Stop demolitions and requisition empty homes

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Covid-19 has intensified the housing crisis. Millions are losing pay, and can’t afford the rent or are in unsafe, overcrowded homes. At the same time council estates are still being emptied and demolished and there are hundreds of thousands of other empty homes. 
 
In Southwark, we know there are at least 98 families living in shared temporary accommodation, there have been more than 283 homeless applications to April 2020 and thousands of families are on the council housing waiting list.
 
Meanwhile, there are more than 2,000 homes registered as empty for more than six months and in new developments hundreds more are sitting empty as investment properties. Around the Elephant we know of at least 40 AirBnb properties amongst the thousands of luxury private flats. But serviced apartment companies can post one property on AirBnb but hold additional similar properties for rent, so there could be many more empty homes than those shown. This includes Elephant Park which replaces the former Heygate Estate, once home to over 1,000 families and the Strata Tower. Many lay empty, advertised as holiday homes for potential tourists, serviced and ready to go.
 
We believe it is time to use emergency measures to deal with this health and housing emergency.
 
We are calling on Southwark Council to:
1.   Call a halt to all council house demolition.
2.   Refurbish and open up all council homes to house the homeless and those in temporary accommodation including homes on the Aylesbury Estate.
3.   Support the call to #shutthesites. No non-essential building should take place. Building workers should be paid full wages and redeployed on refurbishment of council housing.
4.   Requisition quality empty homes from private and housing association landlords/owners after 6 months. Use them to house homeless families at council rent. This is a popular demand. According to Action on empty homes half of Londoners (52%) think that if local councils had the power to take over homes that have been unoccupied for more than six months and rent them to people in need of housing, it would be an effective way to improve access to housing in London. We want the Council to join us in demanding the government grant greater CPO and requisitioning powers.
5.   Halt all non-essential planning decisions including the approval of major developments with majority unaffordable homes.
6.   Consider expanding the definition of “key workers” to include frontline workers in food shops, delivery drivers, cleaners, carers, postal workers, concierges. Prioritise these workers alongside homeless families for requisitioned properties at council rent.

Signed

Southwark Defend Council Housing

Southwark Law Centre

Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations

Southwark Notes

Southwark NEU

35% Campaign

Public Interest Law Centre

Tenants Union UK

Latin Elephant

Tony O’ Brien, Chair Southwark Bermondsey UNITE construction branch

Balfour Street Housing Project

Southwark Borough of Sanctuary

Southwark Travellers Action Group

Shut the Sites Campaign

Achilles stop and listen campaign

Rodney TRA

Up the Elephant

Defend Council Housing

Homes for All UK

Labour Campaign for Council Housing