Opinion: New Era estate tenants need someone else than Russell Brand
The possible eviction of 93 families from Hoxton’s New Era estate is the height of London’s housing dilemma. Someone has to save these people from homelessness before it is too late. And it is not Russell Brand
Housing prices are a topic Londoners are surrounded by every day. Average rent prices are on the rise, a garage has just been sold for one million pounds in Kensington, people travel three hours to work every morning because they cannot afford to rent a flat in the capital. All these stories rarely seem news to us anymore, they resound as casually in our ears as Britain’s most popular obsession, the weather.
However, the story of 93 families living on the New Era estate in Hoxton that now face losing their homes because they have been sold to an US investment company really is the tip of the London housing iceberg.
Westbrook Partners, a real estate investment firm headquartered in Manhattan, bought the estate in March and is understood to be planning to re-furbish and then re-let the flats with after a 400% rent hike from July 2016. As shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London, Sadiq Khan, told the Guardian : “The shameful New Era saga embodies everything that is wrong with London’s broken housing market.”
And, indeed, the case shows again that a free market economy approach is not doing the trick for London’s housing market anymore. Someone finally has to step in to make the most expensive city in the world affordable for the non-elite. After all, what would London do without construction workers, barbers or industrial cleaners? In short, those who cannot afford to pay the average rent of £1,162 for a two-bedroom flat in the capital? I wonder why no one has yet attempted to regulate the evermore expensive London housing market and, with that, put a brake on the continually rising rent prices.
The only celebrity caring for the Hoxton families on the verge of homelessness seems to be the virtuous leader of revolution, Russell Brand, who joined them at their protest in front of No 10 last Monday. What a shame, really. The comedian, who himself is said to have rented a home in Hoxton – just a few miles away from the New Era estate – for about £5,000 per month, could not be a worse supporter for the 93 families fighting eviction.
After all, when recently asked by a reporter of the Independent how much he pays for rent himself and if he is not actually part of the housing crisis, Brand resorted to calling the reporter ‘a snide’. With that in mind, I cannot help but feel sympathy towards The Sun’s Tuesday front page headline, calling him a hypocrite. Although the values Brand is trying to promote are exactly the ones I hold, his statements rarely make as much sense as they seem to have on the surface and are probably more PR for him than a motto.
Instead of a comedian, the New Era estate residents need a high-profile politician on their side. Someone who saves them from losing their home. Someone or something that finally stops the systematic eviction of low-budget Londoners from the city’s housing market. It won’t be easy and it might not be a rewarding job, either. But Boris, Dave and Ed, I am talking to you and to your likes – there is a job to be done here.
Featured image: Social housing in South Hackney, by Alan Denney/Flickr