By Alistair Farrow
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Tory and New Labour sell offs created the housing fat cats

This article is over 4 years, 9 months old
Issue 2547

One Housing’s antics in West Ham are part of a deeper trend.

Tony Blair accelerated the sell offs

Tony Blair accelerated the sell offs (Pic: Flickr: ChathamHouse)

Housing associations behave increasingly like private companies.

The largest are swallowing competing organisations through mergers and are fighting for larger shares of the market.

Their origins go back to the 19th century, when philanthropic organisations such as the Peabody Trust built cheap housing for the “deserving poor”.


Today, you can rent a poky one bedroom Peabody flat for a bargain £1,150 a month.

Between 2002 and 2010 the average housing association’s stock doubled from 955 to 1,816 homes. In the same period the market share of the largest 20 associations grew to 30 percent.

Today G15, a group of London’s 15 largest housing associations, manages 412,000 homes.


The Tories began pushing housing associations as a means of privatisation in 1974. Tony Blair and New Labour accelerated the selloffs after 1997.

Now they build houses and blocks of flats for sale at market prices in order to fund the shrinking social housing part of their business.

And the worst of the worst are demolishing council houses to build housing for profit. That’s what Notting Hill Housing is doing to the Aylesbury estate in Southwark, south London.

This is because housing associations were set up as private bodies that received state funding to provide social housing.

The problem is that state funding is drying up—because of Tory and Labour cuts.

In 2000 John Prescott, then deputy prime minister, and housing minister Nick Raynsford declared they wanted to push all 3.2 million social housing units into the private sector.

Less than three years previously they’d been slamming the Tories for pushing privatisation.

But tenants and activists organised against the plans and in some cases stopped many of the selloffs.

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