Russell Brand shines spotlight on Hoxton New Era renters’ protest against “social cleansing”

New Era Housing demonstration. Pic: Residents Of The New Era

New Era Housing demonstration. Pic: Residents Of The New Era

Activist and comedian Russell Brand was one of 300 protestors at a rally to protect a Hoxton housing estate on Saturday.

A petition to protect the estate has received nearly 90,000 signatures in the past week and was shared by Brand on his website on Wednesday.

Ninety families on the New Era estate, which has provided affordable housing in the area for 70 years, have been subjected to a rent rise of 10 per cent. The new owners of the properties have said that tenants should soon expect to pay “market rates”. The average rate of a two bedroom flat in Hoxton is currently £590 per week.

The rally took place outside the home of Richard Benyon, Britain’s richest MP, with an estimated worth of £110 million. His brother, Edward, now manages New Era on behalf of the Benyon Estate. Westbrook Partners, a global real estate management company, also own a stake in the estate.

Ben Maloney, an attendee at the protest and former lobbyist for the Benyon Estate, said that the main concern of Edward Benyon was “meeting with Hackney Council so that he could get permission to develop some of the properties…his agenda has always been about making money.”

In June Hackney mayor, Jules Pipe, issued a statement saying he was “deeply concerned” by rent increases on the estate.

“So-called ‘market rents’ are way beyond the means of many residents. Such rises threaten to tear the heart out of a long-established Hackney community as people are forced to move. Treating tenants in this way is not reasonable.”

However, Barry Watt, a Clapton housing campaigner who began the petition, said that protestors had received “absolutely no support” since Pipe’s statement.

Watt said that there had been silence from local MPs on the matter: “It is hard to support this independent campaign and not to support changes across London and the country.”

Brand called for action on Wednesday, writing on his website: “In Hoxton, East London there is a diabolical situation that we need your help with. The New Era estate provided affordable homes for ordinary working families.”

“If the Benyons get their way, an entire community will be forced into B&Bs all over the country. They will be sent hundreds of miles away, to places they’ve never been, where they don’t know anyone. Old people who have lived there their whole lives, working nurses with kids, single mums – They will lose all the work, money and love they have invested in their homes and their community.”

At the demonstration Brand attached a mock eviction notice to a Benyon Estate property before addressing the crowd from scaffolding.

"Social Housing Not Social Cleansing", Russell Brand at New Era protest. Pic: @ben_maloney

“Social Housing Not Social Cleansing”, Russell Brand at New Era protest. Pic: @ben_maloney

Reporting on the demonstration The Daily Mail noted that Brand was worth £9 million and owns a £1 million mansion in Hollywood.

But Maloney said: “Having Brand’s support gives the story maximum news coverage. He’s got the ability to tweet out to eight and a half million followers.”

Maloney is the Enfield Southgate constituency Labour Party secretary and was involved in September’s Focus E15 protests where mothers in Newham occupied council homes when they were threatened with eviction from their homes. Brand had also visited these protestors.

Maloney said that New Era could become an issue on a par with Focus E15 but the fact that the New Era estate is privately owned will make it more difficult to solve.

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