Betiel Mehari is a single mother who became a housing activist to try to save her own home.
Betiel works in retail on a zero-hours contract. She lived on the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton for 11 years, until her family lost their home when the estate was completely demolished by housing association Guinness Partnership in a £75m "regeneration" scheme. She was forced to leave Brixton, losing her much valued local community, with huge disruption to her family. ("That's what regeneration does," she says.) Rehoused in a smaller flat in Newington with no balcony, her two children (aged 11 and 10) are now commuting the lengthy distance from Newington to Brixton in order to maintain their educational stability and friends.
Furthermore, Guinness whacked up the rent in the family's new flat, from a "social rent" of £109 per week to a so-called "affordable rent" of £265 per week. Although Betiel had been a Guinness tenant for 11 years, Guinness claimed that demolishing her flat and rehousing her had created "a new tenancy".
Betiel says: "'Affordable' rent is a con. You'd assume it's based on wages, but it's not. It's set at 80% of market rents, not according to any measure of actual affordability. With two kids it requires an income of £35,000, which is higher than the national average. This measure puts us at the mercy of the housing market - it's absolute madness."Read more
A governor of a local primary school has spoken of his great concern about the impact of budget cuts on our local schools.
David Powell, who is also a visiting instrumental tutor in several Southwark primary schools, said: "It seems very likely that there will be a big reduction in Southwark this year, and possibly further cuts in future years. Despite some careful budgeting by schools aiming to protect excellence in teaching and learning, with the likely decrease in Pupil Premium it looks likely that children from poorer families are going to lose much-needed support. Many schools are already finding it difficult to cater for the significant rise in Special Educational Needs, particularly autism.Read more
Why are council estates in London being demolished at a time of housing crisis, replaced by luxury flats that most Londoners cannot afford to live in? This question is central to the work of writer Anna Minton.
Anna, whom we were delighted to welcome as guest speaker at our AGM on 9 November, is reader in architecture at the University of East London and the author of the acclaimed study Big Capital: Who Is London For?, published this year by Penguin. Speaking to an audience of Green Party members and supporters at Camberwell Library, Anna gave a powerful presentation, looking at the impact of the huge sums of money from overseas that have washed up in our city since the financial crisis. For these foreign investors, property is the commodity asset of choice, and London is, in effect, their tax haven.Read more
Council's plans continue to push out poorest
London Assembly estimates predict Southwark will lose 2,051 social rented homes as a result of current property schemes, and that across London 80% of building will only be affordable by 8% of the population. Southwark is in the bottom 3 boroughs for affordable housing.
So rather than creating a “fairer” Southwark, both current and previous councils have delivered a deal that is pushing our communities to the breaking point.
As Southwark Green Party, our candidates would call for:
- Residents to be balloted on proposed demolition
- Refurbishment over demolition (where it doesn’t put residents at risk)
- Improved resident consultations, taking into account local needs
- Supporting local community groups wishing to manage community assets
- Supporting community land trusts wishing to build homes
- Enforcing agreed social and affordable commitments by developers