Housing Struggles in London

New Era Estate – London

Lindsay Garret woke up politically when an US company bought her home and threatened to make her and her 92 neighbors homeless. She and two other single mothers became the leaders in a campaign, supported by Russell Brand, that forced the US company to pull out and transfer ownership of the New Era Estate.

Aditya Chakrabortty 10Nov2014 Aditya Chakrabortty writes:
Lyndsey Garratt had never heard of Richard Benyon – until he wound up buying her home and those of her 92 neighbors. Now that the millionaire Tory MP and his business partners threaten to make them all homeless, the 35-year-old mother can’t stop talking about him.

“Until this happened I had no clue about politics; it’s opened my eyes to how people like us are treated (…). They make us turn on each other. Bloody asylum seekers are the problem; people on benefits are the scum of the earth. And we’re coming to a point where people like us, working people, finally say, ‘You know what? you’re the problem. We’ve had enough of people like you.’”

The Prospect of Homelessness

“So this is the New Era Estate in Hoxton, in East London, which has recently just been bought by a consortium of multimillionaire property developers, including Britain’s richest MP, the Tory Richard Benyon. Now the residents here face the prospect of either having their rents increased three, four times, even more, on what they’re currently paying or being evicted and effectively made homeless and displaced from the area.”

The tenant’s of the New Era Estate defend everybody’s right to have a home

Watch these videos to learn more about the campaign:

Click to open video list

Lessons drawn from a successful campaign:

Organization + Raise the Profile + Clear Objective + Be Aggressive + Slogans/Songs

The Bigger Picture

Victory? Yes, the tenants of the New Era Estate came together, organised themselves and first convinced Benyon Estate to pull out and then forced Westbrook Partners to transfer ownership. The threat of eviction was repelled. For the time being the rents remain affordable. The courageous campaigners gave proof that ordinary people have power, that it is possible and necessary to unite and fight for your rights. There is a hurting shortage of affordable and secure housing and a homelessness crisis. There is mounting protest in defense of the right to adequate housing, a right that belongs to everyone, rich and poor, young and old.

The human right to adequate housing

However, while protests increasingly take to the street the government continues with policies and legislation (Localism Act 2011, Welfare Reform Act 2012) that squeeze low income and poor people and supports the wealthy instead, for example by subsidizing flats for the rich at the cost of social housing. Housing for profit is exclusive, it does not and cannot provide for the basic needs and rights of people with low or insufficient income. The situation in Britain is not unique: most countries opted for promoting housing markets, that is, to serve the interests of the financial sector in disregard of every person’s fundamental right to have a home (Raquel Rolnik Report 2012). UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha speaks of a crisis of commitment to effective implementation of the right to adequate housing. “The consequences of inadequate housing and homelessness are severe, with implications for almost every other human right, including the rights to health, education, protection of the family, social security, work and, in many cases, life.” (Leilani Farha Report 2014)

Forced and market driven evictions are increasing dramatically worldwide, with devastating effects on millions of children, women and men across the globe. (See Report 2010: How People Face Evictions)

Social movements and protesters have won victories, defending every person’s right to have a decent home. But the rules of the game have not changed. It is a game that commodifies basic human needs and uses people’s homes (real estate) as financial assets. It is played worldwide to turn money into more money, putting profit before people and nature. In other words, financialization continues, gentrification continues, the commodification of housing continues, the dispossession of people continues, expulsions and displacements of tenants continue. Millions of people live in fear of loosing their home or have lost it, many more are homeless or living in poor conditions without decent housing in shantytowns, favelas, and slums. This bigger picture shows us a global capitalist society that is insane, unjust and surely not sustainable. It leaves the majority of ordinary people with basically two options: resist or resign. Confronted with an acute existential threat the tenants of New Era Estate chose to resist. Similar situations occur everywhere, for example in France, Germany, Ireland … and in a very important way also in Spain.


Video: Rally in London against shortage of affordable housing 16 March 2015

Juan Gonzalez: U.S. firms buy housing in Spain, raise rent and evict tenants

Juan Gonzalez: New York. Castellan real estate group pushes tenants out and jack up rents, despite Cuomo-ordered independent monitor

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