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Contested homes up for sale again as residents oppose housing association sell-off

PUBLISHED: 11:55 16 April 2019

Posters at the home on Robinson Road. Picture: Marc Lancaster.

Posters at the home on Robinson Road. Picture: Marc Lancaster.

Marc Lancaster

A controversial Tower Hamlets home is up for sale again after the housing association Peabody re-listed the building for auction.

Protestors outside 17 Robinson Road. Picture: Marc Lancaster.Protestors outside 17 Robinson Road. Picture: Marc Lancaster.

The keyworker house on 17 Robinson Road, Bethnal Green was removed from auction in February after protests from residents.

A keyworker home is one originally let at reduced rent for public servants like teachers, nurses and firemen.

The campaigners staged a 'people's viewing' to look at the two-bed and said it was ready for a family to move into.

Before it became empty, Peabody was letting it at market rate.

The second Robinson Road auction. Peabody withdrew the property from a sale in February. Picture: BidX1.The second Robinson Road auction. Peabody withdrew the property from a sale in February. Picture: BidX1.

Tom McGoldrick lives next door to the house in Robinson Road and said it has been empty for several months.

A source from Peabody said it may have been empty because of negotiations with the local authority on buying the home. Tower Hamlets Council eventually decided it was too expensive.

Last year there were over 18,000 households on the council house waiting list in Tower Hamlets - the fourth worst in London.

Mr McGoldrick said he had no idea why the house was still up for sale.

Protestors got inside the former keyworker home and staged a 'people's viewing'. Picture: Glyn Robbins.Protestors got inside the former keyworker home and staged a 'people's viewing'. Picture: Glyn Robbins.

“I think it's outrageous,” he said.

“This is a row of identical houses. This is a street of terraced houses and there's families living up and down the street, so it's suitable for families to live in.”

The auction guide price for number 17 is over £650,000.

Joannie Andrews is a current Peabody tenant and chairs the Victoria Park Residents and Community Association.

The kitchen of 17 Robinson Road. Picture: Glyn Robbins.The kitchen of 17 Robinson Road. Picture: Glyn Robbins.

“There is such a need for good homes for keyworkera in the area,” she said.

“What happens when they sell off is that they break up our communities as well.

“There are so many people on the waiting list in Tower Hamlets that could easily be given these houses to rent.

“To be selling them off when there's such a need for good, quality accommodation to be rented, not only for key workers but for other people as well [is unacceptable].”

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs and St Peter's councillor Gabriela Salva Macallan both said they were disappointed with Peabody's decision.

Mayor John Biggs said: “Keyworker housing is a precious resource and when we face a lack of suitable homes in Tower Hamlets we need to protect it. I have written to Peabody twice to raise the issue of keyworker homes being auctioned off and seek assurances that our residents won't lose out.

I recognise in some instances if for example a property has a particularly high maintenance cost there may be circumstances where selling it could be considered in some cases. Peabody would need to both consult local residents and give assurances that any revenue raised from the auction would go into like-for-like replacement housing in our borough.”

A Peabody spokesman said the housing association sells empty homes to pay for new ones, keep up maintenance and run community projects.

“In the two years since we merged with Family Mosaic we have sold one empty property at auction in Tower Hamlets,” he said.

“In the same period we completed 131 new social homes in the borough.”

Last year, the housing association ran at a surplus of £175 million – the equivalent of profit for a private company.

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