Socialist Worker

Demolition threat for London estates

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2620

the Heygate estate in south London during demolition

the Heygate estate in south London during demolition (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Over 80 housing estates across London are up for demolition, a BBC Freedom of Information request has revealed. They are some of the 118 sites that are undergoing or facing regeneration.

Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has told London’s borough councils they must ballot residents in order to get funding from City Hall.

But councils can get around balloting residents. They can dip into their housing revenue accounts or go to the private sector for funding.

With developers eager to grab a slice of London land to build on, deals are likely to be lucrative enough for local authorities to bypass City Hall funding.

If Khan was really opposed to private developers, he would use all of his powers to ensure residents get a vote.

One option would be to “call in” developments for reexamination if councils did not ballot residents.

Jerry Flynn is a former resident of the the demolished Heygate estate in south London. “There are loopholes in the ballot requirement,” he told Socialist Worker. “It doesn’t apply to developments of under 150 units.

“While Khan was consulting on the ballot proposals he was signing off on regeneration schemes.”

Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry said there has been a net loss of 4,000 homes on estates since 2003.

And she also estimated there would be a loss of 7,600 homes on regeneration sites based on existing planning permissions.

Wealthy investors snap up the bulk of demolished council estates in London
Wealthy investors snap up the bulk of demolished council estates in London
  Read More

News from Labour-run Haringey, north London, gives a warning about relying on promises from those at the top. Residents on one site have been given a vote over what happens to their estate with just one option on the ballot sheet—demolition.

That’s according to residents who met with councillors and council officers on 30 August.

Blocks on the Tangmere estate were constructed using the dangerous “large panel system” used at Ronan Point which collapsed after a gas explosion in 1968.

Residents are demanding safer homes and a vote on what is to happen to them.

Jacob Seker from the Broadwater Farm residents association spoke to Socialist Worker.

“If they gave us a ballot the council would have to say what proportion of the new homes were going to be council and how many would be private,” he said.

The council has estimated the cost of strengthening the blocks at almost £50 million. Its estimate of demolition and rebuilding costs is over £60 million.

“They don’t want to strengthen the blocks because it’s going to cost them money out of their housing revenue account,” said Jacob.

Demolition and rebuilding with a private partner—with homes for private rent and sale on the site—would mean the council wouldn’t have to shell out as much.

But it would also make council homes, and tenants’ right to return after redevelopment, far less secure.

Khan and councils across London must be forced to take a much firmer stand against looking to the private sector to provide housing.

The solution to the housing crisis is to fight for the funds to build council housing, not demolishing existing council stock.


Rise in short term housing

Councils in England spent £937 million last year on temporary accommodation to house homeless households.

That’s an increase of

56 percent over the past five years.

The council with the highest temporary accommodation bill is Newham in east London. It spent over £60 million.

London’s 33 local authorities account for 78 percent of all temporary accommodation expenses in the last year.

Local authorities are increasingly using temporary accommodation rather than council homes.

And London councils are shipping people out of the city to live isolated from friends, family and support networks to save money.


New Tory drive for privatisation

The Tories are trying to push Right to Buy on housing association tenants in the Midlands.

It’s part of a pilot scheme that could be rolled out nationally.

If successful, it could provide another path for the government to drive privatisation further into the housing association sector.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 tried to introduce Right to Buy to housing associations, but it was fought to a standstill by tenants and campaigners.

The Treasury has set aside £200 million to push its privatisation agenda.


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