At the Full Council Meeting on 25th June, Islington councillors came together to oppose plans by One Housing Group to evict tenants from their home in Park Street.
Local ward councillors, Cllr Gary Poole and Cllr Angela Picknell, spoke movingly about the residents’ campaign and why this battle matters to all of Islington.
Here are Cllr Poole’s and Cllr Picknell’s speeches that they delivered on the night, speaking in support of a motion that was passed by the meeting, calling on One Housing to drop their plans.
Cllr Gary Poole –
Mr Mayor, I am very grateful that you have provided this opportunity to debate the urgent and distressing situation that is affecting a very special and significant community in Islington Park Street in my Ward. This situation is a true emergency in the sense of a current and pressing threat to a group of residents, many of whom are here tonight, who are facing the destruction of their way of living, and their principled existence. But it is also an emergency for the whole Borough because if we loose this Community we will be witnessing the degradation of the values of tolerance, equality and freedom for which our Borough stands. Mr Mayor the fight to save Islington Park Street Community is a battle for the very soul of our Borough.
The Islington Park Street Community was established in 1976 by Patchwork Housing and has stayed true to it’s original founding aim to provide supported living for low-income single adults. For nearly 40 years it has continued this existence and kept true to these values, for nearly 40 years its residents have thrived and lived in security, for nearly 40 years they have paid their rent and kept the property in good order. And now One Housing have decided that this Community no longer fits within their business model, and that 40 years of accumulated material and emotional investment by residents counts for nothing. Of course, One Housing claim that they merely want to empty the property in order address ‘maintenance matters requiring closer attention’. And yet One Housing appear reluctant to speak with residents about the substantive issues offering only to speak to them about the practicalities of the ‘decanting’. Mr Mayor you can quite easily suppose what the real intentions of the landlord might be. With property prices soaring in this Borough, 38-44 Islington Park Street, is an asset that must be realised. The long standing community, living at the property for decades, have become an inconvenient reality. Their existence doesn’t fit neatly into any sales brochure, and in the ambiguity there is an attempt to diminish their status as tenants and make them easy prey to be moved on. Residents now have 10 days to quit; 10 days before legal proceedings will be initiated. I ask members to imagine the situation facing older residents in this community in particular who have lived in a home that is not just bricks and mortar but which represents support and care, but who now face the destruction of that reality. If we came into public service for anything, then surely it was to stand up for people in these situations and to fight for the values of equality, diversity and freedom.
Members should be under no illusions that other landlords will be watching this fight and watching what One Housing are up to. We know already that pressure is mounting to raise rents and sell off social housing, and if we loose the Islington Park Street Community then surely we will have taken yet another step along the road towards the decimation of the principles of social housing. This community is emblematic of everything our Borough stands for and if it disappears we will all be diminished. Yes the Community are different and yes they adhere to a way of living that sits outside the mainstream, but if there was ever a place where this type of community was valued, then surely it must be Islington
So Mr Mayor I hope tonight this Council will unite in standing up for this special community; that we will unite to fight for the values that are inherent within it., and that we will make a powerful statement that we will not tolerate social vandalism like this in our Borough.
Cllr Angela Picknell –
This community is not a squat; it’s not some well-meaning but inefficient commune that’s run to seed and lost the plot. The original tenants of 39-44 Islington Park Street were, nearly 40 years ago, given a promise, by Patchwork Housing, of a secure home for their lifetime. The various tenants who have come and gone since then have lived under that original agreement – not just a legal or financial one, but also an agreement to share in and uphold the humane, supportive values of the man who founded patchwork housing.
St Mary’s councillors have met many of the current tenants and we’ve been to their home. It’s clear that they have lived up to their responsibilities: kept the building clean and decent, facilitated repairs where necessary and got along with and supported each other.
But they have been accused by OHG of being uncooperative and intransigent, giving the false impression that the threatened eviction is a landlord’s last resort.
In truth, it is OHG who failed to take part in mediation in 2010, and who have avoided coming to an agreement that could re-establish these homes as part of Islington’s desperately needed pool of social housing, that could be paid for at an acceptable social rent and allocated, when vacancies arise, to Islington residents.
We invite OHG to engage in talks. To do what they were established to do -especially here in Islington in this instance, where there is so little land to build from scratch, and where every bit of social housing has to be fought for against the profit margins of private developers – to maintain and provide homes for those who can’t afford the obscene levels of private rents in their borough.
This council feels that there is a need for a wider campaign involving all of OHG’s tenants in Islington and beyond, so that together they can form a defence against the possibility of more such shameful practices of this kind.