Councillors of Barnet!
Sir or Madame!
am writing to you on behalf of the Witten Tenants Association and the
Mieterforum Ruhr, which is a coalition of local tenant organizations in the
eastern part of the Ruhr metropolitan area in Germany. It includes local tenant
unions in Bochum, Dortmund, Essen and Witten. Together we are organizing more
than 35.000 members. Among them are many renters of Deutsche Annington, which
has its central office in Bochum. Deutsche Annington S.E. is a former
subsidiary of Terra Firma funds.
are addressing this open letter to you as persons, companies and institutions
responsible for the treatment of low-income families at Sweets Way estate in
the Borough of Barnet, London.
friends in London we have been informed that residents at Sweets Way estate are
under threat of eviction through the big housing developer Annington Homes, a
subsidiary of a private equity fund which is managed by TerraFirma. Annington
Homes plans to replace the given houses with much more expensive new ones,
primarily for private sale. These are not affordable for the present tenants.
The last 15 low-income families with children are being legally obliged to
leave the well-maintained rental homes. Although they were living there for
years, they only received permission for temporary tenure. There is no
alternative council or social housing accessible for them in the Borough.
Councillors, as local tenant organizations we cannot understand how you could
allow such a scandalous situation and why you do not care for the housing
rights of your citizens.
are also aware that many other tenants already have been pushed out of their
homes on Sweets Way estate, and section 184 duties are being discharged by the
council into the unaffordable private rented sector, costing the state even
more in housing benefit. Many people in the Borough are suffering from high
rents as inadequate social housing provision is forcing them into temporary and
precarious housing conditions.
how could you allow the demolishment of really affordable housing in such a
you, Mr. Hands, are at least as responsible as the council.
Way originally was a public housing estate, controlled by the Ministry of
Defence (MoD). In 1996, you, Mr. Hands, acquired the MoD housing stock for
financial funds of the Nomura Bank, which later became financially managed by
your new firm TerraFirma with its new housing development platform Annington
Homes. We know that game from your “Deutsche Annington”: These housing
companies for you are solely special purpose vehicles for the transformation of
residential goods into pure financial assets, profitable for you and your
business partners. You are making money through sales of affordable rental
housing, disinvestments in rental housing stocks, and the increasing financial
value of your developments, all with a view to speculative value increase and
resale. In Germany as well as in the U.K. many of your adjustments take place
at the cost of the original residents and affordable housing.
Hands, in Sweets Way, so we have been told, your company plans to demolish the
existing housing stock totally and replace it by new and denser housing
constructions which will not be affordable for the people who were living there
before. According the plan approved by Barnet Council only 33 units among the
288 new units will be “affordable” rental housing. And “affordable” means: much
more expensive than council housing and not accessible for the people who lived
there so far.
an association also organizing Annington tenants we feel solidarity with our
tenant brothers and sisters of Annington Homes/Terra Firma in Barnet, London.
tenants very well know what “Annington” means for renters. In 2001 Guy Hands
started to buy public and factory homes with his German Annington. In 2006 he
already controlled 130.000 rental housing units. Some of them were privatized,
the rest were “managed down” through bad maintenance and services with less
employees. Nevertheless, after the end of the financial crisis and “thanks” to
the hunger of global capital for German housing stocks, Guy Hands managed to
sell this investment with high profits at the stock exchange. Today the
managers of Deutsche Annington feel ashamed about what happened under the rule
of Guy Hands and his Terra Firma. After a fusion with another company they will
replace the name “Annington”, which in Germany has come to symbolize a very bad
are committed to the international human right to housing, as enshrined in
binding European and international legal instruments, such as the European
Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
us it seems that neither Annington Homes nor the Council respects that there is
a legal obligation to avoid homelessness, that there should be no replacements
without consultation, and that companies and authorities are obliged to provide
still hope that the council and Annington will not continue that path of social
and urban destruction, but that they will understand that as part of a
democratic civilization they must open serious negotiations with the affected
community about alternatives in the estate and the borough.
the organized destruction!
will be pleased to receive your answer soon.
for Mieterforum Ruhr e.V. and
MieterInnenverein Witten u. Umgeb. e.V.
to Media in Germany and U.K. / Deutscher Mieterbund, International Union of
Tenants, UN special Rapporteur for the Right to Adequate Shelter, Habitat
International Coalition / Deutsche Annington CEO Mr. Buch
* To download the letter, click here.