Property firm The Benyon Estate has announced it is “reluctantly” pulling out of all involvement in Hoxton’s New Era estate after rent hikes threatening hundreds of people with eviction have caused uproar.
Westbrook Partners, a US property investment firm, will now be sole owners of the 1930s redbrick buildings, which are home to up to 90 families.
Residents of the estate have called Benyon’s withdrawal a “major victory” for their campaign.
Pressure has been mounting on the De Beauvoir property firm over the past month. A Dickensian-themed protest march to The Benyon Estate’s offices attended by Russell Brand attracted hundreds of supporters last week, while over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for rents to be kept at an affordable rate.
The New Era estate has provided affordable rented accommodation since it was built in the 1930s – some families have lived there for over 70 years.
It was bought in March 2014 by a consortium in which the Benyon Estate – the family firm of Britain’s wealthiest MP Richard Benyon – was a minority shareholder.
The firm was also awarded the management contract for the estate with Edward Benyon, Richard Benyon’s brother, acting as estate manager.
However the Benyon Estate has now announced it will be selling its shares back to the company and ending the management contract, saying that residents have “made it clear they do not welcome our involvement” in the estate’s future.
A statement on the Benyon Estate website said: “New Era residents have made it clear that they do not welcome our involvement in the future of the estate.
“They made it clear that they wanted us to pull out, and this is what we have reluctantly decided to do. With a stake of less than 10% we already had only limited influence over decision making and policy.”
“Our withdrawal means that the future direction of the estate will now be wholly a matter for Westbrook Partners.”
New Era resident and campaign chair Lindsey Garrett said the withdrawal was a “major victory”.
Speaking to the Hackney Citizen she said: “We look at Benyon pulling out as a victory for the New Era estate, we now need to keep up the campaign and take the fight to Westbrook Partners.”
“We want New Era estate back as affordable housing and is we win this campaign can set a precedent in London. If we have to, we will take the fight right to Westbrook’s door.”
The Benyon Estate said that its contract with Westbrook does not allow it to sell or transfer the share ownership to a social landlord or housing cooperative.
Westbrook Partners were unavailable for comment.