The Human Costs of Destroying Housing Cooperatives

The human cost of Lambeth Council’s ‘shortlife’ housing co-op evictions, that have affected communities established for up to 40 years, has been felt in numerous ways.

Stress, mental breakdown, and threatened bankruptcy are among the problems that the Labour council’s policy has caused to residents, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable.

There are two cases in particular that stand out because of their severity. Both of the people involved cannot be named because of their situations and their vulnerability.

Mr A, a long-standing, active co-op member collapsed 4 days before he was due at trial to defend against Lambeth’s possession of his co-op home last spring. Uncertainty over Legal Aid and mounting costs piled on by Lambeth’s lawyers, Devonshires, exacerbated his stress and his collapse was due to a heart attack and an epileptic seizure. This catastrophic situation has left the man immobile and hospitalised for nearly a year now, with greatly impaired hearing and specialists do not think he will ever re-gain proper hearing.

Now only able to communicate very simple words, the road back to health for this man is a long and uncertain one and his health has rendered him unfit to live in the home he loved – all because of the battle against his vindictive local council, an authority that his co-op once took housing nominations from!

Another man, Mr B, was also already vulnerable and the fight to keep his home of 14 years left him emotionally & physically exhausted.

Rather than face the bailiffs who came to claim his home recently, Mr B left his home an hour before they arrived.

Mr B is now living outside the borough in temporary accommodation and Lambeth are refusing to rehouse him.

He was told that being ‘shortlife’ and/or vulnerable meant nothing and he wouldn’t be entitled to re-housing anymore than anybody else would be.

Mr B is now in limbo with scant prospect of securing re-housing where he is now because Lambeth is refusing to help by providing a referral!

Mr B is not the only ‘shortlifer’ to have left their home before the bailiffs arrived – little wonder, as who wants to face the indignity and stress of being forced out of their long-term home by paid thugs?

Don’t forget the others who have been implicated in this eviction scandal – they include: 74-year-old Brixton Topcats coach Jimmy Rogers, still under threat; Andy Carstairs who was assured by both Cabinet member for housing Cllr Pete Robbins and his local Clapham Town Ward councillor Nigel Haselden, that he would not be evicted, only to return home one day to find bailiffs in his house and barring his entry! Only the bad publicity that came from this got Mr Carstairs satisfactorily rehoused.

Similarly, only an occupation of the town hall foyer and a petition meant that vulnerable resident Charmain Lodge was adequately rehoused.

Where will it all end?

It will only end with a change in council policy meaning that these communities are not sold off and residents stay in their homes – homes that should remain as a co-operative framework and add to the social housing stock in the borough.

There is an active campaign to stop further short life sell offs. Please contact us for details of how you can get involved