Private tenants on the Butterfields Estate in London's Waltham Forest are facing evictions from affordable homes they have lived in for years, after they were sold on without their knowledge. Previously owned by a charitable trust that ensured tenancies were secure and affordable, the two streets of homes were bought up by a private business (BE17Ltd) at the start of this year.
Since then, tenants have been threatened with eviction, scaring some residents into moving already and placing the entire community under threat. Homes are being marketed on auction sites with no regard for the lives that people have built in the area. You can read more about the situation and campaign here.
The Butterfields tenants are not accepting their situation, though, and are organising against the evictions. After heavy publicity, Dolphin Living came forward as a potential charitable landlord that could continue the tenancies in their current form. They were presumed in talks with BE17Ltd over the sale.
However, in the last two months, more tenants have been been served Notices to Quit and it has come out that the landlords have ended any discussion of a sale to Dolphin. Below is the text of an open letter to those landlords, delivered by tenants this weekend, and showing the human cost of the sale of their homes:
Dear Jasbir and Pardeep Jhumat, and Bas Gilini,
We feel that you do not understand why we are fighting being evicted. You seem to think we are doing it to be stubborn and to spite you. I want to assure you that this is not the case, and explain how we feel below.
Why we don’t want to move
The majority of us cannot hope to ever buy a house. We work hard, we pay our taxes, and we contribute to society. We are the same as you, but with less money. Our jobs may have low incomes, but they are still essential: IT, laundry, administration, catering. This should not stop us living where we want to.
We have lived here for years – some for three or four, even more of us for five or 10 years. Have you lived in your homes for more than three years? You grow very attached, no matter whether you own or rent. We all want to stay in these homes for the foreseeable future. Our Assured Shorthold Tenancies, our rental agreements, do not mean that we want a short-term arrangement. We simply do not have any choice: when you find somewhere you want to live, you cannot argue about the type of tenancy on offer. ASTs, and the ease with which they allow people to be evicted, are totally unfair, but they are the standard across the vast majority of renting.
We are not young professionals who can move easily: there are very few young adults (under 35) living here. Most of us are middle-aged with small children, and two of the first households you tried to evict are retired people in ill health. Grandparents that should be allowed to spend the remainder of their lives where they choose. Families that should not be put under the stress of moving. Do you have children? Do you have elderly parents? How would you feel if they were forced to leave their homes?
We have chosen to live here for many reasons, none of which include the recent gentrification that is making the area so popular. We like the local parks; the number of schools in the area; access to cheap shopping and a variety of supermarkets; and multi-cultural amenities and places of worship of all denominations. A number moved here to be close to family. Others have been in this area for most of their lives.
Some of us moved here because of a local job, or got work very nearby once they were here. We all work, except for the very few retired people. We are not wealthy enough to live elsewhere in Walthamstow because of the recent increase in rents all around us, but our lives are here.
Many of us have spoken to the housing department council, and they have advised us not to rely on them to find other housing.
London Borough of Waltham Forest website states: “Demand for social rented housing in Waltham Forest is high with approximately 16,000 applications on the Housing Register at any time. We let about 1,000 homes each year, so the majority of people who apply for social housing will never be successful and we recommend that they consider other housing options.”
Read that again. Even if we were able to get on the list for social housing, each of us would be one out of 16 THOUSAND applications. And the MAJORITY will NEVER be successful. We cannot apply for housing with any other council; it must be the one where we live. We will be made homeless. We will not be able to stay in this borough, and if we wait to be housed by the council, we will be placed in temporary accommodation. This would probably be a whole family of us in a SINGLE room in a hostel or Bed & Breakfast, not knowing where we will go next.
If we are placed somewhere else, which could take months, if not over a year, we will have lost our jobs because they will be too far away. Our kids will not be able to get to school, or will have to spend hours a day on public transport to go. Nearer schools may not have places for them.
You might think all of this is an exaggeration – but it is all happening now, as people lose their homes across London: “Research has revealed that nearly half of all new homeless households have been placed in temporary accommodation outside their local area in the past year, making it harder for families to access schools and healthcare services. The research also found that a quarter of homeless households have been sent to live in a non-neighbouring borough, with one in ten households moved out of London altogether.”
I cannot help but point out that the area will lose its multicultural aspect: the couple that have moved into the flat above me are young, white, middle-class, and British. You will displace Pakistanis, Polish, Hungarians, Turkish, Italians, as well as people born and bred in East London. We’ll lose our beautiful, varied community.
Please reconsider your actions. We have worked very hard to stay in our homes. We have worked very hard to provide you an alternative to evicting us, an act which WILL make the majority of us homeless. We don’t understand why you walked away from Dolphin Living Trust negotiations. We urge you to re-engage. We have nowhere to move to; and our many supporters are ready to help us stay . We do not intend to give up our homes without fighting.
I look forward to your response.
Secretary, Butterfields TRA
Butterfields Tenants’ and Residents’ Association
To support the campaign, see Butterfields Won't Budge.