TENANTS on the New Era estate in Hoxton, Hackney, east London, face eviction ‘ASAP’ after a promise not to impose huge rent increases had been scrapped by the new owners of the estate.
The New Era estate which had until now provided affordable rents to local people, was bought this year by Westbrook, a US-based private property investment group.
Westbrook had passed management of the homes to Benyon Estate, co-owned by Tory MP Richard Benyon and run by his brother. Protests erupted on the estate against proposed rent rises of up to 400%. Campaigners fiercly opposed the plans to force up the rents and drive working class families out area.
On Saturday November 11, hundreds of residents and supporters, some dressed in Dickensian clothing, led a march from their estate to the doors of Benyon Estate offices in De Beauvoir, Hackney.
The protesters then served a mock eviction on the part-owners and property managers that look after the 90 homes on the 1930s new Era estate.
Following the massive campaign against their plans for the estate, the Benyons announced they were pulling out of managing the estate, as residents had ‘made it clear that they do not welcome our involvement’.
On receiving the news, residents celebrated an apparent victory. However, last Saturday four Hackney councillors hand-delivered letters warning of Westbrook’s latest plans.
The letter said they had previously secured an agreement not to increase rents again until 2016. However, it added: ‘Since this week’s departure of the Benyon Estate we understand the council have now been informed that Westbrook no longer plan to honour that plan, and have been told that their plan is to refurbish the current estate in its entirety and then rent all the properties without secure tenancies at market rent levels, with no affordable housing.’
Lindsey Garratt one of the leaders of the New Era campaign to stop the rent hikes said: ‘According to Hackney council the evictions could be asap.
‘Residents will resist. The bottom line is that the support for us has been incredible. The momentum is growing on a daily basis.
‘The idea that they’re going to evict all these families in the next few months – it’s just nuts. It’s not going to happen. I think it shows signs of weakness by Westbrook that they’re acting in such a desperate way.’
Of the 93 New Era flats, she said, all but seven or eight were rented on contracts with two-week break clauses, meaning these families could be evicted before Christmas.