Monday, 26 January 2015

London council estate tenants and leaseholders vow to resist developer-led 'regeneration'

New Era Estate Tenants' Association chair Lindsey Garrett (speaking),
with Lynsay Spiteri (secretary, centre) and Danielle Molinari (vice-chair)
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

Fight all you like.
Campaign until the cows come home.
But you’ll never win.
They’ll eventually take your council homes.
Dispossess you. 
Demolish your estate.
Displace and compel you to leave the neighbourhood.
Where you went to school.
Where you grew up.
And, years later, raised your own children.

At least, that's the common narrative.
About the relentless power of developer-led, council-backed ‘regeneration’.
Underpinned increasingly by large housing associations.
Developers and councils; they win every time.
Working people lose everywhere across London.
And this narrative contains some depressing truths.
That test the mettle of dozens of residents and tenants groups across London.
As they campaign against troikas of developers, councils and larger housing associations intent on turning traditional working class neighbourhoods into enclaves for the nonchalantly affluent.
Transforming swathes of London into a casino for overseas property speculators.

But it’s a pessimistic narrative forcefully rejected by Lynsay Spiteri, Danielle Molinari and Lindsey Garrett – three leading lights of the New Era Estate Tenants Association in Hackney, an estate set up in the 1930s for people on low incomes.
They came to Brixton in south London last night (Monday, 26 January) to encourage and offer help to tenants and leaseholders in Lambeth trying to halt various 'regeneration' juggernauts.
New Era, they say, shows working people can win.
Tenants and residents can save their homes and neighbourhoods.
But only if they get organised and fight back.

Garrett tells the Brixton gathering how 93 New Era households organised to combat the property consortium that had bought their estate and then threatened to triple rents and compel residents to move.
“We had an initial feeling of shock and anger,” recalls Garrett, who has lived on the New Era all of her life.
Garrett explains how they set up a tenants' association and fought a strong campaign.
A property management company withdrew from the New Era due to the tenants’ fiery opposition.
Finally, new owners Westbrook sold the New Era to the Dolphin Foundation charity as the fierce New Era campaign generated wider support and media attention.

Right to left: Unite union organiser Janet MacLeod, and New Era tenants
Lindsey Garrett, Lynsay Spiteri and Danielle Molinari (© London Intelligence 2015)

“We’re negotiating with Dolphin about the long-term future of the estate but we’re definitely in a much better position than we were seven months ago,” says Garratt.
“It’s been an incredibly hard campaign. 
"We’re all single mums and work full-time.
"It was relentless but we were very passionate.
"Mainly because we had lived there all our lives and so had our families.
"And we felt very passionate about the situation in Hackney and right across London where rents are being inflated and people are being forced out of London.
“We love Hackney.
"We love London.
"And we didn't want to go."

March for Homes
Garrett, Spiteri and Molinari spoke to about 50 local residents and housing activists at a meeting in Brixton (below) organised by the Lambeth Unite Community trade union branch (Monday, 26 January 2015).
Unite union organiser Janet MacLeod is one of a number of people at the heart of an attempt to pull together tenants struggling against various 'regeneration' schemes across London.
Such schemes affect tenants and residents on the West Hendon Estate, West Kensington and Gibbs Green at Earl's Court, Carpenters Estate in Stratford, John Walsh and Fred Wigg towers in Leytonstone, Ward's Corner and Love Lane in Tottenham, Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth, and the New Era in Hackney.
Thousands of tenants and leaseholders from across London are expected to join The March for Homes on Saturday, 31 January.
Two protest columns, from Elephant and Castle and from Shoreditch, intend to converge on City Hall.
Residents will urge London Mayor Boris Johnson to introduce rent controls, save council homes from demolition, and provide genuinely affordable homes with secure tenancies.

Tenants and residents discuss ways to resist council estate sales and demolition
© London Intelligence 2015

A fuller version of this story will appear here shortly.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, January 2015

No comments: