If you have not already heard, Lambeth is now a “co-operative council”.
Not since Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign can I remember a slogan bandied about so freely. The other thing these phrases have in common is they are both apparently meaningless.
This is certainly the case for long-standing Lambeth housing co-operatives.
After nearly 40 years of maintaining houses that were left abandoned by the council, and were scheduled for demolition, members of these co-ops are now facing eviction.
Families, pensioners and other vulnerable members of the community are all being pursued by Lambeth Council.
The endgame is social housing stock is sold off on the open market at auction, plugging a council deficit that has been built up, in part, by fraud and maladministration.
This tawdry state of affairs came from Lambeth leaving co-ops in a vacuum, forgetting the so-called “shortlife housing” stock for so long until they needed it to raid it like a piggy bank.
It seems that, for Lambeth, money means more than community.
“You have given a welcome permanence and continuity to the area" said one of my local councillors to me, and yet at the same time he was not prepared to do anything about the struggle we face to keep the homes we have lovingly maintained – and keep them as social housing.
We have seen no interest - yet - from the councillors towards our ‘Super Co-op’ idea that meets the council half-way and would repair houses before they went into council stock, thereby leaving a legacy of social housing in the borough.
If it is co-ops we want in Lambeth, and not cop outs, then perhaps the council ought to wake up to the value of a homegrown, grassroots housing solution and, well, “just do it.”