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Form "International Tribunal on Evictions”

Monday 30 September 2013 10:25:30 pm

General Information

UK
London
London Borough of Lambeth
Shortlife Housing Co-operatives

Description of case of forced evictions

2 (underway)
Shortlife Housing Co-operatives were formed in Boroughs all over the UK, to provide low cost, short-term accommodation for people in housing need who were not generally eligible for rehousing through normal channels - particularly single women and men on low incomes and gay people. The Local Authority (Lambeth Council) has allowed this situation to remain for 35 years, it should no longer be termed 'Shortlife' and our very stable communities should be recognised as integral to the areas we live in.
1000+ households originally (approx 3,000+ people?). At least 50% women, but almost certainly much higher. We don't have any exact figures..
Official reason: Sell properties at public auction to use revenue for other Council expenses. Unofficial reasons: 1. To cover up of failure to provide legal tenancies to residents. 2. To cover up of missing documentation regarding original plans re: compulsory purchase of properties. 3. To cover up of missing paperwork regarding original purchasing of properties. 4. The Local Authority is encouraging and promoting the gentrification of certain urban areas, to the detriment of the low-waged and vulnerable residents currently living in these areas. Local Authority housing in particular areas is being sold and the existing residents are usually moved out. These areas are then 'developed' by private developers and the cost of accommodation is then too high for the original Co-operative residents to return to. Economic based 'social cleansing' is taking place within the Borough of Lambeth, under the direction of Lambeth Council.
The properties involved are scattered in small groups throughout the Borough. Some Co-op groups are/were housed within blocks of flats. The eviction of these blocks has seen a large police presence, with associated police violence and some 'unlawful' evictions taking place. The evictions of Clifton Mansions, Brixton; Ranger Mansions, Gypsy Hill and Rushcroft Road, Brixton have all taken place within the past 2 years. Carton Mansions, Brixton were forced to go to court to defend against immediate eviction due to, Lambeth Council said, the imminent danger of fire in the building. This eviction attempt was defeated in Court and Lambeth are now trying to evict on other grounds.
Vulnerable people are being made homeless, sometimes without the authority of the Courts. Many residents who are being forced to move are pensioners, low or no-waged, vulnerable people who have relied on their co-op communities for help & support with day-to-day "normal" living tasks. Some evictees (both legally and illegally evicted) have lost many of their personal possessions due to being forced out of their homes unexpectedly, or through being moved into much smaller properties. Many people have experienced serious health problems, directly due to the stress of being forced from their homes. Mental health problems are becoming more common amongst residents and ex-reidents, and chronic, stress related, physical problems are becoming apparent. One resident suffered a simultaneous heart attack and epileptic seizure just days before having to go to Court to defend possession of his home.
Shortlife Housing has always had a particularly high percentage of female participants, and over the years these women have started families. A high number of female Shortlife residents moved into their homes as teenagers, in the 1970's, and now have families. Many female residents are now in their middle, and late middle, ages. Some original residents now have their daughters and grand-children living with them in their 'Shortlife' communities.
London Borough of Lambeth (aka the Local Authority aka Lambeth Council) is executing the evictions, based on legal authority that has been attained by a systematic process of misinformation. The Local Authority has repeatedly misled the Courts in order to obtain permission to evict.

Support, measures taken and follow up

sì (yes: which?)
The Shortlife communities have an informal network of communication and support. Within Lambeth council, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrat Party have both called for an end to the evictions and a full investigation into the 'recall' of these properties. We do not have the support of any international organisation yet. A local Lambeth housing action group has started to get involved with our campaigns and is supporting protests and petitions.
We are attempting to fight evictions through the courts. This is hampered by the campaign of misinformation propogated by Lambeth Council and it's legal team. The Courts believe what the Local Authority says, although we know they are lying. We are organising protests outside the homes of those who are being evicted. We are attending Council meetings to protest the evictions. We are tweeting about evictions and developments. We have a web site. We have an ongoing online petition. We have elicited the support of local media - newspapers, online blogs, a phone-in on a BBC radio show, coverage on the BBC London news.
We have, on a number of occasions, embarrassed the Council into having to offer suitable accommodation to people they intended making homeless. We support, socially, our ex-neighbours as much as we can, though this is not in an organised way.
Complaints have been submitted to the Local Council, the Government Ombudsman and the Co-operative Party, but our claims have bee summarily dismissed by Lambeth Council and the Local Government Ombudsman and the Co-operative Party have delayed making a decision.
extra (yes: which?)
Our own organisation - Lambeth United Housing Co-operative. We have submitted a proposal that would expand the provision of Housing Co-operative accommodation, enabling existing residents be allowed to remain in their homes, and to take on new residents. Our proposal also includes a way of repairing Local Authority homes to provide accommodation, training and the refurbishment of properties that are currently being sold at public auction. We are supported by our local MP Kate Hoey, and also by various representatives of UK Co-operative Housing organisations. However, our proposals are constantly refused by Lambeth Council on the grounds that they need the "capital receipt" from the sale of the properties - it appears that they are simply not interested in negotiating with our low-waged communities, or keeping social housing provision.
The Local Council has repeatedly said it has consulted residents, but this is a blatant lie. The council has provided rehousing in whatever properties are available. Lambeth Council has ignored the substantial social and practical support that has been provided by the Co-operative communities to the vulnerable people, families and old people who have been resident. Many people who have been evicted have been rehoused, but the loss of the supportive community has led to grave financial hardships, loss of practical support for the disabled and chronically ill, and has exacerbated long-term physical and mental health problems. The process of eviction itself has caused intolerable stress and ill health for many residents. A prominent member of our community recently suffered a catastrophic heart attack and epileptic seizure, resulting in coma for months. He is no longer able to function in any sort of normal manner. A number of people have suffered 'mental breakdowns' due to the immense stress. The Local Authority ignores all of this.
Our only weapon seems to be to gain as much publicity as possible, in order to embarrass Lambeth Council into suspending evictions. This has worked in two instances recently. One person is in his 70's and a prominent member of the Black community in Brixton and the other person is a vulnerable Black woman on strong anti-depressive and pain relief medication and who is a suicide risk. Our tactic had originally been to negotiate and come to an equitable agreement regarding permission for the communities to remain. Unfortunately, we realised, quite late, that Lambeth Council were not going to entertain any alternative to their own plans. We had various meetings but they led nowhere. We believe that this was a strategy on the Council's part, to delay us in garnering public protest against the evictions.
This is an ongoing situation that started in the 1990's, but has gradually got more vindictive and aggressive. We have been threatened with eviction on numerous occasions, but until 2011 no eviction threats were acted on. Eviction threats began in the early 1990's when a Court decided a Shortlife resident was a Secure Tenant of the Local Authority, however Lambeth Council failed to formally acknowledge this decision. Many years passed and Lambeth Council now deny that a Secure Tenancy was awarded against it. The original trial summary seems impossible to locate, therefore the Courts are accepting Lambeth Council's 'false history' of the situation. Lambeth Council are pushing through the evictions to try and minimise the opposition that we can organise and to simply reduce the number of people still resident and still protesting the situation.

Details of the person registering information

Trace Newton-Ingham
Shortlife Co-operative resident. Active in opposing the evictions, and active in proposing a viable alternative to these evictions.
Lambeth United Housing Co-operative.
20 Lillieshall Road, Clapham Old Town, London, SW4 0LP, UK.
UK
0777 153 3632
newton.ping.pong@gmail.com
http://comvox.wordpress.com & http://www.LambethUnitedHousingCo-op.org.uk
English
I have surgery in hospital scheduled for 8th October 2013, please contact Suzie Robertson, telephone - 07977 505 270, email - suzierobs@gmail.com

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Publication Conditions

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