‘WE will not be moved!’ declared 600 furious residents of the New Era Estate in Hoxton, Hackney and their supporters at a mass lobby of Westbrook offices in Berkeley Square, central London yesterday.
Westbrook took control of the New Era estate earlier this year and jacked the rents up by as much as 400%, with the entire estate now being threatened with eviction by Christmas.
Addressing the crowd, campaign leader and resident of the estate, Lindsey Garrett, said to loud cheers: ‘The reason we are here today is to tell Westbrook that they are not welcome on the New Era estate.
‘We are a community, we have lived here for years, do the humanitarian thing, do the moral thing, do the right thing and leave our homes alone! This is for our children’s future. Leave London alone!’
Resident Mrs Gilroy told News Line: ‘We got a letter on Sunday saying they are now having talks with Hackney Council about temporary accommodation for the elderly and also for children.
‘I don’t want to go into sheltered housing, I don’t want temporary accommodation, I want to stay where I am. The main priority for Hackney Council is now ensuring that pensioners and those with children are not homeless. What about everyone else? We are a tight community, they are trying to tear families apart. We’re not going anywhere!’
A supporter of the campaign, Jen Brand, said: ‘I’m a homeless mother from London. I was made homeless by my landlady to whom I had paid £90,000 rent over the eight years I was there.
‘I am not being offered any good solutions, they have put me in temporary accommodation, away from my family, away from my community and far from my son’s school as well.
‘So I’m here to highlight this terrible situation and support the New Era Estate tenants. There must not be a single eviction from the estate.’
The march swarmed down the street with shouts of ‘Here to Stay, Here to Fight, Council Housing is our Right!’ and ‘What Do We Want? Council Housing!’
The march descended on Whitehall where a petition signed by 300,000 people demanding that the evictions are halted was handed into 10 Downing St.
Mahala Wall told News Line: ‘I have never been to a demonstration before.
‘People are being evicted from their homes and I think it is really important to stand up to this. I had to stand by these New Era residents because this could happen to any of us. It’s a really powerful thing to always stand up for such a basic human right as housing.’
Vanessa Knowles, a student who had made her own sign reading ‘The ache for a home lives in all of us,’ said: ‘A home is so necessary for people’s state of mind.
‘Council housing is extremely important. A job does not cover the costs of housing and living costs. They say that if you work hard you can make it, but this is just not true. I’m discontented with this government they definitely have to go.’
Naziha Derouichi said: ‘I live on the estate. They said they are making the rents market value. We pay £1,100 a month, but they are going to push them up to £2,500 a month.
‘I don’t think working people can pay that amount. I’ve lived here for seven years and I want to stay. We’ve had no official letter of eviction, but we all expect it by Christmas.’