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Hackney tenants get organised
Lindsey Garrett from the New Era Estate in Hoxton spoke to Brian Debus from Hackney Socialist Party. Hackney rents and property prices have been among the fastest growing in the country. In the last year New Era rents have been increased by over £100 a month. The super-rich Tory landlord's clear intention is to drive out the existing tenants and to make massive profits at their expense. Lindsey explains how the tenants are organising:
"The current proposals are to build an extra two floors on top of the existing blocks. This depends on Benyon Estates getting planning permission this October/November.
Owner Richard Benyon just happens to be Britain's richest Tory MP with a home bigger than the 90 flats on the New Era estate. They are also planning to put the rents up to the so called market value by 2016. This would mean increasing the rents to £500/£600 a week, four times the current level.
Tenants are furious and disgusted by these proposals. Generations of families have lived here. One lady has lived here over 70 years since the estate was built in the 1930s. We have now established a tenants' organisation with officers and a rep in each block to coordinate our activities.
We have had lots of media interest and support from trade unions, Focus 15, DIGS and other groups. We are planning to start publicly petitioning from this Saturday in Hoxton Market. We are also going to hold regular monthly meetings of tenants. We are planning to hold protests locally and more widely. We have established a Facebook page, 'New Era 4 All'.
We want to spread our campaign to draw on as much support as possible, and link this to the issue of affordable rents for all. We all want the right to live where we are with our friends and family and not face evictions or extortionate rents."
Even Jonathon Portes from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research says:
"Subsidising construction is likely to be better than subsidising consumption through rents".
The only answer to these profiteering landlords is rent controls and a mass council house-building programme of hundreds of thousands of new homes to be built every year to house the homeless and knock the profit out of homes. Sound impossible? In the 1950s local authorities built as many as 245,000 units a year. In the 21st century as few as 130 council houses have been built each year, with both Labour and Con-Dem governments guilty.
Who can 'afford' that?
- Con-Dems cut annual public subsidy for building affordable housing from £3bn to £450m
- The definition of 'affordable' rent was set at 80% of local market rent
- This, and chronic low pay, leaves almost ¾ of 'affordable' rent tenants forced to claim housing benefit. Since 2010 the HB bill has increased by a fifth as wages stagnate and rents skyrocket. Housing Associations are receiving £8.8bn a year in HB, up 28% since 2010.
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