'Supporters of Greenwich People Before Profit have occupied a huge house that has been left empty and neglected by Greenwich Council for two years. All the families living in the house – at 88 Eltham Road near the western border of the borough – were evicted by the council. As far as we know, the evictions took place after the leaseholder couldn’t afford to renew or extend the lease. The building had been half-heartedly secured, so it was not difficult for campaigners to gain access. We found that the overall condition of the house was good – although there is work to do, with wires and copper piping severed, floorboards lifted and a section of ceiling down. Previously the house was divided into seven flats and we will try to make as much of it as possible habitable.
If anyone would like to help work at the house, or give support in other ways, please come to our next meeting on Saturday 14 April at 2.00 p.m., at 88 Eltham Road, or email email@example.com
Greenwich People Before Profit is following the example of our counterparts in Lewisham, who occupied five long-term empty council houses in February. They are refurbishing them for homeless families to live in. Given the need for social housing in the borough, and the particularly serious housing problems for young people, it is scandalous that this property has been empty for two years. We want to make it habitable.
Homelessness is rising again. Government figures show that in the last quarter of 2011, homeless applications were up by 18% across England and 36% in London. London rents are unaffordable. We hope everyone in Greenwich, including the council, will support our action. The Empty Homes research group says that Greenwich has 3416 empty homes: 362 belong to the local council, the rest to housing associations and private landlords. Why can’t these properties be put back to use?'
Meanwhile Lewisham People Before Profit have extended their campaign to target empty social housing belonging to other landlords:
'tipped off that London & Quadrant Housing Association was selling off houses at auction we decided to investigate. We visited 34 Hazeldon Road, Crofton Park, at viewing times and found two purpose built flats in need of redecoration but in perfectly good structural condition. The auctioneers' catalogue showed a guide price of £275,000 to £300,000 for the whole building, not giving first time buyers the option of buying just one of the flats.
We occupied the flats on Tuesday 27th March, shortly after the last viewing had been held and have cleaned the flats thoroughly, changed the locks and had the steel security doors removed. We have written to L & Q asking them to make the flats available to families from Lewisham's housing waiting list and are awaiting a response. We have had several enquiries and the first family is moving in this weekend'.
Five Council homes put up for auction by Lewisham Council remain occupied (see previous report at Transpontine), as well as a vacant garage on Hart's Lane, New Cross (next to Sainsburys). The latter was originally offered up for auction with the five houses - there are plans to convert into a temporary community/arts space.