Just like New York, London has become dotted with a new breed of apartment blocks, buildings full of luxury flats designed for wealthy foreigners. Low income Londoners are feeling squeezed.
Take the tenants of the Sutton Estate. Located in one of London’s wealthiest neighborhoods, the estate was built a hundred years ago to house the city’s working poor. But some of today’s impoverished residents now face eviction.
“They’re trying to move people on a lower income out of here so they can acquire more land for private luxury flats,” says Vesna Vukovic, a single mother with two children. “I’ve lived here for 12 years, and now they’re forcing me out. It’s devastating. I have felt suicidal.”
“It’s wrong, it’s just wrong.” he says. “It’s time the government stood up for the people of Britain instead of constantly trying to attract foreign investment into the capital.”The plan is to demolish most of the estate and to rebuild it. Some of the low income homes would be turned into luxury apartments and sold off to rich foreign investors. Some 60 displaced households would be moved elsewhere. Ian Henderson, who chairs the “Save the Sutton Estate” campaign, accuses the British government and the local authority of putting profit before people.
Andrew Barshall and Ian Henderson
Sutton resident Jean Keal claims that by squeezing dozens of poor Londoners off the estate and out of this wealthy neighborhood, the authorities are betraying the original purpose of the Sutton Estate. She describes the redevelopment as “social cleansing.”
“You have the poor, the middle and the rich, here,” says Keal. “It’s a beautiful combination. And it’s worked well for a hundred years. And now they’re going to spoil the whole thing.”
For its part, the local authority argues that it makes more financial sense to find accommodation for the 60 displaced households in less expensive parts of London.The housing association that runs the Sutton Estate says the building is decrepit and must be modernized. Selling the luxury apartments, it says, will help pay for the redevelopment; most of the current residents will be rehoused on the new estate and most of them support the plan.
But the displaced tenants are fighting on. Low income Londoners caught up in dozens of other “regeneration” projects around the city feel they’re the casualties of London’s luxury property boom. And their message to the developers and their foreign clients is: We will not be moved.
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