History of the WAC building

The building which houses WAC was donated to “the community” by Lambeth Council in 1973 when its disrepair meant it was no longer suitable for its original use as a library. It has been let on a peppercorn rent to WAC ever since.

Lambeth Council now want to increase the rent by £45,000 per year, which would jeopardise all of WAC's community work.

Why the Huge Rent Increase?

Lambeth have recently carried out a voluntary and community sector assets review, meaning they have looked at all the buildings they own in the borough which are used for community activities, how much they are currently renting them for and what they’re worth on the open market.

Lambeth say there are many community-used buildings in Lambeth that do not get the repairs they need because the community groups can’t afford them, and the increased rent would contribute to a £2.25 million repairs fund for these buildings.

There are also new groups who are forced into expensive accomodation. Under the new system council rents would be more expensive, but groups would be able to apply for a grant from Lambeth Council to pay the higher rents Lambeth Council are charging.

What Would This Mean for WAC?

The rent increase would represent a third of WAC’s income before any bills are paid. WAC is not-for-profit and doesn’t have the margin to absorb this, therefore we would have to massively scale down or close altogether.

Why Are We Opposed to the Rent Increase?

We agree that it is difficult for new groups to find affordable space, which is why we rent space at a discounted rate at WAC for community groups, many of whom say they wouldn’t be able to run anywhere else.

It is also true that many buildings are in need of repair. We know this from our own experience of raising £1.5 million to make WAC safe and fully accessible for the community.

We are completely in favour of a more equitable distribution of community resources, but simply slashing the services which are already on offer doesn’t make any sense and is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. WAC is entirely self-funded and costs the taxpayer nothing.

What makes WAC so effective is that we have been in this building for 50 years. During that time we have built up roots in the community, and a reputation which now brings over 30,000 people a year through our doors. Many of our users are digitally excluded or otherwise vulnerable and hear about us through word-of-mouth via their friends and peers. This transmission of information through their network is the only way we can reach the most vulnerable, such as people on the street, and the elderly and isolated.

Lambeth’s plan represents a centralisation and commoditisation of community services, but people don’t access these services the way you or I might simply go online and look for what we want. People in need know us and trust us, and that’s how we’re able to reach out to them. Community services need to be provided through a community, otherwise they don’t work.

We don’t feel that Lambeth council understand this fact. This would lead to hundreds of our most vulnerable users slipping through the net, as services are centralised and provided without a genuine presence in the community.