You might have noticed, if you have a working eye or two, that all across London publicly or Trust-owned housing estates and blocks are being knocked to the ground to make way for ‘redevelopment’. Such redevelopment usually comes at the ultimate cost to the tenants who had called these places their homes: eviction, whether forced or ‘voluntary’.
While Councils have a responsibility to re-house existing tenants, this doesn’t stop compulsory purchase orders of owned properties, or pay-offs for those in rented units, being pitifully low – or such ‘re-housing’ resulting in stays in temporary accommodation. In so many cases the end result looks the same: communities broken up and shifted out from the areas they lived in, shuffled across the captial – or out of it altogether.
The Heygate Estate, in Elephant & Castle, is the most famous example of this now endemic trend – but look around you and you’ll see it everywhere. With an economy still fueled by debt – much of it piling into the London housing market – property in London has become a reserve currency for the rich of the world – and an expensive barrier to the good life for the rest of us.
This has been brought back into focus recently in Brixton with two occupations taking place in the last fortnight – first, on the Ayelsbury Estate just north of Burgess Park – now into its 3rd week despite repeated eviction attempts by Southwark Council and the police. Then, second, residents on Brixton’s Guinness Trust Estate occupied a flat in Elveden House to protest the eviction of ‘shorthold tenants’ (some of whom had been living on the estate for over 10 years) who were being told they must leave their homes by April to enable Countrywide (‘People. Places. Love’) to move in and redevelop. The Trust has no legal obligations to these tenants due to the nature of the contracts they were offered.
Despite being a Trust, Guinness is willing to let the estate be replaced by ‘luxury’ flats built for private sale at market rates, with largely reduced provision for social tenants. With no assistance to find a new home, short-hold tenants have been told: you’re on your own – and that means being forced out of Brixton for good. If you have kids in school, or a medical condition that is being treated locally moving isn’t just unfair and disruptive: it’s unthinkable.
The Brixton Pound turned out with tenants and locals this morning to celebrate the successful opposition of the first tenant eviction, which was due to happen today. Earlier in the week we popped in and dropped off some food and other supplies requested on the occupation wishlist: paid for by the Brixton Fund, our local projects pot into which 1.5% of each electronic B£ transaction goes – so if you’ve been using your phone to pay with B£s then you’ve helped support locals fighting for their rights. Keep it up.
Support the Guinness Occupation:
- Sign the petition
- Donate items on their wishlist
- Tweet your support #guinnessoccupation, @ @lambeth_council
- Join the Facebook group
- Join the Guinness occupiers at the Block the Budget housing demo at City Hall, 9am, Monday 23rd Feb