Residents of Hoxton’s New Era estate celebrated a major victory on Friday after Westbrook Partners agreed to sell to an affordable housing firm.
The decision brings to an end months of protests from tenants after the American-based firm threatened to triple rents in a bid to drive out a close-knit community.
The new owners, the Dolphin Square Charitable Foundation, have already confirmed that residents will not have to worry about eviction for the foreseeable future. The Foundation announced that they would stick to existing rents and tenants until 2016.
Addressing residents the chief executive of Dolphin Living, Jon Gooding, said: “The whole philosophy of Dolphin Living is that we fix rents relative to people’s incomes and not relative to market rents… We will work to understand in detail the financial circumstances of our tenant group and we will then formulate a rent policy that is demonstrably fair.”
Hackney Council, who have been engaged in discussions with Westbrook since last month, welcomed the announcement, with Mayor Jules Pipe describing it as a “really positive step”. He confirmed that the council have called on the new owners to engage occupants in the rent setting process.
Philip Glanville, Hackney Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “I want to pay tribute to the tenants and their campaign, and hope that this change in ownership will ensure a real and sustainable future for them and the New Era estate. Westbrook’s original plans would have torn the heart out of this community and, while this news will be welcomed by the residents of New Era, sadly it does nothing to protect other Londoners living in private rented accommodation.”
The weekend has been a celebratory one for those on New Era, who had previously feared that this could be their last Christmas on the estate. They had gathered 300,000 signatories on a petition they delivered to Downing Street on December 1. However in spite of support from local MPs, the council and the Mayor’s office there was no clear sense that the situation would change.
Lyndsey Garrett, the chair of the tenant’s group, described herself as “over the moon” after Friday’s confirmation. She told ELL: “It’s amazing news, we can’t quite believe it. It’s a real victory for the residents here and hopefully can inspire other people across Hackney and London.”
Though they have achieved victory for their estate the leaders do not intend to rest on their laurels. Garrett said: “In the New Year we’ll give our time and energy to helping others in similar situations. Seeing as our campaign was so successful we should probably share that [success] with others.”