Prospect House eviction: Families struggle to move out

Prospect House

Prospect House in Stonebridge where families are being evicted from - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Homeless families facing eviction from a block in Stonebridge have highlighted the difficulty in finding somewhere to live because they receive benefits.

Tenants at Prospect House, in the North Circular Road, all receive housing benefit for their studio, one-bed or two-bedroom flats even if they work full time.

Three families out of the 15 facing eviction in May have been found alternative accommodation by Brent Council but the remaining 12 continue to live in limbo.

The entrance door at Prospect House is often destroyed

The entrance door at Prospect House is often destroyed - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

The flats were let to homeless families in 2016 on a five-year lease arrangement managed by Shepherd’s Bush Housing Association (SBHA).

However, they face eviction because the buildings' owner is now redeveloping the site - Brent Council approved a planning application in 2019 to build four additional floors containing a further 28 self-contained flats.

Fadya Mohammed, an administrator, has contacted half a dozen estate agents with some telling her to find two guarantors earning more than £65,000.

"Due to Covid they are not open so it's been mainly online requesting and when I ask if the landlord will accept housing benefit the answer has mainly been no. 

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"I did get a viewing for one property in Alperton as the landlord asked if the housing benefit could be paid directly to her. I didn't accept the house because it was in a bit of a poor condition and she was renting it as it was."

The entrance door at Prospect House is often destroyed

The entrance door at Prospect House is often destroyed - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

District nurse Claudia Hayles has had similar problems with estate agents who quote three bedroom flats costing £1,800 and asking her for guarantors which she doesn't have. 

"I haven't been to view any properties because I don't earn that much. It's very stressful as well. It's putting a toll on me," she said.

She emailed Network Homes, who offer housing for key workers, but they sent her a link to its website showing only shared accommodation in Northwick Park. 

"Brent Council should have taken full responsibility and rehoused us. I knew it wouldn't be easy to find homes for 17 tenants but they knew about it before and they didn't do anything.

"We are good people and are treated in such a inhuman way."

L'Orial Williams was offered a three-bedroom private rented flat by the council, in the same industrial location. When she saw the property it had uneven flooring which she said is not appropriate for her partially blind son. 

"They will give you one suitable offer and you have to accept it and after 21 days you can appeal when they will say it's acceptable. They don't seem to check the properties for suitability before they offer them."

She said the council did recognise its unsuitability and it's now "a waiting game" to see what private housing they offer her. 

Jacky Peacock, chief exec of housing charity Advice For Renters, in Willesden, said: "Tenants now don't have security of tenancy and they are always worried about being thrown out.

"It's appalling that people in work can't earn enough without having to top up with benefits. 

"There are far too many families in the private rental sector who need the security from social housing that they won't get with the private sector."

Darren Reynolds, director for resident experience at SBHA, said: "We are very sorry to hear that residents have been encountering discrimination as we have been active partners in the national campaign to end DSS discrimination.

"Our lease with the landlord ends in August 2021 and we will continue with our process of formal evictions when we are allowed to do so.

"We estimate this process to take between four to six months once we are allowed to apply for Possession Orders.

"We recognise that this is a difficult time for tenants and are striving to keep them updated, informed and supported."

A Brent Council spokesperson said they were "proactively working" to rehouse tenants adding:  "We’re obviously extremely keen to support families into new homes before SBHG takes possession of the building as at that point families may have fewer options." 

A Network Homes spokesperson said: "The self-contained flats are always in very high demand and we don't currently have any available for new tenants." 

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