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Tory deregulated market now delivers Rachman-style revenge evictions

new eraThe New Era housing estate scandal in Hoxton, east London, highlighted by Aditya Chakrabortty, tells a poignant and tragic story about how Victorian philanthropic ideals has been transformed into commercial assets in play in the international market with not a shred of concern about the human consequences. Arthur Barsht, the man who built this 93-flat estate, must be squirming in his grave. It was preserved for more than 80 years by the Lever family who ran the estate as a place where low-income workers in teaching, health and construction could live near where they worked.

Now the grandson of the founder, who lives in a 5-bedroom detached house in Northwood, Middlesex, has announced the family is to sell up to an American private equity company which intends to quadruple the £600 a month rents for a 2-bed flat to £2,400. The US company was assisted in the takeover of the estate by Richard Benyon, the Tory MP whose multimillion-pound family estate in extensive parkland near London was a partner to the deal. None of the tenants will remotely be able to afford the new sky-high rents and they will all be evicted before Christmas. Welcome to Cameronian capitalism.

The whole Tory aim of squeezing public services, ostensibly to pay down the deficit (which is actually rising this year), is to restructure a public welfare state as a fully privatised market system. The New Era estate is just one of thousands of initiatives designed to achieve this end, though a strongly redolent one. The callousness of this nakedly monetary transaction is shown by the fact that nobody from the London office of the US private equity firm, Westbrook, has even deigned to visit the estate and talk to the residents, all of whom will be abruptly made homeless within the next 3 weeks. It is purely a financialised arrangement transforming a tight-knit community into a global investment.

So why wasn’t this outrage stopped? Because the families will have been evicted from private properties on private land, Hackney Council will have no responsibility to re-house them. They will be forced to leave London, but wherever they end up the public taxpayer, not Westbrook, will have to pay the cost of their accommodation. It is ironic that Westbrook invests money from US public and private pension funds, endowments and foundations, including investments from many lower-paid workers similar to those now about to be evicted. It is also resonant that Westbrook Partners have been taken to court for their shabby, vermin-ridden, unrepaired housing complexes in New York and been forced to carry out basic repairs and compensate their tenants.

In the light of this revelation of the new Tory Britain which Grant Shapps, the former Tory housing minister, hailed as a model for private landlords as “the unsung heroes of the housing market”, Labour should bring in legislation to require local authorities to be offered first rights to take over all such estates being sold, with reserve rights of compulsory purchase where necessary to protect tenants.

Image credit: New Era Community


  1. Robert says:

    This is the way people make money money making is fine so so who was it yes Red as the blood of the socialist who died fighting to make labour a party of the working class ah yes the dark angel Mandy people do not like the rich or people who are rich like bankers poor old mandy.

  2. Barry Ewart says:

    Yes the New Era estate case is a disgrace and we should support the residents. One of the first things the Tories did was to cut taxes on private landlords with multiple properties and facilitate landlords getting £9b from the housing benefit bill. We should bring in rent controls and use the billions saved from private rents to set up housing cooperatives around the country to take over empty homes to refurbish them to rent or buy. Of course we need millions of new and decent affordable homes including more social housing and we should also introduce a statutory right for tenants consultation. We should also refurbish and radically redesign (in consultation with residents) poor social housing estates to also bring in community amenities including parks but I am with the young Castells who called for a better urban space for the working class/working people. But I guess I have always been a bit of a housing revolutionary and would love to see every human being living in a nice detached home. Re owner/occupation I recently read about a Housing Conservation Trust in the North where you could buy 25% of one of their lovely stone terraced properties and you got the rest on a 125 year lease which meant if you wanted you had a lovely home for life, and perhaps we need to get people back to thinking about buying a home as a lovely place to live and not solely as housing as a financial investment. Perhaps Labour could look at such schemes and flexible mortgages and shared ownership where you may buy 50% and rent 50% or so but could revert to renting if you faced hard times, or illness etc? Finally I would like Labour to compensate all those who have suffered under the bedroom tax after we have abolished it. Back to The New Era estate – it would be good if our Leader was to pay the residents a visit and for Labour to throw its full support behind this campaign and get back to its roots! I wish the residents every success!

  3. Barry Ewart says:

    Have had time to think about this more and if I was a community worker in the area I would have been round there on the next bus to meet and offer support to the residents. I agree with you about Labour bringing in legislation to give LA’s first rights to take over such estates and perhaps we could also reclassify such estates as social housing (although I hate that term as all housing is social and I worry it is a label alhough it came from researchers). But what about now? I wonder if residents have thought about harnessing social media and e petition sites like UK Uncut, 38 Degrees, Avvaaz etc to put pressure on Westbrook, the Housing Minister, the cretinous London Mayor, Govenment etc . I also wonder if The Social Value Act could be considered (but usually unfortunately I think this sadly only applies to the public sector) and of course Westbrook are going against the UN Convention on Human Rights (rights to adequate housing although I am no expert in this field), I wonder if Community Assets law may also be worth exploring? If I was local I would be round there to offer support as a social housing tenant to show solidarity and it’s heartbreaking and you feel powerless. Private landlords as I mentioned have milked £9b from the housing benefit bill all facilitated by the Tories and Lib Dems – and as well as rent controls as I said we need to reintroduce taxes on private landlords with multiple properties. I wish the residents the best in their campaign to keep their decent and affordable housing which over 100 years ago was one of the reasons for the birth of Labour!
    Need to end on a positive note – just think it is the labour of the working billions which creates the wealth and makes societies work and the rich and powerful legally nick our surplus labour and have done all their lives but everyone you see tomorrow going to work or whatever you do is like you and has to sell their labour to live – just think how important we all are and what we collectively achieve as working people. Every night the rich and powerful must prayi that working people will go to work tomorrow – they have to continue to con and all we have to do is wake people up. I will sleep better now. Yours in solidarity!

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