Today is eviction day.
The final day of the notice period issued by Pemberstone four months ago.
The day that several residents, including Linda Elsworth and the Readman family, are being told to vacate their much-loved homes. Just a few weeks before Christmas.
Are they leaving?
Are they heckers! Well, they can’t – they have nowhere to go.
The absence of choice
Since receiving eviction notices a few months ago, anxiety is rife. Everyone is desperately awaiting a lifeline from Leeds City Council, but nothing is forthcoming. Meanwhile, Linda, Cindy, John, Hazell and others are also frantically searching for private rental options elsewhere in Oulton/Woodlesford/Rothwell, just in case of the worst. This is what Pemberstone wants, right? This is what tenants apparently should do in the housing marketplace, right? Landlords own houses and tenants must move on when landlords say so. Simple.
Only, it’s not that simple. A quick search on Rightmove shows that current rentals for an equivalent 3 bedroom property in the area are priced at £995 per calendar month. NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE GREAT BRITISH POUNDS. That’s double the cost of rent in the Oulton estate for a similar property.
More pertinently, £995 per month is over 80% of monthly income for someone on the minimum wage. It’s around 70% of monthly income for someone earning a Band 2 or Band 3 NHS salary (i.e. administrators, drivers, healthcare assistants, porters). It’s almost 70% of a monthly income for someone working as a teaching assistant in Yorkshire. A state pension doesn’t even cover it.
Imagine: 70-80% of your income going towards rent when the average price for petrol is £1.47 per litre, a monthly bus pass costs £60, and gas and electricity now cost £150 per month. That’s not even considering rising food prices. This is the reality that residents of Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close are faced with.
It’s not a choice to ignore the eviction notices. It is the absence of choice. They have nowhere else to go.
A stressful day
Linda will soon be 72 years old and has had to deal with this housing nightmare alongside increasing health issues. She has lived on Wordsworth Drive for six and a half years. Linda’s friends on the estate are as close as family – with regular visits, shopping trips together, shared birthday celebrations, pet feeding on holidays, and grocery shopping during the pandemic. Every year, Linda spends Christmas day with Hazell and her family – eating a Turkey dinner, pulling crackers, and exchanging gifts. Linda originally moved to the estate nearly seven years ago to be closer to Hazell, as they have been good friends for many years.
Left Photo: Hazell (L) and Linda (R) after a long day speaking with reporters about eviction day. Right Photo: Linda standing defiantly in her cherished home.
Linda should have moved out today. But Linda had no choice, nowhere to go. She has to stay and fight.
“Today has been extremely stressful, not knowing what Pemberstone would do“, Linda explained. “I’m expecting a letter from them and then I’ll no doubt be taken to court. I hardly slept last night. We’ve had TV interest all day, and I am completely emotionally exhausted”
From here on, Linda says she is going to be afraid of every knock on the door and letter dropping through the letterbox in case it’s a court notice, a fine… or worse.
The campaign must go on
TV crew from the BBC, Calendar, and Leeds Live have been in and around the estate all day trying to capture the anguish that residents are going through. Hazell hasn’t received her eviction notice yet, but is expecting it before Christmas. She spend the day with Linda, supporting her and speaking to reporters.
“Today has been hard“, said Hazell. “I’m trying to make sure my friends and neighbours aren’t stressed too much as anxiety levels are through the roof at the minute. I’ve seen many TV crew people here today, and this attention to our cause is so important. It has been a really tiring day, but the campaign must go on“.
WATCH Linda, Hazell and John’s interview on ITV Calendar News this evening about the eviction: https://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2021-09-24/catch-up-itv-news-calendar-north