Category Archives: private landlords

 Sara and her children must stay in Newham!

No eviction on  Monday 11 December

Sara is the mother of two children, forced to move out of where she was living when her second child was born, due to overcrowding. She was given emergency accommodation by Newham Labour council, in Brimstone House in Stratford. That was six months ago.

In the last two weeks, Newham council offered Sara and her children a property to consider in Birmingham…. She was scared and she was brave …. all her family, support networks, and her oldest child’s education, is in Newham… so she said no. She explains to Focus E15 campaign that she is facing eviction from Brimstone House on Monday 11 December. Sara says that Newham council is:

 ‘asking me to leave the property because I rejected what they call a suitable offer and they are discharging their duty of care to me. I have lived in this borough for 12 years and all my local connections are in Newham as my family is the only support system I have.’

Followers of Focus E15 campaign will see an irony here…. Brimstone House is what was formerly Focus E15 hostel for young people and where the Mother and Baby Unit was based and it was the young single mothers living there in 2013 who stood together to say no to Newham council who told them to pack their bags and move to  Manchester, Hastings and yes… Birmingham. That is what launched the campaign against social cleansing and exposed Newham’s rotten record of sending people out of borough and out of London. 

Four years on, the council behaviour hasn’t changed and we will stand with Sara and her children to prevent their social cleansing, to prevent their eviction and to demand that they be housed in Newham, in accommodation suitable for them as a family.

20 years ago, in 1997, Labour Mayor Robin Wales made his priorities clear when he was leader of the council and said:

‘There are too many people, those currently living in Newham and those attracted from other London boroughs, who survive on low incomes or who present themselves as homeless. Whilst we will offer support and carry out our legislative duties, our aim will be to increase Newham’s property values, and raise the income profile of all our residents’.

Within Newham Labour Council, 46 councillors own or control almost 100 properties and one has 19 properties with combined estimated value of over £4.5m and collective monthly rent of over £20,000.  When the young mothers from Focus E15 hostel challenged Robin Wales in 2013, he had the arrogance to say: ‘If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can’t afford to live in Newham’. How can such people represent our interests?

Recent vital research by Debt Resistance UK  has shown that Newham now has 12,000 homeless people, one in every 25 residents,  the highest number in England. Newham also has the highest number of residents in temporary accommodation in London, and is among the councils moving the highest number of people out-of-borough and indeed out of London altogether. 

Despite housing being a top priority for Newham residents, the council is spending significantly less money on housing than it is on debt repayments to banks for dodgy loans, known as Lender Option Borrower Option loans (LOBO). These are short-term, variable rate loans taken out by councils from the banks (when they should have secured safer fixed-rate 50-year loans from central government). Between 2001 and 2010, Newham took out £563m worth of loans from Barclays Bank and RBS. The teaser interest rates started low but continue to escalate and Newham is now paying  back 7.5% interest on these loans.  Interest repayments increased from £54m (2010) to £83m 2017. The upshot of this scandalous financial wrongdoing is that in 2015, Newham paid the equivalent of 70% of its council tax as debt servicing and in 2016/17, this has risen to 125% – the highest in England – meaning that more than all of what comes in as council tax payments, goes straight out to the banks. 

Whilst cutting services to residents and pleading ‘Tory austerity’, Newham Labour council has sat on an ever-growing pot of money: ‘usable reserves’ increased from £77m in 2010 to £434m currently, a staggering rise of 560%. 

If you sickened by any of this, come to our campaign stall and meeting on Saturday 9 December. Join us in our demand that Sara and her children must stay in Newham!

No more evictions! No social cleansing! 

The campaign stall runs from 12-2pm on the Broadway in Stratford, outside Wilkos.

The campaign meeting is at Sylvia’s Corner on Aldworth Road, Stratford, E15 4DN at 2.30pm

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Working class women face court fees as evictions keep rising

No time for your Housing issues, we have an election on…

This is what Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms said to Chantelle, when she visited him last week as a last resort in her struggle for decent long-term accommodation with her young son in Newham.

Three years ago, Chantelle and her two month old son, were placed by Newham Council, under the Bond Scheme, in private-rented accommodation. The flat has mice and cockroaches, damp, no loft insulation and intermittent problems with the boiler leaving Chantelle and her son with periods of no hot water or heating. Chantelle’s son is in a local nursery and has a place in the school for September 2017.

Out of the blue, in January 2017, Chantelle received a Section 21 Notice of Possession (Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, is the legal eviction notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property at the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy). Frightened by the prospect of homelessness with her young son, Chantelle sought advice and Newham Council advised Chantelle to stay put, not to move out to stay with a family member as she would then be making herself intentionally homeless. She was advised to look for private accommodation in the two weeks that followed and when she was not successful, she was then advised by the housing office to go through with the eviction process and she was told she would not be liable for court fees.

However  outrageously Chantelle has been ordered to pay court costs of £355 to the landlord for this eviction and bailiff’s have been summoned to evict her, creating more stress and anxiety for Chantelle and her son.

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Chantelle’s case worker has said that once the bailiffs have come and Chantelle is on the streets she will be given emergency accommodation, but only out of London. The case worker said that unless a child is in their GCSE year, they are ‘expendable’ and will cope with being moved away from their family, friends and teachers.

Labour Mayor Robin Wales in his address to the Annual Council Meeting last month said that Newham ‘has real Labour values that create for each of us the means to realise our true potential’ and boasted that Newham has ‘amongst the best services in London’ and ‘doing more than other boroughs to get rid of rogue landlords’ and as housing reaches a crisis point, Newham is ‘showing the way for others to follow’.

The reality is that social cleansing continues, with people like Chantelle being forced out of borough and out of London, tearing them away from their family and support networks, their children’s schools and their jobs or job prospects. Meanwhile thousands of homes lie empty in the Newham, not least over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford.

Chantelle will be at STRATFORD MAGISTRATE COURT 389-397 High Street E15 4SB Tuesday 6 June at 2pm. She should not be financially penalised. Chantelle knows that her struggle is the struggle of thousands of people across London. Focus E15 campaign will be there to support her when she requests an extension to stay in her current property and for the court costs to be waived. The struggle goes on to ensure that Chantelle and her young son are not moved out of Newham. 

Social housing! Not social cleansing!

Refugee left on the streets by Newham Council + racist private landlords. Who can help Ibrahim now?

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Last Saturday on our street stall we met a refugee called Ibrahim. He wanted to tell us his story. This is what he said:

When I first got to London I was put into home office accommodation called NASS which is based in Newham. I stayed there from September 2014 – April 2015 whilst the Home Office decided if they would give me refugee status.  Once this status was granted, I was given 28 days to leave, open a bank account, find a home, etc. It took me a long time to open a bank account even though I had all the official documents and support from the Refugee Council.  This meant I could not get any benefits, so I was alone without money, without a job, no national insurance number and no roof over my head.

The Refugee Council gave me an official letter stating that I was completely homeless, and with this I went to Newham Council who told me to come back at 9 am the next day.  I made sure I slept rough close by that night, so I was first in line at the housing office in the morning, and I started queuing at 7am.  When they met me, they got me a translator and took down my story.  They took my contact details, gave me a ‘Housing Options’ letter which listed 3 hostels, and said they would be in touch.  I went to the hostels straight away, but they had no space for me, so I waited for the phone call from the council.

After 2 weeks, I wondered why no one had rang me.  It turns out at the previous meeting, the council had written my phone number down wrong. No one apologised to me for this.  They gave me another letter, but there was no translator present this time so I didn’t understand what it meant – my friend read it for me later and it said they acknowledged that I was street homeless, but that they would not offer me housing.  They told me to look for private accommodation.

My friend phoned one of the hostels up a few weeks ago on my behalf, and they said they had been trying to get in touch with me as a space had opened there, but because the council had not corrected the wrong phone number on their system, I never got the message.  I was told by the hostel that  if my friend hadn’t rang up that day I would be completely off their records.

I try to look for private accommodation, but it is a struggle as deposits are very high and many landlords don’t take DSS.  I got close to getting a room once but they heard my voice, and because I have trouble speaking English, they refused to go any further. To get private accommodation I have to save for a deposit, but it is hard to get a job when you are sleeping on the streets and have no address – people don’t employ you.  I also have to get an English speaking friend who has a ‘good accent’ to phone landlords, as they don’t accept me when I phone.

 I have now been street homeless for 5 months, with no end in sight.  I try and sleep during the day in a park near the Olympic stadium, and keep awake all night for safety.  When it rains I sleep in the police station.  I walk very far each day. I have to get to my college course and to work training courses.  I have no income aside from money the Refugee Council can afford to give me from their petty cash – sometimes £10 a week, sometimes £20.  I struggle as I have to top my phone up a lot to call landlords, so don’t eat much.  I try to stay clean and well dressed to get a job, and wash in the local Mosque, which they allow as I am Muslim.

Focus E15 campaign stands with Ibrahim in his fight for housing. Many refugees face escalated difficulties and racism and get very little support from anyone. Currently Ibrahim sleeps on the streets near the Olympic Park whilst homes lie empty on the Carpenters Estate, and many other places around London.  It is unacceptable for any Council to fail to support the most vulnerable in their borough, including refugees.
Ibrahim’s  words were translated for us by the Asylum Clinic, who we met with Ibrahim whilst they passed our stall, after getting basic supplies for their clinic to help Refugees.
 
Please share Ibrahim’s story on Facebook and twitter. Tweet and demand action from Newham Labour Council @newhamlondon