Dozens of Islington families to be forced out of their homes

DOZENS of families could be spending the last Christmas in their homes – after learning their houses are set to be sold from under their feet.

Forty-seven households have received letters telling them that Islington Council bosses are planning to sell off their homes.

They are all council tenants and leaseholders – some of whom have been waiting for years for their crumbling properties to be brought up to standard.

Now Islington Council has concluded that the buildings would simply be too expensive to repair and is putting them on the market.

Council tenants Derrick and Madeline Plowman, who have lived in their three-bedroom maisonette in Stradbroke Road, Highbury, since 1974, are devastated at the prospect of having to move.

Mr Plowman, 68, an HGV driver, believes his home only needs so much work because the council has neglected it for so long.

He said: “We were on the waiting list for 13 years before we got this place. We are really upset. We have been here all our married life. We brought up our three boys here. This is not much of a Christmas present.”

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Councillor Terry Stacy, Lib-Dem housing spokesman, said: “Talk about a nightmare before Christmas. Labour housing chief James Murray and his colleagues have ruined these residents’ Christmases. All they will now do is sit there and worry about what the future holds for them. People face being forced out of neighbourhoods they have lived in for over 35 years in some cases. This is truly heartless.”

Reflecting on the loss of his home, Mr Plowman added: “The windows need replacing, the central heating needs looking at and the kitchen and bathroom need doing – but they have been promising that since 2001. The property does also need underpinning but they have been monitoring it for the past couple of years and it looks like it’s OK.”

Fellow council tenant Stephanie Andrews, 51, who has lived in her one-bedroom flat in Stradbroke Road for 22 years, siad: “I was absolutely gobsmacked when I got the letter. I was led to believe I’d be getting a new kitchen in the summer. I had already picked out the colours and bought the oven and the hob. There is quite a lot wrong with the flat but it’s still my home and it’s a community here. I have never felt so safe.”

The 47 households live in 16 converted period houses across Islington.

Labour-run Islington Council is planning to sell off all 16 houses early next year because it has calculated that in each case, it would cost more than �30,000 per occupied bedroom to bring them up to scratch.

It plans to sell half the properties on the open market and half to social landlords.

Council tenants currently living in the properties will be given points to bid for another home while leaseholders will be able to stay – but will see their freeholder change from Islington Council to a private property company.

Brian Potter, chairman of the Federation of Islington Tenants’ Associations and of the Islington Leaseholders’ Association, added: “It’s absolutely disgraceful. How can it make sense to re-house people rather than repair homes at a time when we have a chronic housing shortage? My fear is that this is the thin end of the wedge and that other properties will go the same way.”

But not all council tenants are dismayed by the decision.

One woman, who lives in a maisonette in Arthur Road, Holloway, said: “I can’t wait to move. I live in a one bedroom flat with my newborn son and if I have the chance to move somewhere nicer or bigger, then I certainly won’t pass that opportunity up.”

The Labour administration insists its hands are tied.

Councillor James Murray, the council’s executive member for housing, said: “This is a problem that has been going around for years – back to when the Lib-Dems were in power. Money hasn’t been allocated to do up properties with very expensive problems such as subsidence. It needs to be sorted out once and for all.

“We have made the decision to keep as many of the homes for social rent as possible by selling properties that are only occupied by tenants to housing associations, even though the money we get will be less.”

Between 2002 and 2013, Islington Council will have spent �540million doing up 26,000 council homes.