Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Housing campaigners outside Clifton Court

Empty homes action

Campaigners put up posters and erected tents outside Clifton Court in Holmesdale Gardens, which is owned by the Orbit housing association, to highlight the criminal waste of leaving over 50 flats boarded up and empty, while people are sleeping on the streets. Erica Smith applauds a campaign which draws attention to the dire housing situation in Hastings.

Jess, a private renter who was recently forced to move home after her landlord demanded a 37% rent increase, said: “We are here to draw attention to these empty, habitable homes, while over 1,000 people in Hastings are living in temporary accommodation. Often insect-infested, damp and mouldy homes, at the cost of thousands and thousands of pounds per month to the council. Which is why the council is broke. We are looking at a solution.”

Living in a tent is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ when housing rents are unaffordable for those on local incomes.

The last census showed 3,800 empty properties in Hastings and according to Action on Empty Homes, 678 of these are long term empty homes. An estimated 900 properties are not available for secure homes because they are being let on sites like Airbnb.

Felix, who is part of the Housing Rebellion campaign said, “Refurbishing existing buildings is by far the simplest and most environmentally sustainable solution to the housing crisis. This crisis is being caused by greed and profiteering – many landlords are pushing up rents just because there’s no law to stop them, and a shocking 746 properties in Hastings are being used as luxury second homes by wealthy people who live elsewhere. Many homes are being left empty simply because it is more profitable to wait for their value to rise or labour costs to fall before doing them up or selling them on.”

Richard, who was homeless for a year before finally getting secure housing, said, “It saddens me to see another building like this empty when so many are in such desperate need.”

An Orbit spokesperson commented: “We are currently preparing a planning application for submission to the local council next year, with a view to potential redevelopment being completed in 2026 to provide new high-quality, affordable homes on the site. The remaining residents of Clifton Court were relocated to new homes in July this year and the site has been made secure.”

Campaign posters draw attention to the need for affordable housing for local people.

Grace, another member of the Housing Rebellion campaign, said “ It is totally unacceptable for Orbit to empty this building without any clear plan. We’ve seen this before where landlords sit on empty properties until they think it’s most profitable to redevelop or sell on – but people are in need of these homes now! If Orbit can’t or won’t invest in maintaining them, then the council should step in and take over. We are urging people to get in touch if you want to help us get empty homes back in use or tell us about an empty home near you that you think should have people living in it. Contact”

Housing Rebellion campaigners have previously organised protest occupations in empty properties in London.

A member of the Acorn community union, Tracey, explained why she was getting involved in the campaign and trying to set up an Acorn branch in Hastings: “It’s surely not that complicated or difficult to agree that people need secure and affordable homes to live, thrive and bring up families. We’re fed up with the explanations and excuses given by those in power why it can’t be so. Then it’s up to us. If you feel the same then it’s time we started raising our voices and demanding change. Sign up on the website”

The next step: attend the event on Monday 4 December

Housing groups, including local co-ops, homeless charities and campaigners from Acorn and Housing Rebellion are due to hold a day-long networking event at the Observer Building on 4 December to launch a Hastings Housing Alliance. The event will run from 10.30am to 4pm and will include:

• Community-led homes advisors
• Housing cooperatives
• Homeless charities
• Campaigners
• Community land trusts
• Problems v. solutions
• How we as a community can help with the housing crisis
• Hastings Borough Council Head of Housing
• Lunch and Cooking for Coops demo funded by Hastings & Rother Food Network
… and more.

For more information and to book your place, visit the OB website.


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Posted 19:52 Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023 In: Campaigns

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