Yoshee Hummel reports on the victory of the New Era Estate residents over the Tory Benson brothers.
The Benyon Estate told residents in a letter that it would be selling its shareholding back to the landlord, Hoxton Regeneration Limited.
“New Era residents have made it clear that they do not welcome our involvement in the future of the estate. They made it clear that they wanted us to pull out, and this is what we have reluctantly decided to do,” he wrote.
Out of the problems in this world, which there are many, my personal passion is housing. A Home not a house (or tiny room for £650 a month) is so important and a right for every human being on this planet and without a shadow of a doubt it is doable. A home composing of a decent amount of space, heating, made affordable for even the lowest income occupants and not in disrepair. I knew this very clever hard working family living in council housing and not only was everything falling apart but the flat was saturated in damp, which definitely contributed to their feeling unwell a lot of the time. And the amount of time it would take for the council to sort out anything was a joke. This is completely unacceptable.
92 families were as of yesterday being faced with a hideous ultimatum on the New Era estate in N1; cough up £500 a week in 2016 (their rent has soared already, paying £800 a month) or ship out.
The owners were the Benyon Brothers, one being the richest Tory MP in UK. Just a quick glance at their other properties available that lie between north and east London, are all unfurnished ranging from around £300 – 1,400 per week. I especially enjoy the workshop space going for £565 per week with the description ‘3 phase power, free broadband, heating, shared bathroom and communal kitchen area. Rents are very affordable and all inclusive of the above.’ Their statement on the New Era segment explains that they are going to rent them at ‘100% of full market rents’ hilarious as they own 300 properties in the area which have belonged to them since the mid 19th century. So they are setting those rates. Their business already receives interest on these flats, and surely after so many years this money would pay for the “very poor state of repair” the properties are in. This was pure unadulterated greed, simple as and 92 families might have had to pay the price, literally. Take a look for yourselves www.thebenyonestate.com.
I attended the protest and it kicked off with around 200 of us marching down the road singing altered versions of well known songs and generally being rather merry. First on the agenda was to make a racket around the neighbouring area to make everyone aware. Then, we stopped off at the offices and a big banner was pinned onto the door. What was endearing was that Russell Brand knew a lot of the names of the people who are at risk, which shows that he has actually got to know the people who he is supporting. He gathered them together for a photo op, addressed the crowd and then stepped back to let Lindsey, the lead mother make a cheerful yet poignant speech, obviously placing all the children at the front in pride of place. Then onto Benyon’s house round the corner. Brand climbed over the gate and clambered up the scaffold with Leigh his fire-fighter mate from his Grays days and together pinned a second banner on the house. Crowds did gather and cars did hoot their support and the general vibe was one of camaraderie. Also ‘Food for all’, an organisation that’s supported by Brand (his face plastered on the side of the van) that feeds the homeless, disadvantaged and financially challenged for free was also part of the team and handed out a ridiculously delicious and plentiful meal.
It is absolutely fantastic that it got a result, mainly because actually being there and seeing how peaceful and merry it was makes change all that more possible; It literally can work. In the space of two months the E15 mothers took a stand and it paid off as well as now The New Era estate. It costs nothing to turn up, help and be a part of something but means everything to the people who are at risk. I’m no banker but that’s a good enough return for me.