Housing

'I'm sad, angry and confused': These renters are being made homeless to house people already homeless

People living on five Lambeth estates earmarked for demolition have started receiving no-fault eviction notices and say they are being turfed out of their homes to make way for people already homeless

Renters Jules Zakolska and her partner are facing a no-fault eviction in Lambeth

Jules Zakolska and her partner July Kaliszewski are being evicted from their Lambeth home. Image: Supplied

Renters living in five housing estates set to be demolished and rebuilt in London are claiming they are being evicted to make way for people who are already homeless.

An estimated 163 households living across five estates earmarked for regeneration in Lambeth have received no-fault eviction notices.

Lambeth Council’s regeneration projects on the Fenwick, Central Hill, Cressingham Gardens, South Lambeth and Westbury estates have been set to be demolished for more than a decade.

But renters who are set to be ousted from their properties have teamed up to fight the evictions as the Homes for Lambeth Tenants group. They have warned they are being pushed out of the borough with nowhere else to go.

Jules Zakolska, 26, and her partner July Kaliszewski, 23, the pair have lived on Fenwick Estate for two years and pay £1,310 a month to rent their flat.

Now they face an uncertain future after they received a Section 21 notice on 1 February.

Zakolska said: “I opened that email and I was like, ‘Oh no.’ The one thing that I care about the most, I guess it is happening. So it was a shock and I was just overwhelmed and sad and angry and confused and didn’t know why it’s happening.

“We are fighting so much to stay because we have made this flat a home. The council is not really talking to us at all. But the agent said that they think that the council wants to make this into temporary accommodation, maybe social housing. But how? This flat came unfurnished so all the furniture is my partners’ and mine and we really made it a home, we have a cat who has just got used to this flat. This is like a total upheaval in our lives.”

Zakolska and her partner both came to the UK from Poland in 2020 to study and her partner is currently working as a bartender while finishing their master’s degree. 

Zakolska was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2022 but has been growing plants in her home to boost her income.

She fears that having to move out of the area to find a suitable home in her price bracket will disrupt her life and has managed to negotiate with the council to push back her eviction to 7 December. Zakolska insists she will continue to fight to keep her home.

“I’ve checked but there is literally nothing. We would have to move out of the borough or apply for the council’s homelessness prevention duty,” said Zakolska.

“The council basically has a duty to prevent us from going homeless, but they are the ones that are causing the homelessness.”

She added: “I feel like my wary of dealing with this is action and just doing everything in my power to stop this. I’m very motivated but it has been very stressful. I refuse to accept the decision and I will do everything in my power to stop this.

“I can be strong because I have my community around me. I have people that think similarly that this is an injustice.”

evictions in Lambeth left Peter Elliott homeless
Peter Elliott outside his former home which now stands empty. Image: Supplied

Former local Green Party councillor Peter Elliott has already been evicted from his property on the Central Hill estate.

He has been sofa surfing with a friend after leaving his home in July last year when his landlord sold their property back to the council.

Elliott, who is the Green Party candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood at the upcoming general election, visited his old home on local election polling day to find it boarded up. It now stands empty, one of 146 vacant properties across the estates.

“We were seeing a huge uptick in antisocial behaviour around the empty homes that we have with unlicensed music events and things like that,” said Elliott. 

evictions in Lambeth left Peter Elliott homeless
Peter Elliott’s home has remained empty since he left in summer 2023. Image: Supplied

“They also started moving people in who were in temporary accommodation and so sometimes these were people that had been evicted from other parts of the borough and they were just using Central Hill estate as a dumping ground.”

Like Zakolska, Elliott also accused Lambeth Council of moving renters out to make way for people who are already experiencing homelessness.

The Green Party supporter also criticised the Labour-run council for issuing no-fault eviction notices at a time when the national Labour Party has vowed to scrap them.

The Renters Reform Bill was supposed to get rid of no-fault evictions for good until Rishi Sunak’s general election announcement killed it off. That’s despite it being a 2019 Conservative manifesto promise.

If, as expected, Keir Starmer wins the race to Number 10, Labour have promised to axe no-fault evictions.

“The only reason that they’re saying that they’re moving people out now is because they need to put people in temporary accommodation in them,” said Elliott. “But you’re creating a problem by evicting all these people, they are going to be made homeless, most of them, and you’re just creating more of a problem for yourself as the council so it doesn’t make any sense.”

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He added: “They’re campaigning against Section 21 notices, but their council is dishing out dozens of Section 21 notices potentially. So none of it makes any sense and, in the middle of a housing and cost of living crisis, this is the last time people need to be looking for housing.”

Another resident Vid told the Big Issue he moved into a flat at Cressingham Gardens with his partner in December but learned two months later that he would have to leave the property at the end of his tenancy in November.

That was after the 27 year old had already spent more than £1,000 furnishing the property.

“I think we were shocked to hear this,” he said. “We had invested quite a lot of money purchasing furniture and stuff because me and my partner were just moving in together and we were hoping to make this house a home for us to live in for the foreseeable future.”

He added: “We are quite annoyed at the communication that we have received because there was no indication that we would have to leave the property.

“If we had known that, number one, the council was going to be our landlord, and number two, that this decision was going to be made, then we would have thought twice about investing so much money and moving here.”

There are a record number of people living in temporary accommodation in England with the most recent official statistics revealing 112,000 households are now in a non-permanent home.

That’s a 10% rise in the last year alone and has seen several warnings from councils across the country that mounting housing costs are putting them on the brink of bankruptcy.

The housing crisis is particularly acute in London and Lambeth has had its own challenges in recent years.

A 2022 review from late civil servant Lord Kerslake found Homes for Lambeth – the council’s housebuilding arm – had only started building 65 homes since being set up in 2017.

That review recommended that Homes for Lambeth operations were to be brought back into the council as soon as possible. Following a review, the authority decided property previously let on the private market could be repurposed for people with the most extreme housing need.

Lambeth Council said there was never any intention for the homes to be let on the private market in the long-term but tenants have accused them of a lack of transparency over their plans, leaving them in limbo.

The council said the homes are former council properties sold off through Right to Buy that have been bought back by the local authority.

“The agencies managing the tenancies on behalf of Homes for Lambeth have contacted tenants to let them know that their tenancy will not be renewed and, where suitable, to offer support to help them find alternative accommodation,” a spokesperson said.

Protestors also occupied the council’s office in January in a call for action after a one-year-old baby was hospitalised six times in a year due to the conditions of her home.

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