Residents in parts of Hoxton have criticised plans to re-develop the area and raise rents, a move which they fear could destroy the close-knit community.
Tenants and businesses on the New Era Estate are concerned about their futures after a private investment company took over control; the new owner is partly owned by Englefield Estate, the family firm of Richard Benyon, who was named as Britain’s richest MP by The Times’ Rich List.
The estate is described as “very close and friendly” by minimart owner Cenk Kaya, who was told by the landlords that he must close his shop by April for refurbishment.
He says that after the renovations are complete, he says he’s been given the option to come back but with rents “doubled”, and he claims other shopkeepers are facing the same choice.
Sitting outside a popular café, which backs onto the estate, another resident, Birkan Giritli, says the community “has been split apart” and he worries that the area will lose its character as long-standing shop owners and businesses are forced to leave.
The owner of the Mr Samwidges café, Mehmet Sucu, said he had given up any hope of remaining in the premises and had decided to leave imminently. His shop is now closed.
When Artefact spoke to him, he also said that shops were to be shut down by April: “We definitely know there is no future for us here.”
He believes that by pricing existing tenants out, the new landlords “want to change the people here,” and that people who’ve lived in the area for “60 years or more” will have nowhere to go.
Another local business with an uncertain future is The Bike Kitchen, whose owner said that “we have to move, we don’t know where, but we can’t come back.”
Others claim that “our rents are frozen until 2016, and then after that they’ll put them up again, but we don’t know how much by.”
They believed that the new landlords were “hoping to price us out,” and that ordinary people are not being represented.
However, their impending departure from their homes and shops “has brought us all together, parents, children, families – we meet up every week to discuss what’s happening.”
Another Hoxton resident, who only wanted to be known as Fred, has lived in the area since 1985 and has witnessed many changes, but rejected the idea that the results of the impending adjustments will be all negative.
However he says he feels “bad for people that have lived here for years, [but] it will only be good for Hoxton, as it was a dump in 1985 and now everyone wants to live here.”
In a statement to Artefact, a representative of Richard Benyon said that the New Era Estate has always been privately owned and “has never been linked to any form of social housing or affordable housing arrangement.”
They also said that: “Under the previous owner, the estate suffered a prolonged period of under-investment, resulting in significant dilapidation across much of the property. Potential tenants were naturally fully aware of these circumstances, and the poor condition of the property was reflected in the low rents they were able to negotiate with this commercial landlord. When the previous owner sold the property, they sold it for a price that reflected the potential market value of the restored property, not the rentals currently being charged.”
We asked some residents to respond to the company’s statement, but all of those we spoke to declined to comment further.
Written by Max Schwerdtfeger & Sebastian Moss
Photos by Callie Vaught