Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Social Landlord Guinness South Accused Of "Ethnic Cleansing" In Brixton.

A campaign has been launched by a group of former residents of a south London housing estate to highlight their plight after being evicted by their landlords, only to see their former homes re-let months later.

R.A.G.E.S., Racism And Guinness Estate Support, was formed after Black residents found the homes they were forced to leave were re subsequently re let to white professionals.

Guinness South, the landlords, as part of their regeneration plans for the 390 unit Loughborough Park estate in Brixton, evicted scores of households to make way for demolition crews. 

But, the group claim Guinness operated an ‘ethnic cleansing’ policy by evicting Black residents and replacing them with white professionals. Residents claim the estate was at least ‘90 percent Black’ as recently as 18 months ago.

One current resident, who did not want to be named, claimed the demographic changes taking place in Brixton have left many Black residents feeling marginalised in an area once synonymous as a Black community. She said: “It can be summed up in two words, ‘ethnic cleansing’. What has happened here has left many people depressed and in fear. This is not an accident – it’s by design.”

Remaining long term residents will witness the estate of social housing transform to a new development of over 500 flats – with only 200 being social – and the remaining 300 flats are either for private sale or ‘affordable’ rent, which is 80% of market value.

In an area of high unemployment and social deprivation many say locals are being driven out of their homes due to sky-rocketing property prices in Brixton.

Mr Slingsby, originally from South Africa, was evicted in 2012 and has been sleeping on a friend’s sofa in a neighbouring borough ever since. He said: “ This happened in South Africa so it’s sad to see it happening again. What were they (Guinness) thinking when they started this action?”

He shakes his head as we stand outside of his old flat in Holmbury House, a five storey block earmarked for demolition two years ago, but now occupied by young professionals and remaining longterm residents.

Another group member and former resident, Malvia Johnson, spent four weeks in hospital after being evicted from her home of seven years in 2012. She said the stress of being made homeless triggered her illness. She said: “Guinness were happy to take my money for seven years when the estate was run down, but now they are rebuilding my money’s not good enough.

“They have destroyed our community and have scattered us about the streets of London.”

This issue highlights the controversy surrounding the regeneration of Britain’s most famous Black community and how long term residents are being sidelined in the process.
One current resident, Beth Methari says the changes in central Brixton are more serious than many realise. She said: “ I have lived here for almost 10 years. My two sons, who were both born here, attend local schools and have their friends nearby but Guinness want us out. It makes no sense to evict families from social housing and replace them with private flats for sale.”

Lee Jasper Chair of Black Activist Rising Against The Cuts said

" When I come to Brixton these days I feel swamped by an alien culture. I sense a subtle kind of economic and cultural apartheid developing. Guinness Trust have to explain what's going on here. Have they, as alleged by their former tenants, engaged in ethnic cleansing  forcing out the majority black tenants from their homes and replacing them by largely white middle class tenants?"

He added;

"Its a very serious charge and one which they and the Mayor of London have to answer. It seems to many local people as though there is some sort of overt shared agenda among the powers that be to socially re-engineer Brixton. We wont stand for it. " 

The regeneration of the estate is jointly funded by Guinnness, Lambeth and the Mayor of London, however all were unavailable for comment.

The R.A.G.E.S. are keen to hear from any former residents of the estate who were evicted in the past.