Small business owners slam Hackney rent rises

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East End Trades Guild public meeting - Photo Credit: Robert Vasquez

Small businesses claimed this week that they were being forced out of Hackney by rent rises, telling the Mayor: “Rent rises are squeezing out businesses.”

The East End Trades Guild are aiming to show “the human face of London’s workspace crisis”, including a suicide in Haggerston due to a 200% rent increase.

The comments were made during a public meeting on the 13 March, which kickstarted the Guild’s (EETG) affordable workspace campaign.

A leaflet handed out at the meeting told the tale of a Bethnal Green family being forced to choose between a 275% rent increase or eviction.

Owners shared horror stories of how  skyrocketing rents and business rates are affecting them.“Rents are increasing from £20,000 to £80,000 a year. When I heard, I had sleepless nights. I went into overdrive.” added Len Maloney of JC Motors, Hackney.

“Increasing rent does not take into account the social and community value of our business,” said the two daughters of Franceskka Ahimbola, who has ran African fabric shop Franceskka Fabrics for the past 25 years.

John Biggs, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, was also present for the meeting. The Guild made five suggestions to both Mayors aimed at tackling the increases and improving the contribution made by these small traders to the community.

Mr Glanville expressed his willingness to identify at least one empty space before the end of this year and, in partnership with EETG and its supporters, to revitalise it for use by locally-owned and -run businesses.

He was less forthcoming when asked to develop a community land trust to provide affordable workspaces, saying “It has to be a viable business case that convinces us that you can pay.” He suggested that any rents might be based on how much a business made.

Elsa Tierney, a jewellery designer, said: “The Mayor of Hackney said today that shop rents might need to be based on how much the business makes, but then landlords might turn away small business completely and just take on businesses that are all about making huge profits like Starbucks or another coffee company!”

However, it could be worse. “The Chatsworth Road area is still cheaper. Rents in Homerton are still about £15,000 a year for my size of shop,” she added.

The Mayor was also asked to create a register of commercial landlords and of evidence of comparable rents, in order to help keep rents reasonable.

This, he said, was a more complex as there were practical and legal difficulties in creating and having a commercial rent register.

The East End Trades Guild represents 230 small businesses and self-employed people across East London. They surveyed 72 businesses as part of their Affordable Workspace Campaign.