Lambeth: Estate tenants forced to move out homes amid council regeneration plans

Alson Sonanburg, pictured with his daughter, is among the affected tenants (Supplied)
Alson Sonanburg, pictured with his daughter, is among the affected tenants (Supplied)

More than 100 south London tenants have been told they must leave their homes under a council’s estate regeneration plans.

The private tenants had moved onto estates earmarked for regeneration and partial demolition by Lambeth Council.

Now they are being told they must look for another place to live when their tenancies come to an end to accommodate the plans - with one telling the Standard he felt “lied to”.

Lambeth Council said it was buying back leaseholder properties to help house homeless families, and that it would provide support for affected families whose leases are not renewed.

Alson Sonanburg, a lecturer, has lived on the Gipsy Hill’s Central Hill Estate estate for two years, but now has been told he needs to leave by November.

He says he needs to stay on the estate to be able to care for his elderly mother, whom he visits daily, adding he could not find somewhere else in the area which would be able to accommodate his partner and their two children for the same price.

“For me, it's like moving out is going to destroy my entire family, to be honest with you,” he said.

“My mother is someone who needs assistance daily, I have to go see her for medication. So this is going to be very difficult.

“And the other reason I moved here is that I’m part of the local church community, I’m very active, my children really enjoy the area and go to school here.”

Central Hill Estate which is earmarked for regeneration (Lambeth Council)
Central Hill Estate which is earmarked for regeneration (Lambeth Council)

Mr Sonanburg said he never would have rented the property if he had known it was short term, saying one neighbour was only in their home for three weeks before being told to leave.

“Lambeth needs to apologise to us for lying to us and treating us this way,” he said.

Also affected are some tenants on the Fenwick Estate in Clapham and Cressingham Garden Estates in Brockwell Park.

Ahead of the plans, which are still to be finalised, council officials began buying back leaseholder properties, with some people in temporary accommodation being able to move into social rented homes on the estates.

Some ex-leaseholder properties were then reoccupied by private tenants, some of whom say they did not know that Lambeth Council was the ultimate property owner.

A council spokesperson said it intended to use the leaseholder properties it had bought back to house homeless families.

But Pete Elliott, a former Central Hill Estate tenant, said there were empty homes on the estates which should be filled first.

The former Green Party councillor told the BBC: “There is no reason to move the private tenants off - they are paying a lot of money in rent.

"There are empty homes on the estate to move the people in to from temporary accommodation.

"We've got dozens of empty homes across the five estates they want to regenerate.”

A council spokesperson said it was “seeking to use all the properties it can to support those families most affected by the housing crisis.”

“The properties in question are former right-to-buy homes that the council has bought back, and we are planning to use them to provide vital housing for homeless families in our borough,” said the spokesperson.

“These properties were let to private tenants on a fixed-term basis, as Assured Shorthold Tenancies, and this was only ever intended to be a short-term measure.

“The tenants have been advised that when their current fixed-term tenancies come to an end they will not be renewed.

“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.”