New Era tenants celebrate sale of estate to ethical landlord

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The New Era Estate in Hoxton that has been the focus of a high profile campaign to keep 90 low-income families in their homes, has been sold to an affordable housing provider.

The deal between Dolphin Square Foundation and former owners Westbrook Partners was sealed at 2pm today and confirmed by Hackney Council this afternoon.

The Dolphin Square Foundation stated that rents and tenancies would be guaranteed until at least 2016.

The news follows a six-month campaign backed by tens of thousands of supporters including comedian and activist Russell Brand, but led by three women from the estate.

News began to emerge this week that a deal looked likely in the coming weeks, but Lindsey Garrett, one of the campaign leaders, said there would be no celebrating until the deal was confirmed.

The Dolphin Square Foundation was formed after the sale of former affordable housing estate Dolphin Square, in Pimlico, was sold to Westbrook Partners in 2005.

The foundation was set up with the aim of providing affordable homes for rent to low to middle income tenants.

New owners

In a statement the Dolphin Square Foundation confirmed the deal.

It also confirmed that the former property manager and part owner the Benyon Estate – which pulled out after it was targeted during the resident-led campaign – would take over temporary management of the estate

Jon Gooding, Chief Executive of Dolphin Living, said: “I can confirm that we have been in discussions with Westbrook for a number of weeks over how Dolphin Living can secure the legacy of the New Era Estate as a community which is affordable to working Londoners.

“We want the New Era tenants to feel secure while we have some meaningful consultation with them about not just rents but also repairs and renewals, to secure the long term future of the estate.

“Today we have written to residents on the estate with the pledge to work to understand their circumstances and then develop a rent policy that is demonstrably fair.

“The complete moratorium on rent increases until 2016 will allow time for this consultation to take place and for us to win the trust of tenants.”

Negotiations

Negotiations with Westbrook began in November after Boris Johnson dispatched his Deputy Mayor for Housing, Richard Blakeway, who first met their representatives on 20 November.

Hackney’s Mayor Jules Pipe, cabinet member for housing Philip Glanville and Meg Hillier were also involved in the talks aimed at encouraging Westbrook to either keep the rents low or sell the estate to a social landlord.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson told the London Assembly during Mayor’s Question Time that he was hopeful a deal would be done.

Hackney Council said in a statement: “This result is what we have been calling for from the outset, so we’re pleased that Westbrook has now done the right thing. I want to pay tribute to the tenants of New Era, who have run a tireless campaign to save the community they care so passionately about.

“Dolphin Square’s commitment to existing rents and tenancies until 2016 is welcome, and we will continue to seek assurances from them about their future plans for the estate.”

Campaign co-ordinator Lindsey Garrett has been approached for comment.

* This story first appeared in the Hackney Citizen on 19 December 2014

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