Today’s housing crisis is epitomized as one Bristol’s top community leaders, George Francis, joins thousands facing evictions due to mortgage repossessions.
George Francis is a pillar of the Easton and St Pauls African Caribbean communities in Bristol. He can be found most days volunteering in the nationally famous Glen’s Kitchen, and co-directing the St Pauls Community Forum as well as Bridging Histories, a community engagement initiative of University of Bristol and the Bristol History Commission.
Mr Francis has been living in his home in Easton for more than 10 years. He moved there with his uncle, helped to care for him when he was ill, and remained there when his uncle died. He and his brothers jointly inherited the house.
Two weeks ago, a letter dated 20 February arrived in a clear envelope announcing the eviction.
“Previous letters had been sent, but they were addressed to my uncle so I didn’t open them. It was only when the letter arrived in a clear envelope that I realized I was about to be evicted.”
Mr Francis pieced together that his uncle had taken out a loan against the house, worth £27,000, which had never been paid back. He contacted the mortgage company Together, and their solicitors Priority Law, asking for a chance to repay the loan.
Mortgage company Together have refused to offer a payment plan, despite the fact that a credible repayment plan has been proposed, and eviction would leave Mr Francis homeless. The CEO of Together is Henry Moser, a British billionaire who was fined £1.225 million in 2012 for unfair practices. Mr Francis and his supporters argue that offering a repayment plan and allowing time to make arrangements is a fair demand.
Across the country, thousands of people are being hit with mortgage possession claims, court orders, and warrants for repossessions.
The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that from October to December 2022, court orders increased by 50% (1,650 to 2,482) and warrants for repossession increased by 88% from 1,121 to 2,112, compared with the same quarter in 2021. Cases resulting in repossession by county court bailiffs increased by 134%, from 313 to 733.
Meanwhile, people are being offered half the time to resolve payment problems and find new housing, compared with just one year ago. Before repossession can take place, companies must issue claims and court orders. The median time from claim to mortgage repossession has decreased from 112 weeks in 2021 to 64 weeks; and the time from claim to repossession by a landlord has decreased from 42 weeks to 22 weeks.
“This problem is everywhere. The legal aid and advice centres across Bristol are shut down and aren’t taking anybody, because the problem is just so massive – the homelessness, the people getting evicted. The fight continues - we are not just going to lay down and let the rich keep getting richer and the poor definitely getting poorer. Its got to stop here.”
Ash Bond, an ambassador from Bridging Histories, says that Mr Francis “is at the beating heart of projects that elevate and celebrate”. Another ambassador who Mr Francis brought to Bridging Histories is Tappis the Poet, who says, “I just don’t know where I would be at the moment if it weren’t for Bridging Histories. It has been the backbone of every kind of progress I have made. It gave me purpose in my life at a time when I didn’t have any direction. It has given me a chance to enter university. It has brought real meaning to my life.”
Despite the eviction, Mr Francis’s vision remains focused on Bridging Histories and the St Pauls Community Forum, which is dedicated to addressing exactly the kinds of issues Mr Francis is now facing in himself, making his situation symbolic of the wider pressures in the community. Mr Francis plans to resist the eviction on 21st March, with support from Acorn, who have taken on his case.
Windrush1950s my family came to Bristol and worked many jobs to buy property, over 60 years working hard to provide a safe home for us. Now 2023 we have the opportunity to pass on the well-earned investment they made to our children. No matter the constant negative influences our parents faced everyday, they managed to provide for us...
Bridging Histories is a cornerstone, University of Bristol is the foundation, I am grateful for your support advice guidance and willingness to give so many options for community engagement with the Afrikan Caribbean community.
To my beautiful Mother Ruth 😍 ❤ 💕 💖 ♥ who sadly passed away on Tuesday RIP MY LOVE FOR YOU LIVES in my ❤ and Soul... may God protect you on your journey to HIM Bless You Aways.