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Commune evicted after 3-year fight to stay in terraced houses

‘They’re only interested in turning this place into flats and selling them for millions'

02 February, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

Graham Clipsham, who had lived in the commune since 1979

A HOUSING commune which was celebrated for providing an alternative to Islington’s inflated property market has been evicted after losing a three-year fight to stay.

Residents of the Islington Park Street community, which has existed since 1976, said farewell to its four terraced houses in Barnsbury with a party on Friday.

Three days later, the keys were handed to One Housing Group, which now owns the buildings. Former Islington South MP Lord Chris Smith, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett have previously criticised the move to force the tenants to leave.

The communal living set-up was thought to have been the oldest of its kind in London, with 18 single adults living together.

The four terraced houses where 18 adults lived together

Graham Clipsham, who had lived in the commune since 1979, said: “It’s all for profit. They’re not interested in social housing. They’re only interested in turning this place into flats and selling them off for millions to the ­yuppies. This community was my home.”

The buildings had previously been owned by the Patchwork Housing Association, but were acquired by One Housing Group.

Mr Clipsham added: “When it got taken over 10 years or so ago, they said our interests as tenants would be prioritised. And look how it ended up. Out of everything that could have happened, being evicted is the least in our interest. We felt powerless. It’s always these multimillion-pound businesses that win, not the people.”

Those living in the commune were first given notice to leave in 2015 after One Housing Group said they had no “proven entitlement” to social housing. Legal advice suggested they would not even get the case to court.

Peter Keserue, who lived in the commune for 14 years before moving out two years ago, said attempts to move the same people to a new communal living set-up had not worked out.

Peter Keserue

He added: “We weren’t under any illusion that we could afford to stay in Islington. We found somewhere in Croydon for the price we had, but not enough residents were up for going there. In the end, we had the funding pulled.”

All residents of 44 Islington Park Street have now found new homes.

“We all supported each other,” said Mr Keserue.

“We tried to make the point that the community is a fantastic template that should be encouraged.”

He added: “The building has 23 beds. It could house the people most in need. There are people sleeping on the streets which could be housed. The scandal is this building will probably lie here for years unused.”

A One Housing statement said: “We’ve worked very hard over the last three years to keep to our promise of finding new homes for the residents – including an offer of up to £500,000 to help them fund another communal home with another housing association.”

It added: “We’re delighted that most of them are now happily resettled. So it’s disappointing to find the Islington Park Street property left in such a mess. It will cost us thousands of pounds to clear up, which is money we could have spent supporting other people in need. Our priority now is to clear up and make it safe and secure.

“We will then start an in-depth survey and work on plans to bring it back into use to support our social purpose.”

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