A campaign has been started to stop the Guinness Partnership evicting Brixton resident Betiel Mahari after her rent was increased from £109 per week to £265 per week for a two-bedroom flat.
Betiel Mahari was a Brixton resident who paid social rent on her flat in the Loughborough Park Estate. Despite living there for 10 years, Beti was kept on an assured shorthold tenancy by the housing association.
But when the Guinness Partnership demolished her home in 2015 and moved Beti and her two young boys into another of their properties in Kennington, they changed her tenancy from ‘social’ to ‘affordable’, and increased Beti’s rent from £109 per week to £265 per week for a two-bedroom flat – a 240 percent increase!
Had she refused the new tenancy, Beti would have been deemed to have made herself ‘intentionally homeless’, and Social Services would have taken her children away.
As a result of her enforced eviction and relocation, Beti lost her full-time employment as the manager of Brixton’s Art Nouveau restaurant. And although she subsequently found part-time work as a waitress, Beti is now reliant on benefits to pay her increased rent and support herself and her two children on a salary far less than she earned before.
To make matters worse, while the Department of Work and Pensions worked out how much of her part-time salary she can keep while claiming benefits they suspended all their payments for three months. As a result, Beti has fallen into arrears with her rent, and the Guinness Partnership is now trying to evict her from her home for the second time. Her court hearing is on 7 March, 2017.
Beti is not alone. There were 100 assured shorthold tenancies on the Loughborough Park Estate, and the Guinness Partnership has announced its plans to demolish the Northwold Estate in Hackney. By converting 559 homes from social rent to ‘affordable’ rent – which means anything up to 80 percent of market price – last year the Guinness Partnership increased their income from ‘affordable’ rents from £14.6 million to £21.1 million.
Beti’s current rent of £1,149 per month is the maximum she can claim in Housing Benefit in Southwark, but every penny of that money is going straight into the pockets of the Guinness Partnership. On top of that, Beti is now on an agreed instalment plan for the rent arrears, but the Guinness Partnership want to increase her payments still further!
The campaigners are calling on the Guinness Partnership to stop legal proceedings to have Betiel Mahari and her family evicted from their home, and to give her a new tenancy for social rent, so that she and her two boys can begin to rebuild the lives their actions have torn apart.
They also call on the Guinness Partnership, a housing association with charity status, to “stop, immediately, this callous and inhumane persecution of a single mother and her two young boys – which, if pursued further, will have potentially catastrophic consequences for their futures.”
The add, “We call on the Guinness Partnership to recognise Betiel Mahari’s human right to respect for a family life and home, and to treat her and her children with the justice and equality they deserve under British law.”
UPDATE: Guinness responds
Ms Mehari was an assured shorthold tenant. While we had no obligation to rehouse her, we felt it was the correct thing to do in the
circumstances, however, government policy meant that we had to offer the new tenancy at affordable rent.
If you have more detailed questions about Ms Mehari’s case, we would be happy to answer them, but to avoid breaching confidentiality, we would need Ms Mehari to give you written permission for us to discuss her circumstances with you.
What you can do to help Beti
1) Please sign Beti’s petition, and share it and this blog post on your Facebook page, Twitter account and other social networks.
2) Invite your Facebook friends to come to this event and share it on your social media pages.
3) Support our campaign to stop Beti being made homeless by helping us publicise what the Guinness Partnership are doing to her and tenants in her position.
4) Write to the London Mayor and tell him why his Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration, which will turn council and social housing into ‘affordable’ housing, will lead to millions of tenants like Beti being threatened with homelessness.
5) If you can give Beti legal advice on how to defend herself, or can legally represent Beti in court, please get in contact
Turn up to the demonstration at Beti’s court hearing at 9.30am on Tuesday, 7 March in Lambeth County Court, Cleaver Street, London, SE11 4DZ.
Read the full background to the Guinness trust here: Brixton evictions and regeneration – the story of the Guinness Trust Estate in Loughborough Park, Brixton