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Protesters highlight the scandal of empty homes while 100,000 people live in temporary accommodation

HOUSING activists launched nationwide protests at the weekend to highlight the scandal of empty homes while 100,000 people live in temporary accommodation. 

Small protests were held in several London boroughs to demand the repopulation of empty council homes and condemn the “social cleansing” of low-income families from the capital. 

Hundreds also tuned into a national online rally, hearing from new Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

The day of action was launched by the Campaign to End Empty Homes, a new coalition supported by the Big Issue, Homes for All, Action on Empty Homes and Unite London and South East regions. 

On Saturday, in the north-east London borough of Waltham Forest, activists protested outside two council homes left empty for two years.

The E17 Against Evictions coalition accused the council, which reigns over 1,008 empty homes, of leaving council properties empty while pressuring homeless families in temporary accommodation to move outside the capital. 

Martin Goodsell, from E17 Eviction Resistance, said:  “This is social cleansing in action here in Walthamstow. While the council are deporting working-class families out of the borough, they’re planning to sell off social housing to property speculators in order to build luxury apartments.”

Government data shows that there were 665,600 vacant dwellings in England on October 5 2020 — an increase of 2.7 per cent on the previous year.

There were 95,450 households living in temporary accommodation in March 2021, 60,010 of which were in London.

The coalition is calling for the retrofitting of 270,000 long-term empty homes — properties vacant for over six months — and council estates to house families.

Protesters also targeted a luxury housing development in Kensington and Chelsea on Saturday, a borough in which one in every nine homes stands empty despite having the third-highest level of homelessness in London. 

Speaking to protesters outside One Kensington Road, former MP for the area Emma Dent Coad said: “I’ve only ever seen four flats with lights on out of 97 and it’s absolutely despicable.”

“It’s despicable because the law allows this and given the number of homeless people we have in the borough. It should not be allowed.”

And in Southwark, south London, activists demanded the repopulation of the Aylesbury Estate, where hundreds of council homes remain empty while the blocks are gradually demolished and rebuilt. 

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