Estate agent calls police over Hackney Digs ‘Yes DSS’ rally
PUBLISHED: 14:33 29 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:20 02 March 2016
Police were called as protesters stormed estate agents they accused of having a “no DSS” housing policy.
Pressure group Hackney Digs, joined by MP Meg Hillier, rallied outside the town hall on Saturday before 100 members marched along Mare Street to make their views known.
It followed a two-month mystery shopper experiment, which found 21 of 50 agents contacted in Hackney did not accept tenants on housing benefits, despite the borough having more than 40,000 claimants – the most in London.
The Digs researchers also found just one property in the whole borough – a tiny studio flat – available to people on benefits.
But the theatrical demonstration, which featured the “Lord Mayor of private tenants” reading out a decree, turned sour when officers were called at Stirling Ackroyd.
Digs’ Heather Kennedy said the agents would not engage with them.
But sales manager Athos Kleanthous accused the protesters of scaring a member of staff.
“The whole thing was nothing short of ridiculous,” he said. “If they spent as much time on their own lives as they do protesting they might get somewhere in life.
“We do take DSS, but all of the landlords we work with don’t want tenants on housing benefit. When the Tories came to power they changed how much they were going to contribute to DSS tenants. They should be storming the Houses of Parliament not estate agents.”
The campaigners had a more fruitful chat with Kings Group manager Hadi Nazzari, who pointed out that his company did take DSS tenants – a phrase still used informally when referring to tenants on housing benefits, despite the Department for Social Security being dissolved in 2001.
“It can be a real struggle to find a property when you are on benefits,” he told the Gazette. “We do all we can, we only ask they are working 20 hours a week, but landlords say their previous experiences with tenants on benefits means they don’t usually want them.”
“We will try and encourage them [the landlords] to rent to people in desperate needs.”
Heather believed the protest was a success.
She said: “When the agents heard the stories on a human level they understood it and I think felt a level of guilt. What we heard from Kings was positive, we hope there’s a couple of agents we can work with.”