London mayor Sadiq Khan’s long-awaited best practice guide for London housing estate redevelopment has been released.
The document reaffirms Labour’s commitment to ballot residents on redevelopment proposals.
That’s an improvement on the draft guidance that described ballots as an oversimplified “yes or no” vote on “complex” decisions.
The problem with the new guide is over who initiates the ballot process.
That is the responsibility of “Investment Partners (IPs)”, or developers, who are required to “determine whether the Resident Ballot Requirement (RBR) applies to each project.
“IPs may apply for an exemption to the RBR” in three circumstances. Firstly, if the demolition is needed to accommodate a “major infrastructure project”.
Secondly, to “address concerns about the safety of residents”.
And thirdly, to “reconfigure provision of supported and/or specialist housing”.
All of this leaves the developers a huge amount of scope to knock down homes without tenants having a vote.
On top of this, “Strategic Estate Regeneration Projects” already underway and which require demolition can apply for exemption from ballots.
Far from signalling the end of council housing demolition, more bitter fights are likely to come.
One long-running fight has ended in victory for those who battled the developers.
On Tuesday of last week the hated Haringey Development Vehicle was killed off as councillors in the north London borough voted to scrap the deal.
It follows a longrunning campaign against by ordinary people in the area.
Before councillors took the vote, the cabinet heard from chief executive of developer Lendlease Europe, Dan Labbad. “Personally I would find it absolutely heartbreaking to think we might throw away the opportunity to transform thousands of lives,” said Labbad.
“This is literally a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver on this vision.
“We don’t need to work in Haringey, but we very much want to.
“There is a great fit between our capacity and your needs.”
Shouts of, “We don’t want you” rang out from the public gallery.
Lendlease has raised the possibility of taking legal action against both the council and individual councillors.
“We have concerns at the threat of protracted legal action by Lendlease,” said council leader Joseph Ejiofor.
“However the people of Haringey elected us to govern the borough, and to take decisions that are in the interest of the Haringey residents.”
The council will face costs of over £500,000 to exit the deal, on top of £2.5 million already spent on costs, mainly on lawyers fees.
That money could, and should, have been spent on council housing.
Now services must not be cut further to find the money demanded by Lendlease.
At the same meeting the council voted to form a wholly-owned development company to build and manage council housing.
Cabinet member for housing Emine Ibrahim said, “The council owns a number of sites in the borough on which new housing development is possible.
“We are committed to maximising the number of council-rented homes that will be delivered on these sites.”
Ejiofor added, “The preference of this administration, as stated in our manifesto, is to build council homes on our own land.
“We firmly believe that what is currently public land should remain in public ownership.”