Millionaire MP ‘tearing heart out of Hoxton’
PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 July 2014
Rent hikes at an estate owned by Britain’s richest MP threaten to “tear out the heart” of the borough’s community, Hackney’s mayor Jules Pipe has warned.
Millionaire Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, is being accused of “social cleansing” by livid residents of the New Era estate off Halcomb Street in Hoxton, who have already seen rents go up 10 per cent this year and are now in fear of becoming homeless.
Mr Benyon’s family consortium has bought a share of the estate – which has provided affordable housing for more than 70 years – and plans to bring rents up to “market rates” which many families fear will leave them living in hostels with their small children.
Resident Lindsay Garrett said: “It’s a terrifying thought. People live here who have been born here, one lady lived here all through the war, and now they’re being asked to leave.
“Where do they go? The council could have 80 families on their hands at the same time, how will they find somewhere for them to live?”
Campaign leader Debra Cox had a seizure after hearing the news and had to be admitted to hospital.
She said: “The Tory government keep saying they want people to ‘get back to work’. We are hard working people and are being told to move to Manchester instead. This is our home, it’s a community and they’re trying to push us out.”
Another resident, who asked not to be named, broke down into tears when talking to the Gazette.
She said: “It’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing at night. How will I be able to cope, not knowing where I’m supposed to go, with my daughter and disabled mother?”
“They call it New Era estate, but this is the end of an era.”
But the MP’s brother Edward Benyon, who runs the Benyon Estate company, told the Gazette: “As a landlord, to run this estate as a going concern requires an income equal to market rates of rent.
“The tenants have an extensive period of time to make alternative arrangements, if this is what they want to do. We have met each tenant personally to explain the situation and meetings are now taking place to help them in the future.”
Among his empire of properties in Hackney is a one-bedroom unfurnished flat for £350-per-week in De Beauvoir and a £375-per-week one-bed flat on Southgate Road.
Mr Benyon has been called “completely out of touch” by furious residents after he voted against increasing the tax rate applied to income over £150,000, while his farm has raked in more than £2m in EU subsidies. He also voted in favour of the bedroom tax and against benefit rises for the disabled.
As the heir to former MP Sir William Benyon, he stands to inherit some £110million from the vast 20,000-acre Englefield Estate in Berkshire.
Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe said: “I am deeply concerned to hear about these rent rises. So-called ‘market rents’ are way beyond the means of many residents. Such rises threaten to tear the heart out of a long-established Hackney community as people are forced to move. Treating tenants in this way is not reasonable.
“Sadly this kind of action is not confined to the private sector – unfortunately Peabody are also increasing rents of former Crown Estate properties they purchased by around seven per cent a year, making what was once key worker housing unaffordable for many existing tenants.”
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