Housing firm backs down after families faced Christmas evictions

A housing firm that planned to evict residents from a South London estate just over the Christmas period has backed down.

Almost 100 people living on Clapham Park Estate in Clapham were facing eviction from their homes by 2pm on January 7.

They are living on the estate as property guardians, where people often pay reduced rents to live in houses that would otherwise be empty to protect them from trespassers and falling into disrepair.

Their landlord, Global Guardians, had given them notice to leave on December 10, leaving families just weeks to find a new home before the Christmas break.

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But the properties’ owner, Metropolitan Thames Valley, has now U-turned on its demand for the flats to be vacated by January 7.

Residents in most blocks will now have until the end of the first week of February 2022 to find a new home.

Stacey Dorling outside Clapham Park Estate where she lives in Clapham, South London

Housing association, Metropolitan Thames Valley, intends to demolish the flats on the estate and build 520 homes in their place – over half which will be available at social rents.

After receiving an eviction notice by email December 10, families living on the estate faced a frantic search to find a new home for the New Year.

The housing firm was also slammed by politicians for demanding families leave the estate so soon after the Christmas period.

Alexander Watts, a product manager, and his fiancée, Laura Frampton, 38, moved into their flat in Riley House in June 2020 after returning from Australia.

They and their flatmate pay £880 per month between them for the apartment – half the amount they would have to fork out on housing if they rented privately.

Speaking before the U-turn was announced, Alexander, 28, said: “We were going to spend Christmas with my family but we’re not going to do that now because we need to pack up.

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“I’m really angry they’re kicking out so many people. With bank holidays they’ve effectively given us two weeks to find a new home.

“We’re having to look further outside the South Circular in places like Norwood to be able to afford a two-bed flat at double the rent we pay here. It’s sad because we’ve formed a support network here.

“When we moved in, they said they would help us find another place when this came to an end but that’s not the case.

He added: “Many people are returning to countries in Europe where they’re from. It’s a shame. It’s not what London is about.

“Lots of people who live here are on low salaries. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to rent privately. But what’s going to happen to the other 95 per cent of people?”

Wojiciech Nizialek, a waiter who has lived on the estate for four years, said he and friends pay around £1,200 per month, including bills, to live in their flat.

Riley House on Clapham Park Estate, Clapham, South London, where residents are facing eviction

Riley House on Clapham Park Estate, Clapham, South London, where residents are facing eviction

He had only seen the email informing him he had to leave on December 14.

Speaking before the U-turn announcement, the 31-year-old said: “It has been quite stressful. Yesterday we spent until 1am looking because we don’t know what else to do.

“There’s no response from anyone with Covid going on. In the worst situation I’m going to a hostel for a few weeks until I can find a different place.”

Stacey Dorling, a dance teacher who has lived with two friends on the estate for four years, thought she would be spending the festive period flat hunting.

Speaking before the announcement, the 34-year-old said: “It’s really disgusting to be honest and it’s stressful because of the time of the year. I’m going to be looking for places over Christmas.”

“Last year my flatmates weren’t able to spend time with their family because of Covid and this year they were hoping to but now they’ve got the added stress of trying to find a place.

“And there’s still really high levels of Covid around London and a lot of people are self-isolating so it isn’t easy to find a new house.”

Global Guardians directed questions to Metropolitan Thames Valley.

A spokesperson for Metropolitan Thames Valley said: “We have been able to review the programme for the New Year and are now able [to] offer grace period extensions to the notices.

“This will mean that the majority of guardians will now have until the end of the first week of February to vacate – almost two months since the original notice was served and significantly above the 28 day legal notice period required.

“For those guardians in one block, Bruce House, the grace period will be extended until January 14 from the notice date of January 7 due to the essential requirement that the building is unoccupied by that date to allow works to begin.

“It is critical that we are able to progress the works that are needed to deliver the much needed new homes, but we hope that this step alongside the additional support we have already put in place for guardians is of assistance.”

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