New Era

MQT on 2014-12-17
Session date: 
December 17, 2014
Question By: 
Tom Copley
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Please update the Assembly on the progress made by your Deputy Mayor for Housing and Land in his discussions with Westbrook Partners.

Supplementary Questions: 


Answer for New Era

Answer for New Era

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Tom.  You are asking about Ric Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property, and the discussions he has had with Westbrook Partners.  I can tell you that he has met Westbrook twice recently on 20 November and 3 December.  There was also a conference call on 27 November with a local MP and representatives from Hackney Council.  Where we are getting to in this tangled saga, I hope very much, is that Westbrook will consider it the best way forward to sell on the estate to a social landlord. 


Tom Copley (AM):  What are you asking Westbrook to do?  Are you asking them to sell it on? 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That would be not a bad outcome.  Obviously we are not there yet but we think that that would be a reasonable way forward, yes. 


Tom Copley AM:  You expect that it would be sold to some sort of social landlord? 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I would hope so but, like I say, I cannot guarantee that, Tom.  I would hope that would be the case. 


Tom Copley AM:  Yes, and what has their response been to that?  Do you have any idea how receptive they are to that? 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It would be premature to comment on that, but I know that discussions are going on and I hope that they will be successful.  People may know that this relates to an estate in Hoxton where the New Era estate, which for a very long time had rents ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  Yes, people ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  People may not know this because actually most of the people had rents very substantially below the current market rate.  The average rent for a two-bed flat in a New Era estate at present is £150 per week whilst the median rent for flats in that area is about £425 per week.  When New Era sold it on, as they did to Westbrook, it was for a price that fully acknowledged, as it were, that there was going to be an increase in the rents and they had a pretty healthy price for the sale of the estate. 


Tom Copley AM:  Yes, indeed, we have that.  Will you condemn the actions of Westbrook Partners in tripling or proposing to triple the rents of tenants? 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  As I say, it is a private sector landlord.  It was disappointing that The Guardian, the Labour Party and various other agents weighed in in quite the way that they did and drove off, as far as I can make out, the Benyon family that has actually been involved in that area for about 150 years - or for a very long time - and are generally recognised to be a fair and reasonable landlord. 


Tom Copley AM:  I would say it was rather more a shame that Westbrook came in and decided to triple the rents. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Such were the hysterical attacks that were mounted on them and that family by you and others that they have withdrawn and we are now left with Westbrook.  Clearly, we are hopeful that a way forward will be found ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  Would you say that New Era, then, is symptomatic ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- and there will be a ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  Hang on.  I have another question for you.  Would you say that New Era is symptomatic of the failure of the private rented sector and that if we had a better ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No. 


Tom Copley AM:  Hang on.  If we had a better regulated private rented sector with longer tenancies with caps on annual rent increases, it would have been impossible for someone to have come in, bought up the estate and overnight proposed to triple the rents.  That would not have been possible, would it? 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No.  You are wrong because ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  How am I wrong? 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You are wrong because the New Era estate was entirely exceptional to have been kept with rents, as I have just explained, artificially depressed, very, very far below the ambient market rate.  I will repeat the figures because you did not seem to take them in. 


Tom Copley AM:  No, you have no need to repeat the figures, Mr Mayor.  You have no need to repeat the figures. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Why not?  It would be of benefit to you ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  Hang on.  Hang on. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- to repeat the figures and ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  Mr Mayor, there are a number of tenants living on the New Era estate who have protected tenancies and who have tenancies that were signed pre-1988 and who of course cannot have their rents summarily increased overnight. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I hope very much that they will be protected and that is why ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  You do?  Why should ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- we are weighing in ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  -- other tenants not be protected then, Mr Mayor? 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is why we have weighed in as we have and that is why Rick Blakeway [Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property] has had the meetings that I have described to you. 


Tom Copley AM:  Excellent.  You apparently agree with protected tenancies for some private tenants but the other private tenants on a New Era estate, if Westbrook want to increase their rents, are out on their own. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  As I said, this is an anomalous situation. 


Tom Copley AM:  Thank you, Chairman.  I have finished my question. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We are working with Westbrook Partners who have obviously bought the thing in the normal way in the full expectation that the rents would go up because that was reflected in the price that the estate was sold to them for, which was a very tidy sum, by the way. 


Tom Copley AM:  He is waffling now. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We are working with them to ensure ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  He is wasting our time. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- that there is a favourable and a fair outcome for the tenants who, I agree, have had the shock of seeing their rents potentially go up. 


Tom Copley AM:  He is wasting our time.  He is wasting our time. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No, I am giving you the answer.  What I hope to achieve is the sale of that estate to a social landlord of one kind or another.