By Zey-Nyo Platt
A group of Walthamstow residents fights for their right to live in the borough
It wasn’t until some residents from the Butterfields estate requested repairs to their properties that they realised something was wrong.
Their estate agent Clarke Hillyer told the residents that getting things fixed would be “difficult” as they now had a new landlord. Soon after, the eviction notices started coming in.
The Butterfields estate in Walthamstow is a quiet street of mid century two-bedroom houses, nearly identical in size. Until November 2015, it was owned by Glasspool Charity Trust.
But in November the charity, who claim they give “life-enhancing support to people in need”, sold every single of its 63 homes on the street to a property magnate, without consulting any of the residents.
The property company, who call themselves Butterfields E17 Ltd (BE17), then started sending eviction notices to tenants, giving them two months to vacate their homes. Around six households have left the street, while others united to form Butterfields Won’t Budge to fight the evictions.
Resident Nicole Holgate has helped to spearhead the campaign against BE17 and the evictions. Somewhat ironically, Nicole works in communications for a housing charity, fighting against the effects of homelessness in her day job as well as in her personal life.
“It’s a sustained amount of stress for some people who are already vulnerable,” says Nicole.
On Father’s Day in June, an elderly resident heard a knock at her door. Expecting family to visit, she opened it to an agent from BE17 who arrived to deliver more eviction notices.
“If they can turn up at our doors, then we can go to theirs,” Nicole says. So they did. A group of residents protested outside BE17 directors Jasbir Singh Jhumat and Pardeep Singh Jhumat at a mansion in Chigwell.
“We’re not just fighting for the sake of fighting. We’re not simply trying to prevent the investors from getting their money. The residents have established lives here – schools, jobs, family and friends.”
The Butterfields Won’t Budge campaign has attracted media attention both locally and nationally. In April, residents appeared on BBC’s The One Show to highlight their cause and the 38 Degrees campaign to stop the evictions has gained 3,500 signatures.
Earlier this year, hopes were raised when there was possibility of a deal between BE17 and Dolphin Living housing association, who had previously bought the New Era estate in Hackney during a similar crisis. During this time, eviction notices had halted but residents became aware of negotiations coming to an end when the Section 21s reappeared through letterboxes.
It is estimated that BE17 set to gain around £3m in profit from the sale of the properties, which have been sold at auction and through local estate agents.
Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy has strongly supported the campaign and lobbied for Glasspool to be stripped of their charitable status.
The MP had Glasspool boss Keith Nunn thrown out of parliament after a meeting between the two in which he shrugged and said “it happens”, eschewing his obligations to the families now facing eviction.
If the tenants are evicted, the majority will not even get to stay in London, let alone Walthamstow. They’ve been offered accommodation in Luton and Welwyn Garden City, miles from the lives they have built in the borough.
The wait for social housing for a three bedroom property in Waltham Forest is on average 6.25 years, according to a freedom of information request answered by the council last year. However the council also said that one family waited just over 20 years to be accommodated.
To purchase the properties from Glasspool, BE17 borrowed an estimated 50 per cent of the market value of the properties from NatWest bank. The bank has the capabilities to withhold consent from any sale, and the matter was raised in parliament by Creasy.
Yet parent bank RBS denied it held any responsibility. It responded to the MP saying that an internal enquiry had taken place and said it had “found no evidence to suggest that the bank has not acted in accordance with the relevant policy and procedures”.
The residents continue to fight.
Timeline of events
- November 2015: Glasspool Charity Trust sell 63 properties to Butterfields E17 Ltd
- January 2016: Between 10-16 households received Section 21 eviction notices
- February 2016: Butterfields Won’t Budge campaign officially launched
- February 2016: Tenants protest outside the auction of six Butterfields properties at the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square.
- March 2016: BBC films and reports on Butterfields estate
- March 2016: MP Stella Creasy throws Glasspool boss out of parliament
- March 2016: Residents sent threatening letters saying they would face thousands of pounds in legal costs if they continued to fight evictions
- April 2016: Dolphin Living come forward to negotiate with Butterfields – evictions halt
- April 2016: Comedy event in Walthamstow raises around £500 to help with legal fees for Butterfields tenants
- April 2016: Creasy raises debate in parliament, asking Housing Minister Brandon Lewis to put pressure on NatWest Bank to halt sales
- May 2016: Eviction letters sent to residents. Creasy confirms Dolphin and BE17 are no longer in negotiations
- June 2016: More tenants receive eviction letters
- July 2016: Residents hand deliver message to the home of BE17 directors