The independent London newspaper

We need action on empty homes and to protect the homeless

15 May, 2020

More stringent safety measures are needed for the homeless. Photo: Debbie Humphry

• I SUPPORT whole­heartedly the sentiments expressed by your correspondent about the large Tollington Road N7 property owned by Clarion Housing Association, sitting empty while evictions and the numbers of rough sleepers increase and key workers need accommodation near their workplaces during the coronavirus crisis, (Property just sits empty, Letters, May 8).

The call for Tollington Road to be brought back into use is symptomatic of a much wider issue. The campaign organisation Action on Empty Homes reports that the problem is London-wide with over 70,000 properties empty.

With around 4,000 empty properties, Islington has the seventh highest number of all 32 London boroughs.

The campaign is calling for the government to give councils powers to put long-term empty homes into use for health and other key workers near their places of work.

It also urges that the many Airbnb and second homes that are currently empty be brought back into use for key workers, particularly whole house lets close to hospitals.

London is at the epicentre of risk for key workers and as Will McMahon, the director of Action on Empty Homes, says: “Local councils should ask homeowners to volunteer their second or habitable long-term empty homes.

In a national crisis, where lives are at stake, we need everyone to be ensuring that resources, including housing, are available for use where they are needed most.”

Many of my students work in the food retail and delivery sector, facing stress and risk to make sure the country is fed.

We also need to help the increasing homeless population who are clearly evident on our streets, despite the government’s emergency measures. They include the many hospitality workers who have lost their jobs and slipped through the net of government support.

Therefore the lead made by the government and Islington Council on housing so many rough sleepers needs to step up, ensuring more stringent safety measures for the homeless so that the coronavirus crisis can help heal, not exacerbate, this continuing and shocking inequality in one of the wealthiest cities and countries in the world.

NW5 resident & human geography lecturer at Kingston University


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