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HOUSING and climate campaigners are occupying a house in south-east London in protest against its planned demolition and the “crime” of leaving empty homes boarded up amid a housing crisis.
Protesters from Radical Housing Network and other groups marched to the head office of “not-for profit” housing association Peabody on Saturday before occupying the three-bedroom property on the Lesnes estate in Thamesmead.
It was one of many Housing Rebellion protests that day.
The occupation, will continue tomorrow, has been used to organise a headquarters for the campaign to save the estate.
Peabody has submitted a planning application for the demolition of the existing buildings and the construction of a series of new residential buildings, both private and “affordable,” and commercial properties.
Bill Perry of the network said that the protesters were demanding a “radically new approach” to housing, one “for need, not greed,” and “not a housing policy that focuses on privatising public land and housing to make profits for developers and property speculators.”
He added: “The built environment is responsible for 40 per cent of carbon emissions.
“In the face of the climate crisis the housing we have, how we use our resources and land is vitally important.”
Mr Perry stressed that 30 years of “poor” housing policy and development has had a “massive social and environmental impact,” saying: “Communities have been broken up and forced out by the property speculators and politicians.
“We have moved from secure housing with really affordable social rents to an insecure privatised rental market with rents now at a massive proportion of wages.
“Environmentally, the focus on new build or demolish and rebuild has had a massive carbon cost alongside the social cost.
“It is time to put people and planet before profits.”
Adam Turk, a secure Peabody tenant who has lived on the estate for 15 years, said: “It’s going against what they were set up to do to — provide housing for the working class and the poor and to charge affordable rents to all tenants.
“[It’s] become a corporate developer, while maintaining it is a charity and getting all of the perks and not having to pay tax.”
Campaigners are consulting lawyers about a legal challenge to the whole scheme, with residents wanting to discuss pushing the Charity Commission into investigating whether the housing association’s plans are at odds with its charitable status.
A Peabody spokesperson said its priority is to provide affordable housing and support local communities, and that the redevelopment of the Estate received widespread support from the local community.
“The regeneration of South Thamesmead is already seeing us deliver brand new social homes for hundreds of local people, with the average rent for a 2-bed home being £101 a week,” they said.
“As with previous phases, we will be building high quality, energy-efficient, affordable homes for local people, alongside much-needed additional homes to help address the housing shortage in the borough.
“We want to ensure the community can stay together and have offered all Peabody tenants and resident homeowners on the estate a new home in the neighbouring new development.
“By living in new, more energy efficient homes, residents should also benefit from reduced energy bills.”
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