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Displaced and dispossessed

Jody Whitehill, Tuesday, August 25th, 2015


Imagine you have lived on a large estate as part of a community for almost 10 years. You raise your two daughters there alone but you have the support of friends you have made close by.

 

One by one your neighbours and friends start to get possession orders through the door.

 

You wait for yours to arrive but it never comes. Then your neighbours are all gradually offered alternative accommodation and start to leave.

 

You contact the housing office to see why you haven’t been offered any alternative accommodation only to be told that you were and that you turned it down.

 

You haven’t received any letter and panic starts to set in. What is going to happen to you and your children?

 

The housing office tell you they phoned you and that they told you they would see what they could do with your case – this phone call was classified as an offer by the housing office.

 

You try to clear up the situation and the phone call is reclassified as a misunderstanding. Then a letter finally arrives stating that you’re next to be rehoused. You feel relief.

 

But then just two weeks later a possession order arrives. You’re informed that the housing association cannot rehouse you as you have ‘no recourse to public funds’ and you are referred to Lambeth Council.

 

Then comes a phone call from the Lambeth ‘Moving on Team’. You are offered help with finding private accommodation.

 

But private landlords tell you that you don’t meet their eligibility criteria because of your low salary. The best they can do is help you find private accommodation outside London.

 

Despair

 

Your job is in London. Your children’s school is in London and your support network is in London. Despair sets in. What do you do now?

 

Your attempts to contact the housing association are now all unsuccessful. They are constantly in meetings and no one returns your calls.

 

This is what has happened to Marian. She arrived in London in 2004 from Nigeria. She is a single mother to her two young children aged eight and four.

 

Marian works as a healthcare assistant at St George’s hospital and lives on the Guinness owned Kenwood House estate in Loughborough Park, Lambeth.

 

The estate, like many in Lambeth and all over London, is set to be demolished and regenerated. High-rise blocks will replace the estate with the majority of the apartments open to part-buy-part-rent at full market value or ‘affordable rent’.

 

So called ‘affordable rent’ is up to 80 per cent of market rents. Totally unaffordable to any of the current tenants or anyone else on an average or low wage.

 

Pilgrim Tucker, Community coordinator for London has seen far too many cases like Marian’s, “Working in London with our community members the biggest issue I am faced with day in day out is housing.

 

“Property developers treating our capital like a monopoly game has very real consequences and it is people like Marian and her children who are paying the real price,” added Pilgrim.

 

Marian says that during past consultations about the regeneration with Guinness Housing Association the tenants were given verbal agreement about rehousing but Guinness did not honour this.

 

“Following a campaign and protest occupation by the tenants Guinness decided to keep their word. But not to everyone,” said Marian.

 

“I’m hugely conscious that ‘the clock is ticking’ without Guinness’ reminder,” she added.

 

Marian is now faced with two choices – homelessness or the loss of her present life, which she had to overcome many problems to achieve. Unless Guinness fulfils their promise.

 

“This has to stop before it is too late,” said Pilgrim

 

“Not only are people being forced out of London, away from friends, family and their jobs but we are losing housing and estates that make London special,” she added.

 

Help stop the eviction – Protest for Marian

Friday August 28 at 13.30

Lambeth County Court, Cleaver Street, Kennington, London, SE11 4DZ

 

You can also sign up and share the protest on Facebook

 

Photo copyright Christopher Hilton

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