Property guardians living at Clapham Park Estate found out they would have to leave their homes by January 7 just two weeks before Christmas. Image: Nico Hogg/Flickr
Hundreds of people in south London are on the brink of homelessness after being given 28 days to find a new home just days before Christmas.
Property guardians living at Riley House, Bruce House and Plummer Road on the Clapham Park Estate received eviction notices on December 8 telling them they have until January 7 to find somewhere else to live.
The move has sparked a furious backlash from residents who face the prospect of ripping up their Christmas plans and being left with nowhere to stay as the Omicron variant continues to spread through London.
Stacey Dorling, who has lived at Riley House for four years, told The Big Issue: “I’m really disgusted with it to be honest with you, I’m upset. It’s stressful trying to sort all this out.
“One of my flatmates has already left the country to go home for Christmas and spend time with her family. So we’re trying to find a place that we all can afford. It’s really stressful.”
Property guardians generally live in properties on a license agreement, rather than a full tenancy, to help landlords secure and maintain a flat or building. They often enjoy cheaper rent but have fewer rights.
Dance teacher Dorling and the 100 other property guardian households on the Clapham Park Estate help secure affordable properties for housing associations. Global Guardians, who sent the eviction notices, find property guardians across the estate on behalf of Metropolitan Thames Valley housing association (MTVH).
Having been given just 28 days’ notice to leave, many are angry being told to leave over the Christmas period.
With some residents self-isolating due to Covid and others away to reunite with families for the Christmas period, they have called for a month-long extension to February 7.
Another property guardian, Richard Chinn, 41, told The Big Issue he has been unable to look for another property as he is currently recovering from Covid-19.
“In the short term what they’re doing is making people homeless. “It really beggars belief, I just think it’s completely callous and cold-hearted,” the university lecturer said.
“I’ve been self-isolating for the last 10 days so I can’t go and see other places and I’ve been told they haven’t got any places for people to go into.
The eviction process is legal as there are currently no protections in place to prevent people from losing their home over the Christmas period.
Last year the Westminster government banned evictions for four weeks between December and January as part of a ‘winter truce’. Bailiff-enforced evictions were also banned in England and Wales following the end of the truce as lockdown restrictions continued in the first half of 2021.
Dorling, 34, told The Big Issue the rise in Covid cases due to Omicron means eviction protections should return over the festive period.
“Restrictions should still be here. There’s still Covid still around and people are being told to isolate especially with a new variant coming out. That should still be happening,” said Dorling.
“If we go away we have the extra stress of thinking: “Am I going to have a home when I come back? Am I going to have anywhere to live?”
“We’re asking for an extension just so we’ve got time to find homes because it’s a difficult time of year.”
Labour’s Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy has written to both Global Guardians and Metropolitan Thames Valley housing association to prevent residents from losing their homes.
“Twenty-eight days is an unrealistically short time frame for people to find new housing at the best of times,” she said. “With Christmas and the pandemic, it’s going to be virtually impossible. It’s particularly irresponsible to be kicking people out amid rising infection rates.
“Instead of rushing through these evictions, Metropolitan and Global Guardians must rethink this completely heartless decision and give people time to find new places to live.”
In response, MTVH said the evictions need to take place as part of the next phase of development to regenerate Clapham Park Estate. In total, 520 new homes will be built on the site with 260 homes under the affordable social rent tenure.
The housing association added that a “bridging extension” is available to tenants who have secured alternative accommodation but are not able to move before January 7.
After being contacted by The Big Issue, MTVH confirmed they would offer grace-period extensions to the majority of the property guardians on the estate until the first week of February. However, residents in one block, Bruce House, will only receive an extension until January 14.
“To allow works to begin on these much needed new homes, we have given the required notice to those people providing guardianship security for properties due to be demolished,” a MTVH spokesperson said.
“We understand the difficult situation that those affected find themselves in. With our partners we are supporting those affected to find alternative accommodation over and above what is legally required.”
Global Guardians declined to comment.
The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelesness campaign has been warning of a rise in evictions following the end of Covid-19 support schemes such as furlough and the £20 increase in universal credit which have left many renters with mounting arrears.
When most people think about the Big Issue, they think of vendors selling the Big Issue magazines on the streets – and we are immensely proud of this. In 2022 alone, we worked with 10% more vendors and these vendors earned £3.76 million in collective income. There is much more to the work we do at the Big Issue Group, our mission is to create innovative solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunity for the 14million people in the UK living in poverty.