Demolition or neglect: Are the Mayor of London’s ballots offering tenants a fair choice?
WEDNESDAY 17th JUNE
Over 35,000 homes across more than 100 London estates are earmarked for or undergoing demolition according to Estate Watch, a new resource for affected communities.
This despite the Mayor of London’s Estate Regeneration Guidance (2018), which was supposed to give council tenants and leaseholders a better deal.
Launching today, the Estate Watch website has been produced by community organisations Just Space and London Tenants Federation (LTF) to provide tenants and residents with independent facts and resources about the realities of demolition and possible alternatives.
Since 2018, councils and housing associations seeking Mayoral funding for large housing schemes involving demolition of existing homes must obtain majority resident support through a ballot.
“We’re hearing worrying reports that balloted communities are being offered a false choice: demolition or neglect,” said LTF and Just Space in a joint statement.
“Tenants must be fully informed and have meaningful choices before we get to a ballot. We’ve established Estate Watch in part because of concerns that that is not happening.”
Luise, a leaseholder on Camden’s West Kentish Town estate, which voted in favour of demolition earlier this year, described seeing council officers visiting residents in their homes while the ballot was taking place to ‘help’ them fill in the form.
“They were upfront that they were pushing for it to be knocked down,” said Luise. “There was nothing impartial about the consultation. They’ve been deliberately and continuously neglecting the estate. We were basically told that if we voted against demolition the estate would be run down even further.”
According to the Mayor’s Guidance, “when considering the option of demolishing and rebuilding homes, councils, housing associations and their partners should always consider alternative options to demolition first”.
“In our case we had to work really hard over a very long period of time to get the best that we could out of a demolition and rebuild scheme, but there was only ever one option on the table. Refurbishment was simply dismissed.” said Harry, an LTF rep from a Kingston estate, where residents have recently voted for demolition.
The new website provides tenants with key facts, tools and case studies to fight their corner and to try to engage on more equal terms in discussion about the future of their homes and communities.
This includes research by academics at University of Leicester (UOL) and Kings College London (KCL) showing that long term uncertainty, depression and displacement were common experiences among both tenants and leaseholders undergoing demolition.
“Just Space and LTF have set up Estate Watch because the realities of ‘regeneration’ for resident communities are very different to what’s depicted on council websites and brochures,” said Loretta Lees, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Leicester.
“It comes on the back of my 3-year ESRC research project into gentrification and displacement of council estate tenants and residents.
“My research identified that 55,000 council homes had been demolished in estate renewal schemes since 1997 and as a rough estimate, about 131,000 tenants and leaseholders were displaced.”
Over the last 3 years, Just Space and The London Tenants Federation have worked with the University of Leicester and King’s College London on a research project that has provided detailed evidence since 1997 of the displacement of London council tenants and leaseholders through regeneration schemes.
As part of this research, 120 in-depth interviews were carried out with tenants and residents on 6 different council estates undergoing regeneration: Aylesbury (Southwark), Gascoigne (Barking and Dagenham), Ocean (Tower Hamlets), Love Lane (Haringey), Pepys (Lewisham) and Carpenters estate (Newham). The interviews showed that many residents were forced out of their neighbourhoods leaving behind that precious network of friends, relatives and neighbours. The research has also shed light on the conditions many residents have been forced to live in – with essential repairs often neglected by the Council for years – and the uncertainty about the future, which created high level of anxiety and stress.
As the research project draws to a close, the EstateWatch website has been developed as a resource for communities on estates facing regeneration, to know their rights and to ensure that tenants’ and residents’ choices will be respected. We want to monitor each scheme as it progresses and make space for residents to add updated information about their estate in real time. This can be a precious tool to hold Councils across London and the Mayor to account and make sure that future regeneration schemes benefit existing local communities.