Turning a legal “defeat” into a real victory: The Sweets Way social centre has moved!

Cross-posted from https://sweetswayresists.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/time-for-a-bigger-place/

Sweets Way Resists responds to a predictably unfair legal decision and gets on with fighting social cleansing.

Today one of the most long-standing principles of British law was reinforced: that private property rights hold greater importance than human rights. A Barnet County Court judge decided to rule against our protest and social centre occupation on the Sweets Way estate, in favour of social cleansing property firm, Annington, even though agreeing with most of our arguments in the courtroom.

Not only did they grant Annington possession over the 160 or so homes of the Sweets Way estate, they even gave them an injunction against future protests taking place anywhere on the site! This is unprecedented and a worryingly draconian case for all involved in housing justice work. However, as long as private property is deemed more legally important than a range of human rights, this kind of thing will happen.

But what happened after the injunction is truly remarkable!

Upon our return from court, we found that the social centre at 60 Sweets Way had been emptied of all the things that made it beautiful. Meanwhile a new property – a five bedroom at 76 Oakleigh Road North, owned by Annington as well, but just beyond the injunction and possession zones – had been occupied and filled with all the makings of a new social centre!

There’s a Mexican proverb that feels appropriate for us today:

‘They tried to bury us, but they forgot that we were seeds.’

The courts may be stacked against us in the fight for decent homes, but the courts have never been where our power lies. Every time they try to shovel another heap of dirt on top of us and hope we’ll go away, we shoot up through the soil with another burst of strength!

So we lost in the courts, but we won in the homes of Sweets Way! And we’ll be here to keep the question of social cleansing on the agenda, and support one another as we fight to protect these buildings from demolition and secure decent homes for all those who have already been forced out of Sweets Way.

As always, come pay us a visit (We’re on Oakleigh Road North now, backing onto Sweets Way), send us food and household stuff if you are able to, keep calling Annington’s offices, and sign the petition to stop the demolition of Sweets Way!

Together, we can defeat giants!

Sweets Way calls for support against evictions

(cross-posted from People’s Assembly)

Barnet Housing Action Group are a group campaigning around housing issues in The Borough of Barnet, North London. We have been working with the Our West Hendon campaign for the past year and have recently joined the Focus E15 Mums in occupying a house on the Sweets Way Estate in the North of the borough in protest against the evictions which have taken place there by Annington Homes Ltd, the owners of the houses and land.

WestHendon_group_130914.jpg

West Hendon is a council estate alongside a reservoir and conservation area known as ‘the Welsh Harp’. The estate comprises of a mix of 650 properties some secure tenancies, some private, some temporary non-secure tenants and also leaseholders. All of these homes are going to be bulldozed and replaced with 2000 luxury apartments – 214 of which – the non luxury of course – will be council flats.

The new luxury flats are being built alongside the Welsh Harp with beautiful views and open spaces whilst the secure council tenants are being moved into a block being built alongside the Edgware Rd in the middle of a gyratory one way system which used to be a car park. Their view will overlook the back of the mechanics garages and kebab shops on the Edgware Rd. Barnet council will not own the building, they will be leasing it from Metropolitan Housing Association. Barnet gave the land on which the West Hendon Estate currently stands to Barratt’s developers – FOR NOTHING!

The new development will be called Hendon Waterside but the West Hendon council tenants that get to remain on their estate won’t be anywhere near a drop of that water! The majority of people currently living on the estate will be ‘decanted’ to other areas; no one knows where until the very last minute of the ‘decanting’ process. The secure tenants still don’t know how much their rents will be and the leaseholders are fighting the Compulsory Purchase Orders put on their homes by Barnet Council which they are being forced to sell at thousands of pounds less than the market value. This scandal has prompted an 8 day public inquiry, the result of which is yet to be released. However even if the inquiry decides in their favour, Eric Pickles will have the last word on the final decision.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the borough – in the North of Barnet – we have a very recent campaign where a whole estate – 153 households, have been evicted because Barnet Council have given planning permission to the owners, Annington Homes, to bulldoze the whole estate and replace with 300 luxury apartments with zero social housing included in the new build.

The mix of residents housed there by the council in temporary, emergency and private accommodation have been dispersed, many out of the borough and many into sub-standard private accommodation, the majority against their will. We have seen a letter instructing a tenant to move to Birmingham the next day and know of one case of a tenant bullied into moving to emergency accommodation for just 10 days before being moved again to another temporary property with such short notice her son had to return from school to find their home boarded up and a neighbour waiting with a note to let him know the address of his new ’10 day’ home.!

There are only 10 families left on the estate now, all waiting for eviction notices and the atmosphere is like an apocalyptic scene from a science fiction film. The eviction process does not seem to have been explained comprehensively and neither was the process for accepting offers of homes to move to and for some this has resulted in them being discharged from the responsibility of Barnet council to re-home them. It is a crime to knock down these houses – they are all in pristine condition and were only built 45 years ago.

Private renting in Barnet is almost impossible and letting agents require a minimum of £36,000 a year salary, some £50,000 in order to be accepted to be on their books. In September 2013 there were only 6% of landlords that would accept tenants on housing benefit, now it is virtually none. There were 18,000 on the waiting list in 2013 and the council dealt with that by abolishing the list! To address this crisis they have recently built ’3′ council homes, the first for 22 years.

At present they have an unprecedented consultation in operation whereby they are proposing to raise council rents to 80% of market value or to the London Housing Allowance which will mean that many of those in need will not fit the criteria needed in order to qualify for a council house as the threshhold salary needed to be earned will be above the minimum salary allowed to qualify for need of a council home.

We believe that the intention of this policy is that Barnet Council – on paper – will be able to show that no one is applying for council housing, which therefore in theory cancels out the need for homes to be built. This will then achieve their real agenda, to get rid of future council housing in Barnet completely.

In different ways both West Hendon and Sweets Way residents are fighting backagainst this social cleansing. As well as the public inquiry West Hendon have a petition demanding to see the viability report, that all residents be re-homed on the estate if that is what they wish, and they now have over 130,000 signatures, the largest petition ever recorded in the history of Barnet Councils existence.

Sweets Way ex-residents have occupied an empty house and also have a petition demanding that the houses are not bulldozed and to be re-housed in the local area. Annington Homes have responded with a County Court Possession Oder but also an attempt to put an injunction on all the land. The case was adjourned to give us more time to prepare our case.

We need your support on Monday morning at the courts. Annington have a well-paid team of lawyers who will use every trick in the book to not only evict the Sweets Way social centre, but also to criminalise protest across the whole estate (where families are still living). This is potentially setting a very dangerous legal precedent for future housing protests and freedom of expression more widely.

Come out and make it clear that we won’t stand by as our right to protest is trampled with our right to decent homes. We will not give up quietly so regeneration can carry on unimpeded. We will continue to shine a light on the social cleansing at the heart of Barnet’s housing policies and Annington’s ‘redevelopment’ plans!

Monday 30th March, 9.30am, Barnet County Court, St Marys court, Regents Park Road, N3 1BQ

Sign the petition

http://www.huckmagazine.com/perspectives/reportage-2/russell-brand-sweets-way/

https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-put-our-homes-before-profit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFNCRPl_L_Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OXc814Q9ps

 

Help Yorkley Court Community Farm!

Message from Yorkley Court Community Farm:

Support needed at Yorkley Court Community Farm. Community before profit!

We have been given a date when county court bailiffs will come to evict us, which is

    Thursday 26th March at 10am

Whether or not they actually try to evict us on this day, we expect that they will at least show up. It would be good to have a lot of people here to show a large force of resistance.

Yorkley Court is a sustainable farm in the Forest of Dean where for the last three years we have been living and working to turn a neglected piece of land into a community farm, with activities open to local people. At the same time were also trying to stop a land grab that was in progress. But this project is now under threat. A few months ago, a millionaire property developer “bought” the land under questionable circumstances, was granted a possession order through the courts, and now wants to evict us from the land.

We have already beaten an eviction attempt by this property developer once, with your help we can see him off again!

We’re inviting any interested people to come occupy the land with us. Come live in the woods, build awesome treehouses, participate in skill-shares, learn about sustainable living, resist eviction, and join us in fighting for access to land.

Updates are regularly going up on our website (https://yorkleycourt.wordpress.com/) which also gives details of how to find us, and on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/YorkleyCourtCF)

In the case of eviction, there are a variety of roles that people can take on, both on and off site, including support roles such as cooks, legal observers, medics and arrestee support.

As well as people on the ground for practical solidarity, monetary donations and resources (such us building materials, food and so on) are much appreciated.

We are here, we are determined and we will not leave quietly.

Brick Lanes Debates, thank you!

We went to the Brick Lanes Debates DAY FOR HOUSING last Sunday, it was very inspiring.

We made a workshop about how to resist an eviction for tenants, which went very well and started some interesting conversations about safety in an action of Eviction Resistance, and children.

We also made a few contacts and got invited to two places to do workshops there.

Thank you Brick Lanes Debates!

Notes from the workshops will be turned into resources on the website. Hopefully within the next few weeks!

Shout-outs from the day of Eviction Resistance workshops

Shout-outs that people shared at our day of Eviction Resistance workshops:

Upcoming Events:

  • Sun, and Mon 30th, 9.30am: Sweets Way Resists in court, come and support!
  • Tues 31st, 7.00pm: Eviction Resistance organisers meeting – how to start the snowball? (location TBC, we’ll let you know)
  • April 15th: March for the Homeless

Film:

¡SI SE PUEDE! 7 DAYS WITH THE PAH BARCELONA
trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOW16NSn4_g
contact: info@comandovideo.net to arrange your own screening (and should be available free online soon)
how-to-guide: https://traduccionesindignadas.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/how-to-stop-an-eviction/

Speakers:

EVICTION RESISTANCE
follow: @EResistance
support: help us spread the word about eviction resistance tactics! update us with your stories so we can fill our blog with examples of how this kind of action WORKS!

SUE LUKES
follow: @SueLukes

PEOPLE’S EMPOWERMENT ALLIANCE, CUSTOM HOUSE (PEACH)
support: we’re setting up our own PAH-style eviction resistance group! if you are near Newham, come show support / solidarity / share experiences.

ADVISORY SERVICE for SQUATTERS (ASS)
support: keep us up to date! we need to hear feedback from you to keep our knowledge fresh. bring us your court papers if you want legal help.

LEGAL DEFENCE MONITORING GROUP (LDMG)
Housing Action Groups:

SWEETS WAY RESISTS
follow: @SweetsWayN20
occupy: 60 Sweets Way, N20 (077516 87326)
support: Come to Barnet County Court N3, Monday 9.30am. Or help us hold the occupied houses by coming to spend a night.

RADICAL HOUSING NETWORK
follow: @RadicalHousing
support: visit the website and find out if there is an action group local to you. if not, let us know, and we can support you to set one up! we meet once a month, usually first Mondays.

FIGHT FOR THE AYLESBURY ESTATE
follow: @Fight4Aylesbury
occupy: call in advance to let us know, as they’ve heightened security (details on website)
support: fill in your objections to the development plans here: http://concreteheartland.info/

DORCHESTER COURT RESIDENTS
support: Brand new group, with residents facing imminent eviction. Listen out for updates from Ravi, come and populate their photo shoot!

HOUSING ACTION SOUTHWARK & LAMBETH (HASL)
follow: @HousingActionSL
support: cause a stink at a fancy breakfast for developers – see above event

FRIENDS OF QUEENS MARKET / BOLEYNDEV100
follow: @BoleynDev100 & @FoQMarket
support: sign the petition, come to our first meeting (see above in events)

BRIXTON ACTION GROUP

KENSINGTON & CHELSEA – GRENFALL ACTION GROUP
support: we’ve become thin on the ground out in West London, so bring support / skillshares to our threatened estates and help us grow the movement out there

TOWER HAMLETS RENTERS
follow: @THRenters
support: listen out for upcoming eviction – we’ll need support!

FOCUS E15
follow: @FocusE15
support: Join the occupation at Sweets Way! Come to our street stall, Saturdays 12-2pm, Stratford High St (by Wilkos)

Plus Camden residents about to set up a new group, Peckham eviction resistors, Skills Network, Brick Lane Debates, Generation Rent, New Economy Organisers Network, Hackney residents, Lambeth Private Renters, Queen Mary’s & Birkbeck Universities, Real Estates, and a handful of radical filmmakers…

Stay in touch! (I’ve tried to find ways for everyone to find each other, but if you can’t find someone you need, let us know and we’ll connect you)

¡Si Se Puede!

To everyone who came to the day of Eviction Resistance skillshares in PEER Gallery

What a great day of meeting, sharing and learning!
Thank you so much to everyone who came to this very inspirational day.

I was so happy to see people connect, realize that they are not alone but many, and that they can support each other and fight together! Like someone said in the PAH documentary: “once you join the PAH you know that you will never be alone, you will never be homeless”.

If you have any questions or ideas about Resisting Evictions, please send them to us. Please document your plans and actions of Resisting Evictions, take photos, and send us your texts so we can put them on this blog. So that together we can show others that Resisting an Eviction is a worthy, empowering line of action, which can be a new start for a campaign to put pressure on your local authorities or landlord.

When the law fails us in favor of financial corporations, the only course of action left is the power of our communities. Together, let’s fight for the Right to Housing! Basic rights are not negotiable, basic needs should not be traded!

In the next few days/weeks we will compile the information exchanged during the workshops, into resources that you will be able to find on the website. Contact us if you want to help with that or with anything else.

 

PS: on Sunday we will be at the Brick Lane Debate to hold a workshop about Eviction Resistance. Join us there if you fancy another session, have new questions, ideas, etc. Or if you just want to connect with more people.

Day of Workshops about Eviction Resistance

Join uson Friday the 20th in Hoxton for a day of skillshares, organised with Focus E15 as part of the Radical Housing Network:
 
Eviction Resistance Skillshare Day
Date: Friday 20th March
Time: 12-6pm
Where: PEER Gallery, 97&99 Hoxton Street
 

*12-1pm: Screening of Sí Se Puede! - a how-to-guide to Eviction Resistance from the PAH anti-eviction movement in Spain

*1.30-3pm: Housing and Tenancy Law with Sue Lukes (incl. Migrant Housing Law)

*3.30-4.30pm: Practicalities and Legalities of Eviction Resistance:  contributions from Advisory Service for Squatters, and Legal Defence and Monitoring Group.

*4.30-6pm: Learning from our Experiences: PAH-style group casework session with contributions from Sweetsway Estate, HASL, Robin from Kilborn Unemployed Workers Group, Focus E15, Our West Hendon, Guinness Estate, Skills Network, DIGS, Radial Housing Network and more…

These workshops are especially aimed at residents who want to learn how to protect their homes and their Right to Housing. Friends and supporters of the residents are welcome too, obviously!

Sweets Way occupation

A beautiful house has been occupied on the Sweets Way estate in Barnet. Come down to check out the estate, chat to some local residents, and help create a community space!

The Sweets Way estate is in the process of a total decant, with about 15 households left of almost 160. The houses are in perfect condition, but are due to be knocked down by developer Annington Homes to double the density with only 33 ‘affordable’ units. Residents have no right of return. The estate has been used as temporary accommodation for Barnet Council via Notting Hill Housing Trust, in some cases for up to 6 years. The residents are at the beginning of their political action together, and are currently coming together to discuss their collective demands of the council.

Occupied house and banners

This is yet another case of developers manipulating the class composition of an area to increase their profits. Residents who have been in Barnet for decades are being forced out, aided by council policy to force up rents to 80% of market rates. They are looking for support in this battle, so if you can get on the Northern line we are only 26mins from Kings Cross.

Check Barnet Housing Action Group and the Radical Housing Network sites, as well as @SweetsWayN20 twitter for updates.

First and foremost, it is the solidarity of people coming and helping out that will win back the homes in this community. Come meet us and support us!

VIDEO: the children of Sweets Way speak up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyeD-x-uDCA

Residents of Sweets Way resisted an eviction by bailiffs!

Barnet Housing Action Group held an anti-eviction protest at Sweets Way Estate on the 16th of February, resisting the eviction of four families, some of the last remaining residents in this site of social cleansing. The Bailiffs got scared off – showed up and drove away.

The FIGHTBACK has begun!!

Residents holding banners and waiting for bailiffs

Residents moved on to Barnet House Council Office, getting it under lockdown for two hours: but Barnet residents and newly homeless were refused entry by security.

Two newly homeless people and a witness secured entry for a meeting with Housing Officers….who have promised (on video) that each affected family will be contacted for a meeting this afternoon and be offered suitable housing locally. More actions planned this week – help wanted, including anyone with legal/advocacy experience!

INCREASE IN EVICTIONS; UPSURGE IN RESISTANCE

**cross posted from rabble.org.uk**

DECEMBER 4, 2014

Just as the number of evictions in England and Wales soar to the highest levels since records began 14 years ago – up to 11,000 repossessions from July-September (that’s well over 100 per day) – it seems that housing struggles are also on the up again.

Map of London estates facing eviction

A show of solidarity prevented the eviction of a Newham mum and her three kids this morning, when a load of comrades confronted the bailiffs at the house, outnumbering them five to one. The bailiffs left and a meeting was arranged with the housing association, Notting Hill Housing, who agreed not to take any further action until January and to try and have the family re-homed in the borough asap.

Later in the day, a group called Lewisham Homeless Person’s Union confronted paper pushers and security guards at the council offices in Catford, demanding housing for the hundreds of homeless people in the borough. Security blocked access to most, but 3 people were able to meet with bureaucrats, the results if any of which are not yet known.

New Era 4 All is a campaign by residents of the New Era housing estate in Hoxton to keep their rents down. Tenancies there have been made more precarious since their homes were bought by the filthy rich scumbag private equity firm, Westbrook Partners, who are trying to raise rents there in line with market rates of the area, which would mean tenants paying around £2,400 a month. Residents and supporters marched to Westbrook’s offices in central London yesterday and handed them a petition to stop the rent hikes, supported by over 250, 000 signatures.

This new wave of energy is no doubt thanks in part to the tenacity and success of theFocus E15 mums campaign, which began after Newham Council cut funding to a hostel for vulnerable young mothers and their kids. The campaign led to the families getting re-homed in the borough and the creation of a temporary social centre from occupied homes on the Carpenters Estate, which became a hub of skill sharing and plotting for the two weeks of its existence. The Carpenters Estate itself is in the process of slowly being depopulated and demolished, but the publicity generated by the occupation led to some, short term, concessions being won – Newham Council agreed to house 40 people on the estate on a temporary basis.

We’ve also seen public sabotage from the Black Revs, who smothered anti-homeless spikes with concrete, while Class War picked a good target with 19 weeks of dogged protests against poor doors at the yuppie flats of One Commercial Street, forcing the owners into talks. In October, there was a roudy mobilisation against the MIPIM property fair/plunder in Kensington, as well as a counter conference.

The following month there was some good news for squatters too, as four more s144 defendants were acquitted when it proved too difficult for the prosecution to show that the property was designed or adapted for residential use before the occupation. See theAdvisory Service for Squatters for more on this.

Housing Action Lambeth & Southwark (HASL), who do grassroots solidarity work with people most screwed over by landlords, have issued a callout to support T and her family, who are facing homelessness by Southwark Council, at 2pm on Monday 8th at London Bridge. You can also join HASL’s eviction phone network here.

The E15 mums are holding a New Year’s Eve party to celebrate the energy, support and victories of the past year. They are inviting anyone who’d like to get active in this stuff and make more victories in 2015.

Successful eviction resistance this morning