Residents of London's New Era estate have been threatened with eviction if they can't meet more than a threefold hike in rent.

Residents of London's New Era estate have been threatened with eviction if they can't meet more than a threefold hike in rent.

In March 2014, the residents of London’s New Era estate – a quiet little enclave in post-hip Hoxton – received a letter through the mail that landed like a bomb.

The flats they call home – and have done for years – had been sold to a faceless company based across the Atlantic: American pension fund manager Westbrook Partners. Within weeks, rents were raised by 17% – an instant burden on the civil servants, NHS workers and taxi drivers who call New Era home – but that opening gambit was just the start. With a shrug of the shoulders and a torrent of one-way exchanges, Westbrook have told residents, in no uncertain terms, that they can expect rents to rise to “market value” – a manufactured hike that will see a two-bedroom home rise from £600 a month to nearly £2,400.

It’s an unexpected twist for a story founded on good will. The New Era estate was built in the 1930s by the Lever family as a philanthropic venture to provide affordable homes to local workers. And that’s exactly what it’s done for the past 80 years, filling the void between state-funded social housing and a rental market that caters for white collars and cuffs.

Lindsey Garrett, an NHS care co-ordinator, lives on the estate with her 8-year-old daughter. She moved here when she was fifteen years old and her mum and dad still live in the adjoining block. Her auntie lives here; her great grandmother grew up here (“She was a local character, very well-known for all sorts of reasons”). When she walks around the estate people fling open their windows to say hello.

“I need my family, I need my friends. I’m a working single mum. Sometimes I work 45 hours a week, I need these people around me,” says Lindsey, who has been told she may have to move into a shared hostel if she can’t make rent and evictions go ahead in the New Year.

Lindsey is leading a campaign to keep rent affordable for existing tenants – the very people who grabbed Hoxton by the boot straps and pulled it up. “You wouldn’t have wanted to run through Hoxton when we first moved here, and we were a part of that change,” she says. “Hackney’s probably the centre of it, but this is a widespread problem across London. There’s no social housing. People can no longer afford to live in London.”

In a city that seems intent on fragmenting itself into solitary stories and vacant plots – as foreign investors see London’s housing market as portfolio opportunities not homes – the residents of the New Era estate, with charismatic Lindsey as their lead, are testament to what can happen to a neighbourhood when people take collective ownership of the area in which they live; when lives become intertwined and home becomes much more than the closed-off space of your own four walls.

Let’s hope they’re not the last.

Stay up to date with the campaign to keep rents affordable for existing tenants of the New Era estate at Change.org.

Read our full expose on London’s housing crisis and meet the activist mums of the E15 Focus Mothers campaign, who occupied an empty housing estate when they were threatened with eviction.