On the sun strewn hills just above Folkestone, a family sit down to eat Sunday Lunch. The view they have is amazing, we can see France, the English channel fanning out and landmarks as far away as Dungeness Power Station. A desirable view – one people would pay for.
‘Twelve years I have had a view like that, now Moat Housing want to move us.’ There is sadness and a tinge of bitterness in the head of the family’s voice. ‘They have simply told us the building ‘Isn’t fit for purpose’, well of course it’s not when they haven’t done any real maintenance on the building since we’ve been here.‘ They tell us there has been a distinct lack of information from Moat Housing.
‘The Neighbourhood Housing Manager has been useless. She turned up one day and forced us to sign a piece of paper. We didn’t even have the opportunity to take it to the Citizens Advice Bureau, or a solicitor to see what it was about. It was sign this or else. I felt highly pressurised. I’m not the only one ask the others who still live here.‘ The same story repeats itself and even those who have moved on, who we spoke to, all say the same thing in their different ways.
At a meeting on the 20th Jan, few if any believed Moat shared anything significant with residents. All they informed the residents of was that had to move because the building was no longer ‘fit for purpose’
The residents of Pilgrim Spring have been left to fend for themselves pretty much. They have had to find new accommodation, using the Kent Home Choice bidding system to find themselves new homes. They are bidding against 1520 other households.
Moat Housing have offered tenants £4,700 if they move, to ‘ease their departure’. It is something Moat must do under the Home Loss Payment Regulations
Home loss payments are payable under the Act to owner-occupiers and tenants of dwellings displaced by compulsory purchase or public redevelopment. They are intended to compensate people for the distress and inconvenience of having to move home at a time not of their choosing. The thresholds are reviewed annually according to the Office of National Statistics’ mix-adjusted house price index.
We explain this to the family over lunch and the penny drops. ‘No wonder they want us all out in a hurry. Sooner we are out, sooner they can redevelop and make a mint.’
This is the dark side of gentrification something Moat Housing doesn’t want widely publicised. What do Moat want to do with the building? Knock it down and put up a new build, part buy/part rent. Moat Housing Group operating surplus for 2015-16 stood at £45m, representing a 17% year on year increase, and our overall surplus for the year was £37.9m.
Meanwhile the residents of Pilgrim Spring have to live without lighting in their stair wells, something they pay a ‘service charge’ for, but appear not to receive. There are familes, with children still living there, who have to use the torches on their mobiles, just go up and down the stairs as the evenings draw in.
Moat Housing are being tight lipped about their intentions, now wonder as they are seeking an additional £100 million of funds to support their continued programme of work and to meet their ambitious development targets.
Moat blame the changes on the ongoing implementation of several welfare reforms as it will present Moat with significant challenges.
However, the cash value of the basic personal tax allowances is on course to have increased by 80% in 2020 from what it was in 2010, meaning that by the end of the decade a typical high-income household will receive more financial support from the state than low-income families reliant on benefits.
Not all the people at Pilgrim spring are on benefits, some are very much strivers not skivers some have serious underlying health conditions, but Moat Housing do not appear to be taking these anomalies into account.
This is the dark side of gentrification a dash for cash to increase Moat’s operating surplus, why those less fortunate are left to their own devices to overcome a severe housing shortage in Shepway.
And on a final not, this gentrification will push up rents across the rest of the district as well-heeled Londoners migrate to out town and by 2020/21 rents we reckon will have increased between 20-30%, forcing locals to migrate out of the area in search of cheaper homes.
The Shepway Vox Team