A shiver of fear is running through the boardrooms of property developers—and the cabals of right wing Labour councillors.
They are terrified of a revolt against housing “regeneration” schemes that produce luxury apartment for the few and demolition for many.
When Haringey’s council leader Claire Kober announced on Tuesday that she would be quitting in May, it wasn’t just a local concern.
Kober has been isolated over her support for the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). This deal with private developer Lendlease would have seen seven estates demolished—with an uncertain future for thousands of residents.
The resistance to the HDV in the streets and the estates, coupled with the arrival of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, led to changes in the local Labour Party.
Pro-HDV councillors were removed as candidates for the May elections and replaced with anti-HDV ones.
Now, worries the bosses’ Financial Times newspaper, “Public anger over lucrative property contracts is calling into question future housing projects across London, as leftwing activists and community groups lash out at developers.
Haringey is not the only example of an area of London gripped by a bitter political feud over regeneration.
“Local authorities in Camden, Vauxhall, Lambeth and Westminster are all facing growing opposition to their housing plans. One property industry figure said pressure was building against development in ‘every’ Labour-controlled borough in the capital.
“Another industry figure said he had seen developers pull out of redevelopment schemes after encountering political resistance.”
Nickie Aiken, the Conservative leader of Westminster council, said Kober’s coming resignation in Haringey was about rampant left-wingers in Labour. “It has obviously become a crime to want to build council homes and create jobs in the Labour party,” she said.
But there’s no mystery why there is an outcry.
A study in 2016 showed that of the 214 estate regeneration schemes in London that already had planning permission, there would be a net loss of 7,326 social rented homes. And between 2010 and 2014 almost 50,000 people were shipped out of London by local councils.
In Southwark in south London protesters have twice pushed a planning committee to deny approval for a scheme to “regenerate” Elephant and Castle. The 1,000 unit scheme offers the sort of one-bed flats that cost £500,000, and precious little social housing.
In Vauxhall, the local Labour Party voted last week to back “meaningful and transparent” ballots of local people on all big regeneration schemes in the borough.
In this they were following a speech Corbyn made at Labour’s conference where he said he believed too many council regeneration schemes saw social tenants pushed out by private developers and this added up to “forced gentrification and social cleansing”.
There are now reports that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will also announce his support for estate ballots.
He had previously said they“risk turning a complex set of issues that affects different people in different ways over many years into a simple yes/no decision at a single point in time”.
There is also growing organisation against developments for the rich outside London. But the battle over housing is far from won. Many councils, including Labour ones, are still pressing ahead with social cleansing projects.
Even in Haringey where Kober said the final decision on the HDV would be made after the May elections, the right may still try to make it hard to tear up the deal.
And when redevelopments are blocked it leaves open the question of where the funds will come from for the mass council house building that’s needed.
It’s crucial that the mobilisations, meetings and demonstrations continue. Words from Labour leaders are not enough.