Step-by-step – or is that brick-by-brick? – social cleansing is coming to Croydon.
A luxury hotel in central London is the swanky venue today for an auction for property speculators at which £7.2million-worth of former social flats and houses is to be flogged off. Three flats in the sale are in Croydon, being sold by a housing association.
Savills, the estate agents, is staging the property auction at the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square. The Croydon flats are among 14 housing association properties being sold into the private market. There’s another six being flogged by councils.
The social housing being put up for sale, from Croydon, Harlesden and Camberwell, is in areas where there are more than 7,000 families in temporary housing and 104 people sleeping on the streets, according to government figures.
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When Savills last conducted an auction like this, last month, it included a two-bed HA flat in Bayswater which went for a cool £603,000. Also sold, The Guardian reports, was “a housing association flat in Paddington belonging to a woman who was forced to move after her housing benefit was cut by the so-called bedroom tax”.
The newspaper reports, “These sales are part of a wider trend that has seen some housing associations sell off social housing in high-value inner city areas in order to fund new developments, which tenants claim are frequently let at close to market rents, or even sold on the open market to private buyers.”
Here in Croydon, Brick by Brick, the council’s wholly owned housing developer, is conducting a version of a massive transfer of public property into private hands. Using a loan of public money, Brick by Brick has bought £9million-worth of council property and land to develop 1,000 homes, of which more than 600 will immediately go for private sale, with fewer than 400 to be handed to housing associations for rent or shared ownership.
Housing association Notting Hill Housing is selling five flats worth more than £1.6million in today’s auction. It is Notting Hill Housing who have been involved in the redevelopment of the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark. There, more than 2,000 council homes have been replaced by… zero council homes.
In 2015, Neil Hadden, the chief executive of Genesis housing association – which is soon to merge with Notting Hill Housing – told Inside Housing that housing people on the lowest income was not his “problem” any more, as his focus was supplying homes at different price points.
Today’s Guardian report quotes a Notting Hill Housing tenant, Gemini Verney-Dyde, as saying of the social housing auction, “If you sell off central London property because of its value, you are essentially socially cleansing. The only people who can buy those properties are wealthy people.”
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Although some properties are probably unsuitable for social housing ( too big, mansions with lofty rooms on huge plots) or are just so valuable as a result of prestige location that their sale will free up funding for building new homes, I get the point.
The repeated mantra that we are all spouting– let Councils build homes for affordable rent–is getting dull, dulll, dull, by constant repetition, — it must be true
So what are the main political parties doing about it?
”Affordable” rent – at 80% of the ”market” rent is light years away from being truly affordable to most tenants. ”Social rents” ie current LA and HA rents are rapidly disappearing as a proportion of new homes for rent. So an entire sector, the poorest and most in need, is no longer being provided with housing that they can really actually afford.
Thanks Anthony for clarifying the key difference, and the result.
In the 1980s I worked for Lewisham Council on the landscaping of their new build programme, which resulted in the building of hundreds of good quality modern blocks on sites of big but delapidated and architecturally “non-special” Victorian houses.
Once in a while, they refurbished old historic properties which saved the buildings from decay and demolition (before South London got trendy) , but which were not really suitable for council housing, with huge rooms costing a fortune to heat. I would support the sell off of such blocks now, if the proceeds could build new decent homes, and the existing tenants were allocated good quality alternative accommodation.
Those new 1980s blocks were designed by the Lewisham Borough and their own Architects Department, who created decent homes at council rents. They were normally of a reasonable size in terms of space and floor plan, although many had tiny windows, a daft design thing of the era.
Over more the more recent past, say, the last 10 years, South London has sprouted with many more blocks, many of mediocre design, developing almost every square metre of the sites with building. Some are private sector, many are Housing Association.
far too many are what I call “in your face” developments, where massively over-large blocks are built right up to the edge of the street, dominating their surroundings. Town “cramming”–not town planning.
I can quiet see why residents who have been living on a green estate built maybe in the 50`s or 60`s, object to losing their open space, to build homes developed by Brick by Brick, that will be unaffordable to the majority of local people.
On the other hand, here in Coulsdon where I live, Brick by Brick have proposed a trio of developments which are of high quality, and which will create many new homes (flats and houses) and build a really good new hall and modern performance space which will give a fitting new use to the old Smitham School (CALAT centre) , extending and keeping a unique heritage building in public use in the heart of Coulsdon Town Centre.
Whilst I personally feel that the public car parking should have allowed for 20 more spaces at Lion Green road, I can’t fault the architecture and landscape of the new housing, and I think that the redevelopment of the Coulsdon Community Centre in Barrie Close with new homes makes sense, as the old building is poorly laid out, not architecturally worth preserving, and is not in the town centre.
As to the creation of Brick by Brick, I think that it is wrong that central government many years ago stopped councils from building their own replacement homes to replace and add to the numbers of council houses wiped out by “Right to Buy”. Now it seems, the right to buy will be extended to Housing association tenants too. So who is going to build enough .(… any ?) replacements?
The fact that Croydon has had to resort to this Kafkaesque stratagem of having a council agency that is not a council department, which is not properly publicly accountable to councillors or public, to circumvent government rules, in order to build new homes, seems wrong too, as it distances the electors from the developer , which actually, is the Council.