Merton residents fight eviction from police-owned homes with plea to Boris Johnson

Wimbledon Guardian: Fighting eviction: Councillor Andrew Judge and Raynesfield residents Fighting eviction: Councillor Andrew Judge and Raynesfield residents

Residents facing eviction from their police-owned homes are calling on the Mayor of London to save them from being priced out of the neighbourhood.

Low-paid public service workers who live at 30 Griffiths Road in South Wimbledon and Raynesfield in Raynes Park, have received notices advising them to pack their bags before the end of the year.

But with average house prices in the area reaching £617,000 this year, they say they will have to uproot their families, leaving jobs and moving children to new schools.

At a Mayor's Assembly meeting on March 5, Tom Copley, Labour's housing spokesman on the London Assembly, asked the Mayor if he accepted the contradiction in making people homeless and, at the same time, fulfilling his commitment as Mayor to provide affordable housing and an anti-homeless strategy.

Boris Johnson said he was not aware of the police-owned flats in South Wimbledon but would look into it.

He said: "Since March, we have had £89 million of receipts from property sales and have contractually exchanged on £400 million worth of sales of Metropolitan Police Service property.

"Three of the local police stations will end up, at least partly, as educational facilities, I am sure Members of the Assembly will be pleased to know, including free schools, but obviously many other sites will be there for residential occupation."

The Mayor's Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC) has been selling off residential properties across London as part of their 2013-16 Estate Strategy.

Ludmila Belevich, an accountant for a charity who has lived at Raynesfield for more than 16 years, said: "Everyone thinks about the money and nobody worries about people.

"When I start to think about it I start crying because you are pushed in a corner and you don't know how to get out of it."

Mrs Belevich, whose 17-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son attend local schools, is worried the move will disrupt her childrens' education and her career.

Councillor Andrew Judge, cabinet member for environment and regeneration, has written to the Mayor, asking him to give all 31 households facing eviction the right to remain in their homes by renting or shared ownership.

Coun Judge said: "There is no social, environmental or moral justification for forcing them from their homes and inevitably, because of local house prices, removing them from our community altogether."

Crown Housing Association, who have been renting the properties to tenants for about £560 per month on behalf of MOPAC, gave residents notice of the short-term nature of their lease in 2006.

June Blacker, 59, a dinner lady at Aragon primary school, who has lived at Raynesfield for 21 years, said: "I've been on the council's waiting list for three years and I've been told until we are homeless there's not much we can do.

"I have also applied for sheltered accommodation as I will be 60 this year and I'm my mum's official carer and she lives in Worcester Park so I need to stay in the area."

Merton Council does not have the power or capital to buy the properties from MOPAC, since they sold off all their housing stock and transferred housing officers to Merton Priory Circle Housing in 2010.

All residents can do is hope the Mayor will change his mind.

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