Russell Brand took to the streets in London to voice his displeasure at a planned rent hike in a London estate, after its acquisition by US-based Westbrook Partners, alongside old Etonians Edward and Richard Benyon.
UK comedian and political commentator Russell Brand continued his foray into ‘revolutionary action’ as he attacked property developers in London. “As you know property developers – in partnership with corrupt, inept or lazy politicians – have created a housing crisis for ordinary people all over the world,” Mr Brand wrote on his website. “I bet your rent is soaring; I bet you are finding it hard to pay. It’s especially bad in cities, and for this first action we want to focus on London.”
OPP has previously highlighted the lack of affordable housing in the UK capital, where house prices have by some reports exceeded their 2007 peak.
The website post drew attention to a petition spawned after plans emerged to increase rents on the New Era Estate, in Hoxton, to match market rates.
“…Edward Benyon (brother of richest Tory MP in Britain Richard Benyon), along with billion dollar American property firm Westbrook, purchased the property. They backtracked on the deal to keep the estate as affordable housing,” Mr Brand wrote. “They have told the families that the rents were going to go up to “market rate” and they had to cough up or jog on. But, the people of the New Era estate aren’t going anywhere.”
The petition claims that Richard Benyon had announced plans to treble rents in 2016, which would “force out” residents in the estate. “As an MP and with the general election just months away, Richard Benyon will not want public support to turn against him. If enough people sign this petition, we could push his firm into keeping our estate as affordable housing,” the petition reads.
Mr Brand, who frequents Hoxton, reserved most of his ire for the old-money Benyon brothers, who own The Benyon Estate. The company, which owns 20,000 acres of land across the UK, is a minority shareholder in the flats on the New Era Estate. He invited people for a day of “Dickensian fun” to peacefully protest against the “3 Scrooges” – Boris and the Benyons.
On Saturday 8 November he was joined by local residents and others showing support. He attached a banner reading “Social Housing Not Social Cleansing” to a Benyon Estate office building and posted a fake eviction notice.
Residents of the estate then marched to one of Edward Benyon’s houses to affix another ‘eviction notice’.
“Here to stay, here to fight, social housing is our right,” was one of the chants from the protestors.
Edward Benyon posted a message on Benyon Estate’s website to “clarify his company’s involvement with the property”. He highlighted that the acquiring party was a fund managed by Westbrook Partners, who appointed the Benyon Estate “to manage the New Era Estate on an on-going basis”
A condition of working with Westbrook on the property management was to ensure that the residents of the New Era Estate were properly supported, and given ample warning of any changes to their situation. Despite having no legal rights to extensions, the 89 assured shorthold tenants (and their families) have been offered a further 12-month contract at discounted rents. Without our involvement, the new owners will terminate the existing leases, which they are entitled to do, refurbish the flats and then let them all out at 100% of full market rents.
By Francine Carrel, international property reporter, OPP