The wealthiest tenants on the New Era estate in Hoxton could be charged more rent than poorer tenants to keep families being evicted from their homes.
Dolphin Living, who took over the estate last year, are considering plans to ‘means-test’ residents in order to calculate affordable rents for low-income households.
The proposals could mean that tenants with a household income of £21,000 a year would continue to pay the same rent, while other families of the same size but with an income of £66,000 would pay more than double.
Dolphin, who have previously pledged to freeze existing rents until 2016, believe the strategy will help to ensure the long-term future of the New Era community.
John Gooding, CEO at Dolphin Living, said: “We believe that our rent policy should be based upon a tenant’s ability to pay and should leave the tenant with sufficient disposable income to maintain a decent lifestyle.”
“Dolphin has promised that no tenant will ever be forced out of the Estate because they can’t afford the rent and this income-based approach will ensure that we keep that promise.”
Dolphin are currently working with the New Era Tenants’ Association to develop a more detailed proposal which is expected to be presented to the 93-home community in April.
As we reported late last year, previous owners, American real estate company Westbrook Partners, threatened to triple the rent, forcing out current residents.
After months of protests, Westbrook agreed to sell to affordable housing firm, Dolphin Living, in December.
Despite this progress, concerns have been raised among campaigners about how the means test will work in practice and that the strategy is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Alex Hilton, Director of Generation Rent, said: “If it works for the New Era estate that’s fine, but it sounds like there’s going to be an incentive whenever there’s a vacancy to get a higher paying tenant in, both for the landlord and the tenants.”
“If that helps the people that are there now then that’s great, but it is an indication of the wider housing market problems – basically that less well off people are gentrified out of existence, socially cleansed from their home communities.”
Hackney Council, who has been engaged in discussions with Dolphin and residents during the handover, said that they would continue to support residents and liaise with the new owners to ensure fair and affordable rents, as well as stable and secure futures for tenants.
Cllr Philip Glanville, Hackney Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “The process is still at an early stage and we look forward to influencing these proposals and seeing how they will affect current residents.”
“Hackney remains clear that we want to see a rent policy that accommodates existing residents and that no one is forced out by high rents.”