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3 December 2014

New Era estate campaign

Angry tenants take their protest to Cameron

Chris Newby

Around 500 angry New Era estate tenants and supporters marched from Westbrook (multinational owners of New Era estate) headquarters in Mayfair, central London, to hand in a nearly 300,000 signature petition to David Cameron.

For months, tenants of this small housing estate in Hackney have been waging a high-profile battle against rip-off rent increases and the consequent threat of eviction.

The normally sedate streets of Mayfair and Piccadilly were echoing to chants such as: "What do we want? Westbrook out!" and "We don't need your social cleansing - hey Westbrook leave our homes alone"

A large crowd had gathered outside the Westbrook headquarters by the time the two coaches from the New Era estate in Hackney arrived, bringing tenants and supporters, including celebrity Russell Brand. After a few speeches the march moved off towards the prime minister's residence in Downing Street.

Tenants are incensed that Westbrook want to increase the rents still further to an astronomic 2,400 a month, higher than even the already high average rent in Hackney of 2,100 a month.

Many tenants have lived on the estate for decades and there is a real community spirit there. They are proud of their estate and are angry at being faced with either eviction or paying 2,400 to increase the super-profits of Westbrook partners.

Jean Eaton told me: "We've been here seven years but we've lived in the area all our lives. Our rents are 200 at the moment, they've been put up. In June of next year it's supposed to be 600 a week, which we can't afford. It might be more. We're likely to be evicted."

"We've had the council people come down to our meetings. They can't offer us anything until we're evicted! There's so many on the waiting list they're saying."

The campaign has built up good support organising regular meetings of tenants and campaign stalls. The Socialist Party fully supports the campaign of the tenants to stop any evictions and reduce the already high rents.

We call on Hackney Council to refuse any cooperation with Westbrook partners, to oppose any evictions, and make it clear it would refuse planning permission for refurbishment preparations for "market level" rents.

We also call on Hackney Council to start a process of compulsory purchase of the estate, introduce borough-wide rent controls and rent caps. Leaflets putting these demands were snapped up on the demo.

Hackney Socialist Party is holding a public meeting on Tuesday 9 December at 7pm at the Stag pub, 55 Orsman Road, London N1 5RA. Speakers include Lindsey Garrett, chair of the New Era campaign