Hoxton’s New Era tenants could face eviction before Christmas

Lindsay Garrett on the march with Russell Brand, photo Emma Bartholomew

Lindsay Garrett on the march with Russell Brand, photo Emma Bartholomew - Credit: Emma Bartholomew

New Era residents could face eviction by Christmas, after a protest led by comedian Russell Brand drove the family of Britain’s richest MP into pulling out of managing the Hoxton Estate.

Lindsay Garrett at the protest with Russell Brand, photo Emma Bartholomew

Lindsay Garrett at the protest with Russell Brand, photo Emma Bartholomew - Credit: Emma Bartholomew

Now the 93 families – who realised on Saturday that the risk of losing their homes could come sooner than expected – are pinning their hopes on Hackney Council to persuade US investment firm Westbrook Partners to sell the property onto a housing association, rather than hike up rents to market value as they currently intend.

Westbrook Partners, which bought the estate in Whitmore Road in March, had appointed The Benyon Estate to manage the property.

But last Thursday they announced they would sell their 10 per cent share and rescind involvement following Brand’s protest which saw the self-styled revolutionary lead angry tenants to pin an eviction notice on their office door in Southgate Road.

Edward Benyon, whose family firm owns about 300 properties in De Beauvoir Town, and whose home Russell Brand climbed up scaffolding to erect a sign saying ‘social housing not social cleansing’, said: “New Era residents have made it clear that they do not welcome our involvement in the future of the estate.”

Just two days later New Era residents discovered Westbrook Partners was backtracking on a promise not to hike up rents to market value until 2016, and that refurbishment of the estate could be imminent.

Plans to build affordable housing on top of the building had also been dropped.

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Residents whose assured shorthold tenancies contain just a two week break clause now fear they could be homeless by Christmas.

The Benyon firm maintained it had secured extra time for the families before refurbishment began, which Westbrook had originally intended to be immediate.

But NHS care co-ordinator Lindsay Garrett who has lived on the New Era estate all her life and who helped organise the protest with Brand, said that despite the downturn she was glad the Benyon firm pulled out.

“We didn’t want them to be involved in our estate, or making a profit out of it,” she said.

“We still think it’s a victory the Benyons pulled out, they wanted to portray themselves as the good guys but the bottom line was we were still facing eviction in 2016.”

She believes Westbrook’s latest move is a “knee jerk reaction” and a case of them “trying to stamp their authority”.

She said: “Our initial reaction was anger, and then we went to a Unite conference, we had some amazing support, I had to stand up and do a speech, but then I couldn’t finish I became really tearful.

“We had an amazing high of defeating the richest MP in the county and now we have to do it all again for this American company.

“I work full time, I’m a single mum, I wonder if I can pull anything more out of the bag to deal with it again, but we are determined to try and keep our homes, we are in this together and we really want to make a difference regarding the housing crisis across Hackney and across London.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson has now asked Deputy Mayor for Housing Richard Blakeway to secure a better deal for residents, and MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch Meg Hillier has been in behind the scenes discussions.

And Hackney Council has told residents it has offered to broker a deal betweek Westbrook Partners and a housing association.

New York-based company Westbrook Partners, which has faced action in its home city for failing to make repairs and overcharging tenants, declined to comment.