After months of campaigning, the New Era housing campaign in East London won its battle against eviction shortly before Christmas.
Westbrook Partners, a US investment firm worth $11bn, bought the entire estate in March 2014 from First LBS Holdings. It is a big part of a wider trend of investors using homes merely as catalysts for financial gain, with no consideration to those who need somewhere affordable to live.
93 families then faced tripling of rents, or eviction if they could not afford it. Some would have been forced to move outside London, leaving family, friends, and schools behind. The previous owners of the estate are said to have kept rents reasonably priced, which allowed several generations of families to stay in the same place. A close-knit community was able to grow — which was no doubt instrumental to the victory of the campaign.
The increasing number of housing campaigns across London have been using the slogans “social housing not social cleansing!” on their demonstrations, conveying how the housing situation in the capital is now just a playground for the rich, forcing anyone who cannot afford it to move away.
After months of pressure; mass petitioning, demonstrations, and arguably the help of Russell Brand, Westbrook was forced to abandon plans to triple rents, and sold the estate for an estimated £20mn to Dolphin Square Foundation. They say they are “committed to fixing rents relative to people’s incomes and not relative to market rents.” … “We work to understand in detail the financial circumstances of our tenant group and we will then formulate a rent policy that is demonstrably fair”.
When asked whether anyone would likely be evicted when rent increases come back into play in 2016, the chief executive of Dolphin stated “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.”
Many housing struggles are now being fought across London, and are coordinating for a March for Homes on 31 January. The march is calling for rent controls, secure tenancies for all, new council houses to be built, and better pay, conditions and housing services.
Assemble 12 noon, St Mary’s Churchyard, Newington Butts, Elephant and Castle, SE1.