New Era residents toast Christmas victory after charity buys London estate
Families celebrate after US investor Westbrook Partners abandons plans to evict families and triple rents
THIS - delights my soul.
homes at risk from the mega rich USA humans
HAPPENING in so many areas of London
and I guess beyond.
BUYING up poor housing to build flats for the RICH
and forcing people to move
move for miles away
from their historic community
He who was rich became poor
total opposite to the Christmas
Residents on the New Era housing estate celebrate the news that they have won their battle against eviction by a US investor.
To the sound of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on the jukebox and with open fires crackling in the grates of the Stag pub, the residents of the New Era estate in east London last night toasted a remarkable Christmas victory.
At 2pm on Friday it was confirmed that the 93 families’ battle against eviction by an $11bn US investor had finally been successful. Months of protesting, marching and petitioning had forced the millionaire executives of Westbrook Partners to sell the estate, abandoning plans to evict families and triple rents.
The new owner was announced as the Dolphin Square Foundation, a charity dedicated to providing affordable homes for low and middle income Londoners. It instantly pledged to keep rents at their current low rates not just this Christmas but next Christmas too.
“It is an amazing feeling,” said Lindsey Garrett, an NHS worker and one of three women who spearheaded the campaign to save the flats from investors determined to capitalise on London’s soaring property market. “We beat a multibillion-dollar investment company. Who would have thought three single mothers from Hoxton could have done that?”
Outside the Stag pub where choruses of “We are the champions” rang out, Coleen O’Shea put it more bluntly to another of the campaign’s leaders, Lynsay Spiteri.
“Well done girl, you did it,” O’Shea said. “You shot them up the arse.”
Spiteri, a single mother who with others has dedicated hundreds of hours to the campaign, couldn’t hold back the tears of relief.
The deal means Westbrook has sold an estate it bought nine months earlier for an estimated £20m to a relatively small housing group that says it is committed to delivering low-cost rented homes to Londoners on low to middle incomes.
“The whole philosophy of Dolphin Living is that we fix rents relative to people’s incomes and not relative to market rents,” said Jon Gooding, the chief executive. “I can understand the anxiety of the New Era tenants because they are in a complete disconnect between market rents and wages which makes it extremely difficult for working Londoners. We completely understand that.
“We are serving people who are not on benefits but are earning £25,000 to £60,000, but we are setting rents that are realistic in relation to their net income. We will work to understand in detail the financial circumstances of our tenant group and we will then formulate a rent policy that is demonstrably fair.”
Some tenants of the estate, just north of the City of London, had faced rents tripling from £800 a month for a two-bedroom flat to about £2,400 if Westbrook’s plans had gone through. A tight knit, family-oriented community faced devastation and at one point Westbrook looked poised to evict residents before Christmas.
Instead, Gooding was, with less than a week to go, signing off a letter to residents explaining the deal: “I hope you can now have a more relaxed Christmas.”
Asked if anyone is likely to be evicted after the moratorium on rent increases lifts in 2016, the Dolphin chief executive added: “I wouldn’t like to see any circumstances where somebody would not be able to stay on the estate because they can’t afford to pay the rent.”
The campaign had won the support of the London mayor, Boris Johnson, and the mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, who were involved in negotiations, as well as the comedian and campaigner Russell Brand, who highlighted their cause.
Johnson said the deal was “welcome news for the residents of the New Era estate who will be able to enjoy their Christmas safe in the knowledge that their homes will continue to be provided at existing rent levels in 2015”.
There was also caution about how high rents might go. Earlier this year Pipe spoke out over the decision by affordable housing provider, Peabody, to increase rents on homes it bought from the crown estate. He said the rises were “making what was once key worker housing unaffordable for many existing tenants”.
Badge Hiscock, 25, a nursery assistant who lives on New Era was one of many who feared significant increases could still break up the community. “We just get by with what the rent is now and we still struggle at the end of the month,” she said. On the estate, the mood of celebration was contagious. Jackie, a 45-year-old worker at Smithfield market, burst out of her front door in delight and insisted on planting a kiss on the cheek of the Guardian’s reporter.
“I am so pleased,” she said. “When Westbrook bought it, we realised rents would go up to market prices and we couldn’t afford it.
“Every day since then has been so tough. It has made my boyfriend ill and a lot of other people too. But who is going to take us on and throw their weight around now? We are a community and have been here for a long time.”