Lambeth, The Co-Operative Council crushing the co-operatives under the wheels of ‘policy’

Charmain protest

Charmain protest

Lambeth’s ‘Shortlife’ Housing Co-ops: a brief history

by Trace Newton-Ingham

‘Shortlife’ Housing began in the early 1970s when Lambeth began Compulsorily Purchasing houses for ‘slum clearance’. During this forced displacement, the council began to ‘hand out’ keys for these newly emptied properties, to people who were being made homeless by the CPO-ing of other houses in Lambeth! So began ‘short-life’ tenants. We were then asked by the council to form housing co-ops, which we did. We organised rent collection and improved the properties.

In the first 10 years of my co-op, we spent an average of £10,000 per property – stabilising buildings, installing bathrooms, repairing roofs, making them habitable. Many were on the point of imminent collapse and co-ops brought them back from the brink of destruction.

In 2009 Lambeth said ‘shortlife’ properties would be recalled, though properties that were occupied to capacity would be allowed to stay. We were to be consulted about the proposed plan. Then Lambeth changed its mind and has been slowly evicting us ever since. Even now, co-ops continue to try and negotiate with Lambeth.

For years the only cost of ‘shortlife’ housing was the few thousand pounds Lambeth paid to the original owners. It is now spending a fortune on lawyers, consultants, people to smash the properties up and then put them back together and paying Camelot to put in their own tenants (‘guardians’).

Many ‘shortlife’ housing co-op tenants are now in financial distress, having spent considerable amounts of their own money on maintaining these homes. This money, ultimately, being turned into simple profit by Lambeth. Many ‘shortlife’ tenants are vulnerable, both physically and mentally, and it’s very likely that the constant threat of eviction for almost 20 years has had a substantial negative effect on the health of those affected.

Lambeth has proven itself to be a cynical and ruthless Authority, showing little regard or concern for some of it’s most vulnerable inhabitants.

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