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Two less homes on Westminster Council housing waiting list after auction

Council said it had allowed homes to become too expensive to repair

15 February, 2019 — By Tom Foot and Zenon Kotsakis

The protest outside the auction house in Park Lane 

HOUSING campaigners protested outside a Mayfair auction house as two council homes were sold to private bidders yesterday (Thursday).

Westminster Council admitted it had allowed properties in Orsett Terrace, Gloucester Terrace and Wallerton Road to fall into disrepair. The high cost of bringing the homes back up to acceptable standards was not worth the money and they had been put up for auction, officials said.

The cost of refurbishment did not deter property speculators at the Park Lane auction, who snapped up the Orsett Terrace studio for £350,000, and a one-bed in Wallerton Road sold for £340,000. The two-bed flat in  Gloucester Terrace – on the market for £750,000 – did not sell.

Campaigners staged a protest outside the “Allsop” auction at the Inter- continental Hotel in Park Lane, Mayfair. Several other homes, owned by publicly-funded bodies like Transport for London and housing associations were also sold.

Housing campaigner Glynn Robbins told the Extra: “It’s a scandal. We need much more of an out- cry against this when you think about the fact that there are 300,000 people in London alone on housing waiting lists. We know that homelessness has doubled in the last 10 years and these organisations, that are supposed to be serving the public good, are selling off housing that is desperately needed.”

Speaking about all the publicly-funded organisations selling homes at the auction, he added: “If they were skint and if they were saying we’re down to our last penny this is the only way we can reinvest to build the homes we need, we can have a discussion. But these are wealthy, wealthy, organisations. Their chief executives, as standard, are get- ting paid a quarter of a million pounds a year. They are feeding this speculative property mar- ket at this moment. And that is how we have ended up in this problem, treat-

ing homes as a commodity instead of something people need in their lives. No public authority should be doing this. It’s absolutely scandalous and it should be stopped.”

Funding for social rent homes, which tends to be around 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than market rent, was cut by the coalition government in 2010.

Since then funding has been targeted at homes for “affordable rent”, which can be up to 80 per cent of market rents.

Warren Kenny, regional secretary of the GMB union, which helped organise the protest, said: “GMB London is calling for this sale of social housing to be stopped. GMB is calling for support for these protests. There are desperate families in bed and breakfast and other temporary accommodation who badly need these homes being sold at auction.”

Westminster’s chief housing councillor, Andrew Smith, said: “This sale is part of our plan to provide more homes for the community. The properties being auctioned are in poor condition, need significant investment in repairs, and are no longer suitable for council housing. The money raised through their sale will be used to purchase new, bet- ter council homes for those families most in need.”

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