Lewisham People Before Profit (PBP) walked into some of the houses during open viewings at the weekend (and 'gained access' to others) and began squatting. They say the houses, which were given guide prices of as little as £130,000, could be used to home one of the 1,000 families in the borough currently in temporary accommodation. Lewisham has 16,500 people on the waiting list for social housing.
Campaigners have made a video (below) and some of the houses in question look spectacularly grotty. The Council says work would cost £40,000 to renovate each home, but PBP say it costs that amount to house a family in a B&B for a year, so costs could be recouped quickly. They also say the work would provide much-needed jobs for the area – or, if the council won't do it, PBP will consider training local unemployed people to do the necessary electrical, plumbing, plastering and carpentry work.
Lewisham Council told us it is
disappointed by the actions of the squatters. Given its limited funds, these properties are uneconomic for the Council to repair. Instead, the Council intends to sell these properties to speedily release much needed funds to bring other council properties, which are legally occupied and in better repair, up to decent homes standard. Regrettably the Council has been forced to withdraw the properties from sale due to the unlawful occupation by squatters. This will only delay the repair of other properties in its housing stock.
Given the perilous state of public funds at the moment this isn't a black and white issue and we suspect there's truth and good intentions on both sides. Housing is a tricky subject and we're looking at it all week as part of our Mayoral Election coverage.