“Thrown out all over the place”: residents of Guinness Trust speak

By Saara Jaffery-Roberts 


Malvia sits down with difficulty, and carefully rests her crutches on the sofa. After a long and difficult struggle, she finally has a new flat. She explains that she had previously been a resident at Guinness Trust’s Loughborough Park estate for seven years, but was abruptly notified in March last year that she had only two months to leave her home.

Vulnerable and nervous at the prospect of not having anywhere to live, Malvia and other evicted residents that I spoke to, claim that they were reassured by Guinness Trust that they would be rehoused once the new redevelopment started. However, when the time came to leave, no alternative housing was offered to her by Guinness Trust or Lambeth council, effectively making her, and others, homeless. The only option available to her was to rent privately – an almost impossible task in the current climate of exponentially high rent prices in Brixton.  With no space to put anything, and not enough money to afford storage, Malvia had to leave most of her possessions in her old home.

She told Brixton Blog that the stress of being made homeless by Guinness Trust made her so ill that she was hospitalised for four weeks after being evicted from her flat.  A year on, she still has regular check-ups with the doctor.

“We have been treated so badly and have been thrown out all over the place, to the outskirts of London. They [Guinness Trust] are just bringing the people they want to bring in.”

“It is really important that people know what they did to us.”

Despite chimes for positive and necessary change by Guinness Trust, in between the lines of the rhetoric are the lives of local short-term tenants who have been made homeless due to these redevelopment plans, and feel very strongly that they have no voice within the process, and no rights.

Betiel Mehari, who owns a local business in the area and is a mother of two, is still living in her flat of eight years, and says that she feels “trapped”. She cannot terminate her contract, yet cannot make herself intentionally homeless, as this would mean that Lambeth would not grant her much needed help and support. Worried about uprooting her two small children from the local primary school, she said:  “It is like living in limbo, I want to leave before they tell me to leave, but I can’t. I won’t be able to afford to rent privately when we leave. I don’t know what we will do.” Betiel and her family have no option but to stay whilst the buildings get torn down around them.

Betiel Mehari outside her block
Betiel Mehari outside her block

The housing association is working alongside the local authority and private contractors to carry out a £75m transformation of the estate. The plan will see the demolition of the existing buildings, with 390 social housing flats and 525 new mixed-tenure apartments being put up in their place. The seven-year project is due for completion in 2018.

In August last year, one vulnerable resident of the estate, Steve Simpson, was found dead in his flat just months after a draining court battle with Guinness Trust that led to him being evicted from his home.

Another short-term tenant of three years, who did not want to be named, says her health suffered hugely after the ordeal of battling eviction. Following this, she was moved to a hostel by Lambeth Council for a year which she described as “like living in a box”.

She added: “Guinness Trust are playing a double game. They are talking about regeneration and modernity on one side, but on the other, they are getting rid of us.”

When I asked her who ‘us’ is, she told me: “Us, the black community. It is disturbing what is going on.”

View of the estate and new development

When approached about the question of social and ethnic cleansing, Guinness did not give a response.

Other residents told me that they feel “uncomfortable” with the regeneration project, in the context of wider changes in Brixton as a whole. There is a strong feeling that, in the words of one resident, “they are chasing one community out to replace with another”.

In response, Guinness said: “The evicted residents were on short term, not lifetime, tenancies.  They were told when they accepted the tenancies that they wouldn’t be rehoused once the redevelopment started.

“We went over and above any legal requirement to provide support for affected residents.  As well as working with Lambeth to provide support and advice, we paid for a rent deposit for residents that didn’t qualify for local authority housing.” Contrary to this, ex-residents feel a complete lack of support from the housing association.

The Guinness Trust’s website positively outlines the addition of lifts, increased spaciousness and a number of environmentally friendly features such as a green roof system. Indeed, sustainability, for both the residents and environment, is highlighted as the key focus for the project and community as a whole.

Basketball court on the estate
Basketball court

Guinness Trust says that in the past 18 months there have been 18 evictions which had been carried out with a court order and bailiffs. However if you speak to local residents, they will tell you that there have been many more.

A Guinness Trust statement said: “Almost all were obtained for illegal subletting, significant rent debts that weren’t being repaid, and two were where temporary tenancies had come to an end,” a statement said.

“On completion, our new mixed tenure Loughborough Park Estate will contribute positively to the wider regeneration of Central Brixton being promoted by the Local Authority.”

It is true that the estate needs redevelopment and modernisation. Walking around the buildings, you can see lights that don’t work, doors that don’t close, and a general shabbiness to the grounds. But is the physical redevelopment being done at a human cost? Who does this regeneration really benefit?

“There needs to be space for everybody. Everybody just wants somewhere safe and affordable to live” concluded one resident.

If the tenants feel “shipped out”, uneasy, and angry, then we need to critically think about which groups are excluded and push for more accountability in the process.


Saara is a freelance journalist from London. She tweets at @saarajr


  1. This is absolutely appalling, it may be legal to do this but its morally wrong. Its time we had a system that looked after people not corporations and bankssters. No one is safe from this gentrification we must fight it.

  2. Mr Brown, I would only advise to please put yourself in the same position before making those comments.i am a resident and I can openly say that most of your statement were not true.

  3. ny namme is tim im not a ressedent of the guinness trust but i visted this site and found the flats where i grow up back in 60s im now 58 years old and had a good childhood i rember as a kid playing in the football ground i was apilled of the stat of it it was clean and tidy it make s me sad to see it run down and t the block where i lived moyne hse number 196 and my mother was in 184 it was good times i mover out on in 1980s never to look back

  4. @robert browns nemesis ” If u live somewhere for 8 years and pay your rent is that ‘short term’? 2 years is short term! ” You should perhaps read what your contract says. It’s not the length of time you live in a place that determines the type of contract you have. Nope there has been no investment in the 20 years that I have lived here. And you are right the security system never works in most of the blocks. Years ago we had an entry system where you had to slot a card t before you could drive into the estate. We paid £5.00 for this entry card system but it hasn’t worked for over 10years.

    I am not in anyway defending the trust. I am not an agent of the trust either. I personally was taken to court by Guinness years ago when I fell behind with my rent because I was made redundant and hadn’t applied for housing benefit. You may be right a few white people have moved into the estate.I have spoken to one or two and they are not tenants of the Trust. They come from a scheme where they occupy and pay low rent for a vacant property. I can’t remember the name of the scheme.

    Those who were thrown out of the estate should have read their agreement or at least should have been paying their rent to the rightful Landlords and not those who sublet their property.

    If you think there are more whites than blacks on the estate the perhaps you should pop in in the morning and have a look at those leaving for work!

    • I have read my contract and it clearly says 6 months that contract was never renewd and I was moved into another flat and again the same.I think maybe you should understand what AST is first before you make such comment.Guinness trust was asked to terminate my contract in writing so I can approach Lambeth council and they refused. Lambeth council doesnt want to assist me as my building is not demolished and so I am not homeless .i cant stop paying rent as I will make myself homeless again Lambeth will not assist me.I dont want to stay in Guinness Trust I am forced to stay as I have no choice .I am not intersted in their new building .I will be happy if I can afford a place near my children school so I dont have to uproot them.
      By the way maybe you should research when Guinness trust started AST and reasons before you say all the people that been evicated were subletting.If guinness has been refused planning permisions for 10 years .what do you think they done to flat that they cant fill in with secure tenants .In terms of changes of the population yes there is a change .Brixton as whole has changed .why should the estate be different

  5. not sure who ‘ Robert Brown’ is as I have friends who live on the estate for over 20 years and THERE HAVE DEFINITELY BEEN A LOT OF TENANTS EVICTED AND NOT FOR SUB LETTING. there were 390 flats all filled and now its less than 300 with lots of new residents- most of who look nothing like the people who were evicted. Social engineering?

    Guinness Definitely lead those residents up the garden path for years and then threw them out! If u live somewhere for 8 years and pay your rent is that ‘short term’? 2 years is short term!

    Because those affected are poor/ low income and black – race and class- their plight is being swept under the carpet.

    Was there any investment by the landlords in the 20 years? My friend lived in a block on the estate WHERE THE SECURITY DOOR SYSTEM NEVER WORKED IN 10 YEARS!!! It’s still there and still not working. So Mr Brown are you an agent for Guinness? lol!

    The journalist should be commended for writing this brave piece and encouraged to write similar articles on the flipside of all the wonderful regeneration taking place.

  6. This looks like an article written by a rookie. You need to do your research properly before coming out with such articles. I live on the estate and have done so for over 20 years.

    There are probably more black than whites living on the estate. I happen to be a black man living on the estate. I haven’t been thrown out . I am being rehoused into the new builds this summer. Most of those who were thrown out were sub-tenants. I know more than two people who got thrown out because the original tenants have sub-let the property to those people. The original tenants had not been paying the rent even though the sub-tenants have been paying the actual tenants.

    Others who were thrown out were short term tenants who were told they wouldn’t be rehoused, under the tenancy terms and were given ample time to find alternative accommodation.

    I am also not sure when you visited the estate and saw “general shabbiness” of the grounds. Guinness South has people who maintain the grounds all the time. The problem is over the weekend people tend to put rubbish all over the place when the bins get full, putting non-recyclable stuff in the recycling bin etc.

    What time of day did you visit the estate and try turning on lights that don’t work? Did you try opening someone’s door and it didn’t open? We live on this estate so please don’t diss our estate!

    I notice from the Brixton Blog twitter feed that you are a trainee journalist. You may want to approach the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/blogcollegeofjournalism/posts/Journalism-Trainee-Scheme-and-Journalism-Talent-Pool- for a better training.

    You have my email address so if you want to discuss the Guinness Trust, you can contact me and I can give you a 20 year low down on what is going here!

  7. Interesting article and those being forced out deserve a lot of sympathy. It must be horrible

    But Guinness Trust does make it clear that it is affecting only those on short tenancies or who have breached their tenancies.

    Short tenancies are well established in property law.

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