s - the residents should be given plenty of credit for already having extended their lives by four decades, perhaps? And how much will it cost to re-house these people in equivalent properties in the borough?

    Then look at some of the houses in the area that have been done up by property developers. All the personality has been sand-blasted out of them, lovely old gardens paved over for parking the obligatory grotesque SUV. They stay empty or become temporary homes for banker-families, parachuted into south London for a year or two before being promoted back to New York or Frankfurt.

    Sorry, I get carried away, but you know what I mean? I mean blandness, exclusivity, sterility. "Gated communities" - almost a contradiction in terms isn't it? I walk past Rectory Grove and - in a nightmare vision of what might happen there - can almost see the steel grilles and cctv and and tasteful plantings and expensive gravel and mock-wrought-iron gates .

    Oh, and £600,000 on a one-bedroom flat. In Clapham? That's more than 20 times the average income. Ordinary? What's going on?
  14. FeelingPeckish

    FeelingPeckish New Member

    Hello All,

    With so many strong opinions and lots of information being shared, I hesitated to post what might seem like a grossly simple question - but if I'm thinking it, perhaps others are as well.

    I think we all sympathize with the plight of people being forced to leave their homes. It sounds horrible. With an assumption of that shared understanding, though, I bring you the following question. I currently rent my flat in Clapham. Should my landlord choose to no longer rent it to me, for whatever the reason, that is his right. I would then have to leave and move somewhere else. Why should that be any different for anyone?

    I suppose I'm assuming that the people in favor of blocking the evictions would posit that if you are in social housing, you have right to live in a certain building, street, neighborhood, area... and while I think that people in social housing should get all reasonable guarantees such as safety, livability, adequate space per person, adequate transport links, etc, I'm not sure that specifying exactly where you live is one of those rights? Perhaps I'm totally missing something here. Please let me know if that's the case!

    Let me end with saying that I think that taking the time to share and listen to differing opinions is SO important, so thanks for letting me put in my two pence!
  15. David Ellis

    David Ellis New Member

    It is interesting to discover this thread and learn about what is going on. I live in Rectory Grove and have often wondered why the houses in Rectory Gardens are as they are, but didn't know the background.

    I know people are working on repairs to the houses, as I often see people painting or sawing or working on a roof as I walk past. However it is true to say that some of the houses facing onto Rectory Grove still look in quite a bad way, some have boarded up windows, etc. - are some of the houses empty?

    If the evictions go ahead then I assume it is likely that the houses would be demolished rather than restored, and the land used to build flats, as presumably that would be more valuable. As mentioned by Bill above I can just imagine this being another "gated development" of flats like the one next to the Virgin gym, which I find very bland and unwelcoming, where non residents cannot even walk down the street because it is all behind gates. And yes they are likely to be bought as investments, or by people who will only live there for a couple of years and have little connection to the local community.

    The current houses may not be "neat and tidy", and may not be worth £1m but they have character, and it is a shame to evict long-standing tenants and break up the community, so I would support their right to stay.
    Lambeth United likes this.
  16. Lambeth United

    Lambeth United New Member

    Dear David,

    Really appreciate your comments, and would be great to chat to you about this. You can email me on

    Best wishes,

    Julian Hall
    Rectory Gardens resident
  17. Emil Tschepp

    Emil Tschepp New Member


    There are a few different issues at play in this dispute with the council. You are correct in saying that councils do not usually have the legal power to evict social housing residents in order to sell their homes into the private sector, however Lambeth have gone back on earlier promises of permanency by claiming that our housing is classed as temporary acommodation and they can do with it what they want.

    The aforementioned promises of permanency, by the way, were given in exchange for us bringing the homes back up to a decent standard (with our own money and effort) after they were left derelict by Lambeth in the 1970's. They had wanted to knock them all down to build tower blocks in their place but ran out of money.

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