Railton Road – a ‘shortlife’ success story

We recently received the following email about the ‘shortlife’ story of Railton Road in Brixton. A very different experience to the one that we are having now!

How things have changed indeed….

When I first came to Brixton in 1974 I squatted in abandoned Lambeth Council property on Railton Road. Eventually as a gay community we squatted 12 houses back to back on Railton and Mayall roads with a communal garden in between. All of the houses belonged to Lambeth Council.

In those days the Housing Corporation was set up specifically to fund various organisations providing social housing with a guarantee of cheap rents and secure tenancies. Often as an interim measure pending redevelopment the council would grant squatters short life tenancies. I am not sure how this came about but the council negotiated with the Solon Housing Association to take over the properties we occupied as well as others in the area for redevelopment. Having done this, far from evicting squatters to take vacant possession of the properties, we were decanted as single people into hard to let flats while also becoming part of the self-managed Brixton Housing Cooperative. During that period the architects responsible for redesigning the new dwellings liaised with the decanted squatters who were encouraged to design their own living space. Where to put bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, lounges etc. Eventually everyone moved en masse back in to the new flats and they are still there today as secure tenants.

The question raised by all of the above is this – why can’t Lambeth Council make similar arrangements now as they did then? Instead of evicting squatters as in Rushcroft Road and potentially elsewhere why could they not have negotiated a different route instead of flogging off homes to profit-hungry developers whose main aim is to attract a more cash worthy clientele. Social cleansing of ordinary working people, the poor and disadvantaged is abhorrent and should have no place in a so-called civilised society. It seems that the requirements of capitalism and the profit motive take precedence over the right to a decent roof over our heads. Without secure homes, a basic need, progress is not possible. With the bedroom tax, welfare cuts and increased housing costs I can see a situation where things will become as bad as they are in America where the homeless have been forced to occupy public land and build tented cities to live in.


Comradely yours,

Ian Townson
Unite Community Member

One Response to Railton Road – a ‘shortlife’ success story

  1. Jean Hands says:

    Well said Ian
    I was a tenant and active member of Brixton Housing Co-op 1980 – 1987; I have been thinking recently about how wonderful the co-op was (as well as the huge Citizens Advice Bureau and the free Law Centre back then).
    I was on the Tenants and Management Cttes and enjoyed living in beautiful homes thanks to Solon’s innovative conversions. I left many good friends behing from the gay community who were very active within the co-op.
    We need to look at the success of such ventures and give our younger generation the same opportunities.

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