Housing: not good enough

7 December 2017 Just Space is strongly critical of the Mayor’s draft London Housing Strategy. After much deliberation among member-groups, we have written to the Mayor/GLA with strong criticisms and suggestions on how to make it better. While the Mayor’s sentiments are mostly right, his actual proposals are in many cases feeble or plain wrong.  The Just Space response in full: JS response to Housing Strategy 2017

The Mayor expresses many fine ambitions and Just Space groups agree with most of them. However the detail of what is actually proposed is, in most cases, inadequate or could actually worsen the crisis which everyone agrees confronts London. Just Space has proposals which would strengthen the strategy.

We do not consider that the strategy can be finalised until the London Plan is finalised.

It is a widely held view among Just Space groups that London is being rapidly transformed to meet the needs of elites in the ‘global city’ framework and doing so at the expense of the diversity and community which we —and seemingly the Mayor— value so much and at the expense of the real economy. Comments on the Strategy are made in the spirit of wanting to re-balance these power relationships.

Key points are:

  • A welcome to the idea of a “London Model” for regulating the private rented sector and would like to work with City Hall on developing the idea.
  • The Mayor is not proposing to do nearly enough to stop the losses of inherited stocks of social housing and council housing through estate demolitions, Right to Buy and ‘conversion’ of social tenancies to inferior ones.
  • The proposals for new building envisage types of housing “products” which are described as “affordable” but which are not actually affordable to those in greatest housing need or even those on median incomes. Despite being constrained by national government, the Mayor could do much more to direct scarce public resources and planning gain provisions towards those in greater need. The use of public money to support middle-income shared ownership is wrong: it amounts to free gifts to an arbitrary group and could inflate land prices.
  • A top priority should be to limit the growth of land prices, or bring them down. There is more that the Mayor could do to bring this about.
  • Just Space also has strong recommendations on estate ‘regeneration’, landlord licensing, security and rent regulation for private tenants, community-led housing and the huge potential of tenants and residents organisations to inform policy development, the management of estates and a more genuine form of ‘regeneration’.

Submissions by other organisations

If your organisation has submitted views, please let us publish or link to your submission. Use the comment box below. Here is a collection of the submissions we have so far:

London Tenants Federation: LTF response draft London Housing Strategy 2017 and the attachment referred to within it: LTF VCS engagement proposal to the Mayor (F)

New Economics Foundation NEF: NEF response to MDHS

London Community Neighbourhood Co-operative: LCNC response to LHS

Leathermarket Joint Management Board (JMB) and Community Benefit Society (CBS), Bermondsey: LeathermarketJMB

LSE London group (link)

and comments beginning on the London Plan, starting here with Andrew Lainton, famous for his typos and energy.

London Plan starts as Housing Plan closes

City Hall has now published the draft of the new London Plan for consultation. It (and its supporting papers) can all be downloaded from https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan

There are instructions on how to ask for printed copies, and information about consultation meetings in various parts of London. Just Space will be organising events as well, some of them jointly with the GLA.  Details in our events list. Continue reading

‘Our Way Ahead’

Just Space has been supporting a Pan London Network called Our Way Ahead, with the aim of strengthening communications between existing community networks and thereby increasing our influence and access to resources.
 
Two events by Our Way Ahead are taking place on Thursday 16th November, one on digital community platforms, the other on the Mayor’s Health Inequalities Strategy.  You are invited to book a place and circulate these flyers to your networks: 
 
More information about Our Way Ahead can be found in the Statement of Purpose (draft). Our Way Ahead Statement of Purpose October 2017

Transport strategy response

Consultation on the Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy (MTS) ended on 2 October and Just Space submitted 15 pages of detailed commentary, based on a close reading of the Mayor’s draft and its evaluation against the Just Space Towards a community-led Plan for London which was the product of 85 groups and 3 conferences.

Just Space is very critical of the timing of this consultation, arguing that —on the current timetable for adoption of the MTS— key transport decisions including Crossrail 2 could pre-empt the full public debate on the London Plan next year and thus fail to conform to the regulations and court judgements which set out the requirements for valid consultation.

The relationship with other strategies, especially the London Plan, is also criticised for the failure of TfL to place adequate emphasis on reducing the need to travel, on the development of Lifetime Neighbourhoods and Lifetime suburbs and a wider lack of precise and binding targets which could then be the focus of monitoring.

The response, welcoming many of the transport aims and aspirations of the Mayor, has many suggestions for increasing the precision of proposals and ensuring that text discussion is fully reflected in firm policies. It seeks firmer and more precise commitments on many topics, notably full wheelchair-accessibility of the whole public transport system.

The full Just Space response is here (download): MTS Consultation 2017 Just Space Responses final

Community-led plan in brief

Just Space has submitted to the GLA (on 2 August 2017) a short version of its Community-led plan that connects with the “Spatial Options” (geographical and locational alternatives)  and “Strategic Objectives” being prepared by the London Plan team.   The short version, about 7 pages, is here.  A detailed and agreed record of the 2 August meeting is now added here (PDF): JS LP IIA meeting 20170802

The long version of 72 pages, prepared through many workshops and conferences over two years, is here (download PDF).  The 10 Key Points of the Community-led plan are here, and include some elements  which don’t directly affect the London Plan.

The short version is in 2 parts: a ‘Spatial’ outline of what a fairer, more sustainable London should be like and a series of ‘Strategic Objectives’. The Spatial Outline is as follows:

  1. The growth challenges facing London require a new geography and a fresh imagination, underpinned by inclusive growth, fairness and diversity of people, businesses and places, therefore avoiding over-reliance on the Central Activities Zone/Isle of Dogs, high-order Town Centres and on a small number of economic sectors.
  2. This new geography for London will be a network of Lifetime Neighbourhoods and Lifetime Suburbs, providing many key amenities and job opportunities locally, thus reducing the need for costly and polluting travel into the Central Activities Zone. Outer London in particular needs lifetime suburbs and a real mixed development strategy   Through a new approach to public and community-owned assets driven by social sustainability objectives, social infrastructure and community spaces in all parts of London will be protected, avoiding the previous decimation of community assets in working class and multi-cultural geographic areas. It will be a Blue Green City, placing value on the connection and interaction between London’s blue and green assets.
  3. The South East region and the other regions of the UK are a spatial context which has to be considered in thinking about the spatial future of London. Inclusive growth, that puts economic fairness, health and well-being and environmental sustainability at the heart of development would require a re-balancing with the rest of the UK economy and involve the Mayor in partnerships and collaborations with other cities and regions. Such negotiations could lead to welcome reductions in London’s need to find space for additional homes or jobs.
  4. It seeks growth by fostering higher pay, investment and productivity in the 50% of London jobs where real wages have been static or falling. It avoids the extinction of viable enterprises in industrial zones, in high streets and local centres and supports the provision of new workspace suitable for diverse activities and sectors, particularly in the foundational economy. This approach offsets the historic sectoral bias in favour of financial and business services in the centre.
  5. To achieve a balanced polycentric development the public transport priorities will be orbital movement plus walking and cycling, with investment directed towards smaller scale infrastructure rather than commuter routes such as Crossrail 2. This connects well with the aim of protecting more workplaces outside the centre and with the Lifetime Neighbourhood and Lifetime Suburbs objectives, increasing accessibility and connectivity locally.
  6. All parts of London (central, inner and outer London and the more affluent geographic areas within Boroughs) will contribute in an equitable way to meeting London’s housing needs. There will be a high percentage of not-for-profit rented homes everywhere, the cessation of estate renewal on current terms (which entails demolition/eviction and big net losses of existing social rented housing in geographical areas where there is a high concentration of working class and minority ethnic communities) and direct development by GLA and Councils of not-for-profit rented housing on public land as a matter of urgency;
  7. A continuous process of engagement will give voice and agency to all Londoners with a geographically dispersed model of hubs instead of all connections and resources being targeted at a central hub. Targeting areas of need will close deprivation gaps by measures that raise the Quality of Life of existing communities rather than through their dispersal/displacement. Programmes will be provided so that areas with a high concentration of working class and minority ethnic communities can access the participation tools that are available, such as community rights under the Localism Act.

Read the full 7 page submission, including the “strategic objectives”. 

Grenfell: scope of inquiry

Deadline was Friday 4 August) for consultation responses on the Scope of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Tenants groups and others have been writing to the chair.

Just Space member Richard Chute on behalf of the Earls Court Tenants Association has called for the Inquiry to widen its coverage to the failure of the entire housing policy of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Their detailed submission based on local knowledge is here.

Defend Council Housing has called for a wider, national, perspective in the Inquiry’s work. Their submission here.

A very detailed, carefully-prepared one from Justice 4 Grenfell

Response from ROTA Race on the Agenda
http://www.rota.org.uk/content/grenfell-tower-inquiry-consultation-response

Response from Radical Housing Network.

There is an open meeting  “How can we rethink social housing in London?” on Sat 5 August 6pm at Precarity Centre, 1A Nelson’s Row, SW4 7JR

 

 

Strategies, Strategies…

This spring and early summer of 2017 the Mayor of London is mainly writing strategies. Lots of them. Just Space and its member-groups are joining in as far as we are allowed.

Last Autumn, 2016, he issued A City for All Londoners which summarised his plans for London. This was the subject of a series of consultation events with ‘invited stakeholders’. These meetings were transcribed and published; the whole process has been a great improvement on what happened under both the previous mayors. Whether this is a direct result of Just Space proposals and demands over the last 2 years, we don’t know, but we are pleased.

Just Space had been seeking ‘co-production’ of strategies between the mayor’s staff and community groups. That’s not happening but the GLA officers are taking part in a lot of meetings during the plan-writing period, some hosted by the GLA, others by Just Space. We’ll summarise these here, and post reports as they become available.

Housing: Just Space fielded a diverse and representative team to meet with senior GLA housing staff on 31 March to discuss the scope and content of the Mayor’s Housing Strategy and the housing aspects of the London Plan. There was good news on community-led forms of housing (co-ops, co-housing, community land trusts and so on) which will benefit from a construction budget and a proposed “hub” service to advise and support groups setting out on innovative projects. There were clarifications on many other housing topics, including some where there are strong disagreements like concepts and definitions of various levels of rent and the priority to be attached to social rent housing, on grounds both of affordability and security. There was discussion too of plans for private renting, wider housing needs (older persons, travellers, black and minority ethnic communities) and new powers to be sought in the next round of devolution. Detailed notes of the meeting, agreed between Just Space and the GLA, are here (PDF).

On the Economy, there are 3 meetings. At a first one Just Space people representing community groups defending workspace, small businesses and manufacturing presented a powerful case for ending the losses of workspaces in London, especially outside the centre, to protect the diversity of the economy in the face of Brexit, to protect local jobs and reduce the need to travel. At a second, which the GLA hosted as a formal part of its consultation, there was a focus on fairness, one of the new mayor’s agenda words. A third meeting focused on skills, training and productivity. The discussions should influence the mayor’s London Economy Strategy, aspects of the London Plan and the local work of the regeneration and housing/land teams in Opportunity Areas.

There have been two meetings on Environment: one at FOE, a second on making London a more circular economy (in which waste is minimised, unwanted outputs from all activities being re-used as inputs by others), and on making London a more blue-green city, making the best of green areas and links and of waterways and water management. These discussions will feed into the mayor’s London Environment Strategy and also into the London Plan. Just Space had made careful responses earlier this year to the draft Scoping Study on the Integrated Impact Assessment which will be prepared alongside and as a part of the strategy.

There has also been a meeting between Just Space and some member groups and the GLA team working on the Health Inequalities Strategy.

Finally, there will shortly be a meeting between Just Space and the London Plan team (now led by Jennifer Peters, following the retirement of John Lett who has anchored London strategic planning since before the GLA was even formed). The London Plan is the crucial document for two reasons: it links all the other strategies, and especially their spatial (geographical) integration and it is subject to a more adequate democratic consultation process including public hearings next year. Just Space has already commented on the Scoping Study for the Integrated Impact Assessment of the London Plan, calling for changes in the process and the evaluation of a community-generated 4th alternative strategy London Plan IIA Scoping Report- comments by Just Space March 2017

Just Space has (in August 2017) presented a concise statement of the community-based alternative strategy, which the GLA is now considering for evaluation against 3 other options.

Below is a list of all the Strategies currently being revised or re-written. The links are to the previous versions except for Police and Crime which has already been revised and adopted and Transport, the draft of which is now out for consultation.

A complete topic-by-topic list of Just Space activities and submissions is to be found under the Next London Plan menu above.