Some of you will be familiar with the Chronicle’s article about the future of Ada Lewis House and its residents. Several of you wrote to me expressing concerns that these vulnerable women were being forced to move out of their homes so the site could be redeveloped. When Southern Housing (SH) first announced its plans to redevelop the site, I met with residents of Ada Lewis and representatives of SH several times to discuss these proposals. SH told me that the building would be redesigned internally and converted into affordable family housing – something that is desperately needed in the Borough. Although I lobbied for the hostel to remain open, when it became apparent that SH was intent on going ahead with the redevelopment I pushed for assurances that the displaced residents would be re-housed sensitively and that the site would be developed into affordable family housing. I was troubled by the accusations contained in the article and contacted SH to ensure that they were holding up their end of the bargain. Below is a copy of the response I received.
Thank you for your email it’s a good opportunity to clarify some of the issues raised in the article you mention. The enquiry we received from the paper focused on the building itself and not the residents. Had it been requested we would have happily given an update on the work we have been doing with residents to provide suitable new homes.
We have been working extensively with the three remaining residents of Ada Lewis House and the Local Authority to provide suitable new homes. All three remaining residents have current offers of accommodation that meets their needs as far as possible and we are in the process of ensuring any support needs are met before they move. Two of these apartments are in Chelsea and the other is in Fulham. This is the nearest suitable homes we have to the hostel. One of the residents is going to Fulham as she has support needs which we can not meet in our housing stock in Chelsea.
In relation to the future of Ada House, we are currently reviewing the options available and the best use of the scheme in the longer term. This needs to be carried out in relation to our wider housing programme to ensure any decision is sustainable. Once this internal review is complete, we will consult with the Local Authority about the ways of taking this forward. I will make sure you are kept abreast of this.
Please be assured we remain committed to working with our residents to provide suitable new homes for them in a way that is sensitive to their needs. While Ada Lewis House served an important role in short term housing for women, it was never intended as permanent housing and in its current form of very small single rooms with shared bathing and cooking facilities is no longer suitable for them to live in. I fully appreciate that some of the residents are finding the idea of moving a difficult and emotional one and we are doing everything possible to minimise the effect of this change on them.
If you have any further queries or would like to meet to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Whilst it appears that the remaining residents are going to be made suitable offers of accommodation, I am very concerned that SH have seemingly backtracked on their plans to develop the site into affordable family housing and are now “reviewing the options available.” Any alternative to this would be a breach of trust with me and the (former) residents. I will be writing to SH again to remind them of the promises they have made.