Tuesday, March 09, 2010

London tenants fight to save homes

MORE than 100 tenants last month protested outside the Crown Estates offices near Regent Street in London as their fight to prevent their homes being sold off to the public sector was raised in the House of Commons.
Their fight continues with meetings and rallies on the threatened estates, including a meeting in Lewisham last Saturday.
Their homes are owned and managed by The Crown Estate – which manages property on behalf of the monarchy – in the boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Westminster and Lewisham.
The protesters outside the Crown Estates offices waved placards on the pavement which declared “Our homes are not for sale”.
Respect MP George Galloway, whose Bethnal Green and Bow constituency includes part of the Victoria Park Estate, tabled a Commons Motion condemning the proposed sell-off.
Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, backed residents’ opposition, criticised the Crown Estate for failing to give residents enough information, and urged the Crown Estate’s director of investment and asset management to appoint the tenants a legal advisor.
Residents’ protests began after they received a letter from Crown Estates about the proposed freehold sale of the terraces near Victoria Park and four other Crown estates at Millbank in Westminster, Cumberland Market near Regent’s Park and Lee Green in south-east London.
Residents fear that if their homes are sold to a private landlord rents will increase and key-workers – such as teachers nurses and police officers – will be forced out.
Crown Estate director of investment Paul Clark told Meg Hillier that the plans were only a proposal at this stage.
The Crown Estate manages acres of land and commercial property nationwide to a value of over £7.3 billion, which was formerly owned by the monarchy.
The consultation period ends on March 23.
The sale of the 1,300 Crown Estate homes in London is expected to raise about £250 million according to an estimate provided by a potential buyer. The money will ease the finances on a £750 million redevelopment programme already underway at the bottom of Regent Street.
Paul Clark has done this sort of thing before — in 2006 to be precise. Then he was chief surveyor to the Church Commissioners. More than 1,100 south London homes were sold for £150 million to a 50:50 joint venture owned by Britain’s largest residential property company Grainger and the Genesis Housing Association.
It provoked protests at the time, with tenants invading the General Synod.

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