In response to the call-out for protesting the Sweets Way eviction in last week’s BAPS newsletter, and following the visits of Barnet Housing Action Group activists there in the first week of the evictions, a few of us, members and supporters turned up to support the residents of this estate on Monday morning. What we walked into was an extremely depressing and distressing situation. Between the emptying houses, some already boarded, toys and furniture scattered in front yards, residents and activists alike stood shocked and heartbroken.
Standing there talking with women and children, some of them crying, more and more residents came out of the houses and others, who were already evicted, and came back to support their friends and neighbours, we heard stories of people who are being moved to Emergency Accommodation In Watford, Enfield and Westminster with children needing to travel to school in Barnet for 1-2 hours each direction, many with medical conditions who are being treated in Barnet hospitals, cancer, brittle bone disease, one family threatened with taking to care their son if they refuse the accommodation offered to them, one or two families struck off the housing list for refusing the one offer the new Housing Allocation Policy allows now, people who had to borrow money for removal and storage and not told of the available assistance, and one family waiting to be sent to Birmingham!
Single mothers being told to look for private accommodation and fobbed off by estate agents (one of these single mother is herself working in an estate agent so she knows that landlords won’t hear of single mothers, and that’s on top of the notorious refusal to accept Housing Benefits claimants). And all repeated stories about miscommunication and disinformation. These stories all fly in the face of Richard Cornelius’s lies which he published in his column in The Press. (See below a response from BHAG & Our West Hendon). Read The Guardian’s report here, and the report by the Morning Star here.
However, it was also inspiring to see how gradually the residents grew more confident and were empowered by the mere few of us standing in solidarity with them. (The bailiffs didn’t show up as planned and some think it’s because they knew we were there). So, when one of the residents got the anticipated phone call instructing her to come to Barnet House within half an hour to hear where she will be moved to an Emergency Accommodation, we all accompanied her and a spontaneous march and protest outside Barnet House developed, which brought a lot of support from passers by and drivers, but also frustration by those unable to access other services of the council, as the main entrance was locked by security to prevent us from getting in to speak with those in charge of this sham re-housing of council tenants.
They all say rightly that the council knew about this impending tragedy for 2 years! Why didn’t they do anything?!!!
It became clear that by getting organised good outcomes may be achieved.
And indeed, Sweets Way residents and BHAG activists also went to meet with their local councillors, Richard & Alison Cornelius, at their surgery in Barnet House on Saturday morning 21 Feb. Here are some interesting recordings from this meeting.
Barnet Housing Action Group and Our West Hendon campaign’s response to Cllr Cornelius’s lies:
Barnet does not compare with Bristol in any way shape or form. Bristol is a city dealing with its city issues responsibly, Barnet is an urban borough that are evicting their responsibilities.
The growth shows the actual proof that Barnet council is happy to allow developers to make unlimited profits at the expense of the ordinary average person. There is ’no prize’ of new homes for the middle waged/low waged/no waged ordinary people of Barnet!!
No new homes are springing up on Brownfield sites (the new name for housing estates) only UN-affordable buildings. All the 1960’s housing that is being demolished are desirable social housing that are perfectly sound, the only reason they are being demolished is because the developers can make mega amounts of money at the communities expense.
On the West Hendon Estate council tenants are by no means ‘delighted’ with their replacement homes - stuck in the middle of a car park , overlooking the back of garages and kebab shops alongside the Edgeware Rd. Yes, Councillor Cornelius is right in stating in his column in The Press (19 Feb) that ‘it is important people who bought their flats which need to be replaced are given the best possible deal.’ Those that are being forced to sell their homes at tens of thousands of pounds below market value price - by Barnet Council - do not want new properties, they wish to keep their current homes which are bigger, more spacious and cheaper to run. Hence the public inquiry around the compulsory purchase orders - at which Barnet Council have paid for the services of a top expensive QC. IN WHAT SHAPE OR FORM IS THAT PRESSURISING THE DEVELOPER (as he states in his column)?! How can he possibly justify this statement when he knows that it was clearly stated at the Public Inquiry held at Hendon Town Hall in January 2015 by Paul Watlings of Capita that it was his personal view that determined the final value of the privately owned houses purchased from residents for the regeneration, NOT the open market value.
The council is constantly capitulating to both Capita and the developer.
As for leaseholders not needing a mortgage - watch for yourselves.
Residents have been kept as temporary tenants at West Hendon on average 9 years many in-between 13–17 years already and many of these temporary tenants will stay that way for another 5–10 years (27 years in total), and will be then told under the new housing proposals expected to come into force this year “If you live on a Regeneration Estate You Will No Longer Be Entitled to a Council Home”.
Temporary tenants from West Hendon and Sweets Way would vehemently disagree that the process of finding new homes for them has ‘gone quite smoothly’. At West Hendon there was misinformation given about the need to turn up at court, months of anxiety and stress around where they will be moved to - with no choice and only one ‘offer’ - if they even qualify at all to be rehoused!! Residents in the next phase are still in the same position.
At Sweets Way this week temporary tenants were advised by the powers that be at Barnet that they had to wait until bailiffs had actually evicted them out of their homes before they could be offered any assistance - people standing in the road, belongings strewn along the pavements, waiting for telephone calls to inform them where they were being shipped off to - without, in many cases, even being allowed the opportunity to view the properties first and without assistance in storage and removal or coherent information and communication.
If Cllr Cornelius had been present he could have observed for himself the devastated residents and their traumatized children. But he chose not to accept, or even bother to reply, to our invitation to come and speak with the residents on one of the days evictions took place.
The fact that Cllr Cornelius ends his column stating that ‘the solid achievement of building homes needs to be recognised and celebrated’ – when we know these are actually just homes for the rich, only 3 council properties in the past 22 years and only 41 more in the pipeline - probably makes the ordinary people of Barnet wonder: does Councillor Cornelius even live on this planet, never mind in this borough?!!!
Our West Hendon/Barnet Housing Action Group
Sign the Our West Hendon petition
Barnet housing robbery – new website A website detailing how badly we have been robbed by developers in Barnet, courtesy of Cllr Adam Langleben. Take a look here.