Socialist Worker

This is social cleansing, say residents forced to move

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2301

Carpenters resident Margaret worries her home of 40 years will be torn down  (Pic: Smallman )

Carpenters resident Margaret worries her home of 40 years will be torn down (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Lund Point tower in Newham, east London, overlooks the new Olympic village. Warren has lived in the block for 15 years.

But now he is being forced to move out. The Carpenters estate is being “decanted” of its working class residents to make way for a lucrative regeneration project.

“They told us we were leaving by sticking a letter on one of the lift entrances,” Warren told Socialist Worker. “This is valuable land and they don’t want us to get in the way of selling it.”

Tory attacks on housing benefits have created a housing crisis across Britain—especially in London—and made it almost impossible for many low-paid and unemployed workers to pay the rent.

Newham, already one of Britain’s poorest boroughs, finds itself in a perfect storm as the effects of these policies combine with the Olympics pushing up private rents.

Yet Newham’s Labour council seems determined to make things worse. It was caught last month making plans to move benefit claimants out of the borough into cheaper housing as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent—160 miles away. Tory-run Westminster council is up to the same tricks.

“It’s just social cleansing,” said Warren. “There are empty properties on the estate—why can’t people live here instead of being sent to Stoke?”

Warren’s flat, like many on the Carpenters, is still council-owned. If it is demolished he will be moved somewhere else—and may lose his secure council tenancy.

Newham already suffers from a chronic lack of council housing, with over 28,000 people on the waiting list for just 600 homes.

Over half of the council tenants on the estate have now been moved out, and the borough’s mayor Sir Robin Wales is

confident that residents who own their homes will come around to his way of thinking.

“You find people who say it’s their chance to move to Southend,” he told a recent Mayor’s Question Time.

Margaret has lived in her house since it was built more than 40 years ago and doesn’t want to leave now.

“I don’t see the point of tearing down good quality homes,” she told Socialist Worker. “The mayor would rather see all of this flattened and all of us gone,” she said. That hasn’t stopped Lund Point resident Colin campaigning for his right to stay.

But already the building is full of empty flats—and now the top five floors are being cleared out to make way for Olympic media suites.

“Who wants to live in a ghost town?” asked Colin. “I never knew that the council could be so callous and wicked. They are making millions out of this.”

For more see

Residents of Fred Wigg tower in Leytonstone, east London, were furious to discover that the Ministry of Defence wants to install a surface-to-air missile system on its roof during the Olympics.

“I was pretty shocked and upset about it,” Israel, 16, told Socialist Worker. “I want to be at peace where I live.

“I’m worried about the other residents in the building. There are more children than adults living here—this will be scary for them.”

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Tue 1 May 2012, 16:40 BST
Issue No. 2301
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