The leader of Labour-led Southwark council has conceded his administration’s record on empty homes was ‘unsatisfactory’, admitting that they ‘haven’t managed it properly’. At the previous Council Assembly, the Liberal Democrat councillor Ben Johnson asked the leader about newly released figures. They show that six thousand homes in Southwark are currently empty – much more than any other borough in London and more than neighbouring Lewisham, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets put together.
Shockingly, one in seven of these empty homes are owned by the council, with the turn-around for rehousing is almost four months, compared to three weeks in Tower Hamlets. Cllr Johnson highlighted that 225 council homes have lied empty for more than two years.
The council leader conceded that the ‘alarming statistics’ shows they ‘haven’t managed it properly’ and that it was ‘unsatisfactory,’ but offered no real explanation or apology for Southwark having the worst record in London, or means to rapidly reverse the record.
Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on Southwark council pointed out that a quarter of all recent new-builds have been sold abroad, which has added to the problem. The Liberal Democrats also want to create a specific team to slash the turn-around time of empty council homes and to dramatically increase the council tax for empty homes to encourage landlords to put them back on the market.
Cllr Al-Samerai said: ‘These figures are outrageous. When we are in the grip of a housing crisis and a visible increase of homeless people on the streets, no-one can dispute that something has gone very wrong with Southwark’s housing policy. That these are by far and away the worst figures in the city is damning.’
‘The Council isn’t powerless. It owns one in seven of Southwark’s empty homes and they take months to turn around empty property. If a family moved out of a council house today, the likelihood is that the home would remain empty until July. This isn’t good enough.
‘It’s clear that Southwark Labour’s cosy relationships with developers hasn’t delivered what they promised. We need mixed communities, with empty houses being taxed additionally to get them available again as soon as possible.’
Notes for editors:
- The latest annual figures for vacant dwellings where the figures have been taken from can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/announcements/live-table-615-vacant-dwellings-by-local-authority-district-england-from-2004
- Cllr Ben Johnson’s question, with the council leader’s response quoted above can be found here, from 1hr 55m in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAN4DoU6VdU