Housing scheme launch exposes desperate need

Phoenix Community Housing Co-Op Members and Volunteers Pic: Adelle Kalakouti

Nine long-term empty flats in Tower Hamlets are now being used as short-term lets for people in need of housing following a project run by the Phoenix Community Co-operative and Poplar HARCA.

On Thursday the groups held a launch for the scheme, which was attended by Bow and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick. He spoke of his admiration for the volunteers who helped to renovate the homes.

The scheme aims to reduce homelessness levels by taking long-term empty homes and turning them into short-term lets for single adults on the homeless register or at risk of becoming homeless.

Poplar HARCA provided the studio flats on a seven-year lease and they were renovated as a part of a Phoenix’s Housing Plus project.

However, there are not enough units to offer housing to everyone in need, and Phoenix Co-operative is appealing for more homes. Due to high demand, the co-op has had to close their waiting list for tenancy of the flats.

Over a hundred of their members are currently on handback, meaning the properties will have to be handed back to the landlords at the end of their contract.

Carolyn Smith, a member of Phoenix’s development team, told EastLondonLines that many people are about to be displaced as their tenancies are coming to an end.

“They are looking for empty properties, they are doing land registry searches and it’s very hard. As it is, only a few of them will be re-housed because we don’t have the space sadly. The new homes have a longer lease that’s very good for the co-op,” she said.

The flats, on the Teviot Estate in Poplar, were renovated on a budget of just £90,000 for the whole project. Funding for the renovation was raised through loan and community financing.

Co-op members worked with Women in Construction and recent construction graduates from the College of North West London. They had do the plumbing, fit new kitchens and all the hard work necessary to complete the project.

Tower Hamlets housing officers also attended the event.

Last December EastLondonLines reported that Tower Hamlets was the seventh-worst offender in the country for empty housing association homes, with 878 unoccupied at the last count.

Currently, there are 23,000 families in the borough on the housing waiting list.

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