LEWISHAM Council has been forced to withdraw five homes from sale after squatters occupied them, saying they should be used to house families in need.

In a bid to stop the houses being sold off at auction yesterday, protestors from Lewisham People Before Profit entered the properties on Saturday and have been squatting in them since.

Leading the sit-in is campaigner John Hamilton who told News Shopper the properties could be used to accommodate Lewisham families that are on the waiting list for social housing.

He added: “With such a shortage of affordable homes for rent is it a disgrace that the council is considering selling off these homes, and with reserve prices way below current market levels.

“Why should they sell off things that belong to all of us? The houses don’t need that much work and what we are particularly trying to push is that they should be refurbished with local people being trained while doing the work.”

The next stage, campaigners say, is to sit down with the council and discuss the future of the properties.

News Shopper: George Hallam at the house in Angus Street

Campaigner George Hallam at the house in Friendly Street

Leslie Faizi, a 42-year-old electrician, is one of three squatters occupying the property in Friendly Street. He said: “I think what we are doing is brilliant.

“It shows that direct action is the best way to combat the council. The council wanting to sell of the properties is disgraceful. I suspect strongly that they let these places go to ruin in order that they can sell them off.”

Mr Faizi addded that he does not know how long he plans on staying in the property and that it depends on negotiations with the council as to what will be done with the five houses.

People Before Profit campaigner George Hallam told News Shopper: “We are not trying to confront the council, we just want to be paid attention.

“We haven’t caused any damage and have been cleaning up the properties. We have removed rubbish and have asked the council for skip at the Lampmead Road house so that we can clear it out over the weekend.”

A council spokesman said: “"The council is disappointed by the actions of the squatters. Given its limited funds, these properties are uneconomic for the council to repair.

"Instead, the council intends to sell these properties to speedily release much needed funds to bring other council properties, which are legally occupied and in better repair, up to decent homes standard.

"Regrettably the council has been forced to withdraw the properties from sale due to the unlawful occupation by squatters. This will only delay the repair of other properties in its housing stock."

The five houses currently being occupied are in Lampmead Road in Lee, Angus Street in New Cross, and Friendly Street, Etta Street and Albyn Street, all in Deptford.