Who is facing eviction on Loughborough park estate?
44 assured shorthold tenants (ASTs) and their families have been told to leave their homes by the end of April. Some have been taken to court and some are waiting court hearings. One family is facing immediate eviction because Guinness has used the excuse of rent arrears to get an eviction order against them sooner.
Guinness say that they are rehousing most of their tenants on the estate – why not these tenants?
Loughborough Park originally had 390 flats rented to secure tenants. As people left the estate Guinness replaced them with tenants on AST tenancies which is the same type of tenancy people usually have in private rented accommodation. So legally these contracts do not entitle the tenants to be rehoused by Guinness. Guinness is only building 300 flats that will be for a social rent level in the ‘regenerated’ estate so they only kept 300 secure tenants. This is a loss of 90 social rented flats in Brixton.
Why did Guinness use AST tenancies instead of the usual housing association secure tenancy?
Guinness has been planning the ‘regeneration’ of this estate for a long time but there were continual delays. They brought in ASTs to keep the flats occupied before they were demolished. The ASTs paid all the same rent as secure tenants but were seen as disposable. Most have been there around ten years and many have had children while living there but they were never changed over to secure tenancies.
Guinness say they had to regenerate the estate because of its condition. They said they had to build private flats to finance the improvements. Is this true?
The Guinness flats definitely needed to be brought up to the decent homes standard but many councils and housing associations have been able to do this without knocking down the existing flats. Opposition to demolishing the estate was the main reason for the long delay in getting planning permission. So there were alternatives. The Mayor of London has a big billboard outside Loughborough park heralding its investment in the regeneration so Guinness got public money in this scheme. It was a political decision to spend that money subsidising the building of more expensive private flats and reducing the number of social rented flats – it was not the only way to spend that public money or improve the estate for its’ residents.
Guinness say they are evicting the family on Thursday for rent arrears not for the regeneration scheme. Is that true?
No. Arinola and her family were told in no uncertain terms along with all the other AST tenants that they had to leave (initially by the end of March this year). They were promised they would receive £4,700 compensation after they left – with a stipulation that any arrears would be deducted from that payment. Not surprisingly Arinola (and some other tenants) calculated that they would need that money BEFORE they moved out in order to pay a deposit etc to secure a flat in the private sector and the letter indicated that the arrears would simply be deducted so they stopped paying their rent. Nobody would blame them if they didn’t trust whether Guinness would actually pay them that money in full after they left either. So arrears is not the issue – the eviction was already planned before the tenant stopped paying their rent.
Arinola has paid her rent for ten years and would happily clear the arrears if she could be allowed to stay in an affordable Guinness property.
Guinness say the protest occupation is actually a squat – why?
Some AST tenants decided to occupy an empty flat on the estate as a way of highlighting their situation and to create a base on the estate so they could appeal for people to come down and support them in resisting these evictions. That is what has happened and the tenants are overwhelmed by the support and solidarity that people have shown by coming down to occupy the flat on a rota basis. It is not a squat because nobody actually lives in the flat or intends to make it their home. The AST tenants have homes on Guinness – they just want to keep them!
Guinness want to label the occupation a squat in order to scare people that it is illegal (which it is not!) and to pretend it is ‘outsiders’ and not their own tenants they are fighting.
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