Thursday 19 February 2015

The mayor’s planned estate regeneration schemes will cost London 8,296 social rented homes

Every time you see the mayor launching an estate regeneration scheme, bear in mind that it will actually reduce the amount of genuinely affordable housing

Mayors and councils have been misleading Londoners for years about affordable housing. When they boast about building new homes, they don’t mention that for every ten homes that have built in the past decade, one has been knocked down and four have been sold through Right to Buy.

I’ve long supported campaigns against the unnecessary demolition of council estates like the Heygate in Elephant & Castle, the Carpenters in Stratford, the Gibbs Green and West Kensington estates in Earl’s Court.

These are knocked down in order to ‘regenerate’ the area, but have been vigorously opposed by tenants and leaseholders, and by a growing movement that came together to march on City Hall on 31 January.

Last week the London Assembly’s Housing Committee, which I chair, published a landmark report taking stock of all these estate regeneration schemes.

Shockingly, we found that the schemes would result in a net loss of 8,296 social rented homes. Every time you see the mayor launching an estate regeneration scheme, bear that in mind. He is probably launching a scheme that will actually reduce the amount of genuinely affordable housing.

On Monday, the Radical Housing Network will march on City Hall again for the Assembly’s budget meeting. It’s our last chance to amend or reject the mayor’s budget for 2015-16, and they want to ‘block the budget‘.

At the first budget meeting, Jenny Jones and I proposed that the mayor put £8.5 million into establishing a Community Estate Renewal Unit, helping tenants and leaseholders to transfer their estate into new Community Land Trusts.

The money would pay for a small dedicated delivery team and a large grant scheme to help tenants and residents develop business plans and undertake detailed technical work to refurbish and increase the amount of social housing on their estates along with an increased provision of intermediate and market homes.

Sadly, no other group supported our amendment. On Monday we can try to gain consensus for other changes. But the Assembly currently has no powers to amend the capital budget even though, in terms of housing, that’s where we would like to see major changes in direction. I want the mayor to put more emphasis on social housing and less on intermediate so-called ‘affordable housing.’

So as much as I support the aims of the Radical Housing Network, we are powerless to block the mayor’s capital budget, with all its plans to demolish more council housing and replace it with much less affordable homes.

A progressive mayor could be using their housing investment and planning powers to ensure a much more socially just direction. They could also be lobbying government and making the case for things that are not within City Hall’s control – like lobbying for the government cuts in the housing grant to be reversed, for devolution of tax-raising powers to London to fund more social housing, for rent controls, for tighter restrictions on investors, and so on.

On Monday I’ll again make the case for this change in direction. But until the London Assembly gains powers over the mayor’s capital budget, we’ll not have the chance to block his housing plans.

First published at Left Foot Forward

Darren Johnson is a Green Party member of the London Assembly. Follow him on Twitter

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