Roger Tayor of JSS Pinnacle paints a glossy picture of how the company could secure more work for its profit-driven ventures (Inside Housing June 15). The reality of its existing operations in the Shoreditch Neighbourhood in Hackney is more prosaic. Despite being in the area for over two years, it has failed to significantly improve the performance of Shoreditch neighbourhood (judging by the published key performance indicators) in relation to the rest of the housing management service.
Readers need no reminding that Hackney Council provides the most expensive service which is substantially below par, so JSS Pinnacle does not realy have to try very hard to do better.
In addition, it allegedly managed to overspend its repairs budget by around £600,000. The council, without consulting other residents, decided to generously allow JSS Pinnacle to pay back that deby over two years. This year, again without specifically consulting residents (the item was hidden in a turgid committee report), the council agreed to wipe the slate clean, as it would take too long to pay back and damage Shoreditch tenants’ interests.
This is an interesting point. When JSS Pinnacle make profits, the company gets to keep its ‘return’ on capital, they are not spread round the borough. When it allegedly overspends, the council spreads the losses over the HRA [the name of the budget for day-to day spending oncouncil housing]. Is it possible to know what JSS Pinnacle really makes on its Hackney operation? My advice to others is don’t touch them with a bargepole.
John Calderon. Chair, Dalston Neighbourhood Panel.
Tenant leader and the Chair of the former Hackney Tenants Federation (FOHTRA) takes the fight into the house journal of the housing professionals, Inside Housing, 6 July
Their influence has been a property developers’ dream. As the pull of a “happening scene” continues to send prices rocketing, artisans, yuppies, entrepreneurs and now even large establishment organisations…have all been magnetically drawn towards the soi-disant creative heart of the capital.
Gentrification is not inevitable though. Hackney Independent believes that working class tenants can put our own interests first and kick the whole process into touch. Shoreditch New Deal Trust’s glossy magazine is finally starting to reflect what’s been happening on the ground: that the majority of local people want to stay with the council for their housing provision (they don’t reveal that survey results put the majority at 93% !) and that they don’t want their flats demolished.
“Booming house prices, the right to buy and estate revamps are behind the council’s desperate shortage of housing, which is the worst for 10 years. All 380 hostel places in the borough are full and Hackney Council says the housing crisis has not been this bad for a decade”.
The council claims that “estate revamps” will ease the crisis, but this is hardly likely. Obviously we all want our housing improved but what’s really going is a sell-off not a revamp. As the Gazette points out, “since 1993 the number of council homes has dropped from 38,000 to 29,000” and 7,000 homes have been sold to housing associations.
Do we really believe that the glossy plans being flashed around by developers in the area mean that we will be able to move straight into brand new homes ? Not likely. What the developers don’t tell us is that while “revamps” take place, tenants will be dumped into housing that is as bad , if not worse, than the current stock.
And will all council tenants be allowed to return to the same area ? Not if the gentrifiers get their way. As we have pointed out since we started 2 years ago, the people of Shoreditch in particular are sitting on a gold mine with land prices going through the roof, and other areas in Hackney are getting the knock on effect of this. If tenants agree to move out and have blocks and estates demolished it’s hardly likely that we’ll be welcomed back once the yuppie loft apartments have been built and the area has been “improved”.
“A stunning landmark development capturing the Islington lifestyle with Armani suited concierge, air conditioned gymnasium and private secure parking”
New Development on Balls Pond Road/Southgate Road.
Kind of reminds you why the IWCA exists doesn’t it ?
Booming house prices, the right to buy and “estate revamps” are behind the council’s desperate shortage of housing, which is the worst for 10 years. All 380 hostel places in the borough are full and Hackney Council says the housing crisis has not been this bad for a decade. The story in this week’s Hackney Gazette rightly points the finger at Hackney Council for creating a crisis in the borough, but what are the real issues?
The council claims that estate revamps will ease the crisis, but this is hardly likely. Obviously we all want our housing improved but what’s really going is a sell-off not a revamp. As the Gazette points out, since 1993 the number of council homes has dropped from 38,000 to 29,000 and 7,000 homes have been sold to housing associations.
Do we really believe that the glossy plans being flashed around by developers in the area mean that we will be able to move straight into brand new homes ? Not likely. What the developers don’t tell us is that while “revamps” take place, tenants will be dumped into housing that is as bad, if not worse, than the current stock.
And will all council tenants be allowed to return to the same area? Not if the gentrifiers get their way. As we have pointed out since we started 2 years ago, the people of Shoreditch in particular are sitting on a gold mine with land prices going through the roof, and other areas in Hackney are getting the knock on effect of this. If tenants agree to move out and have blocks and estates demolished it’s hardly likely that we’ll be welcomed back once the yuppie loft apartments have been built and the area has been “improved”.
The new Peabody development on Cremer Street seems purpose built to annoy council tenants. With its glaring yellow paintwork, the building seems to tell locals that it’s not for the likes of us (and the rents of about £150 a week don’t help either).
Positioned next to the run down blocks of Fellows Court, the Peabody development stands out as a reminder that the makeup of the population in the area is being socially engineered – working class people are being replaced by upwardly mobile city types. They didn’t even advertise the flats in Hackney, but instead put ads in an Islington local paper – and even then it was the upmarket Highbury and Islington Express, with a middle class readership rather than the more widely read Islington Gazette.
And what about the Peabody ethic of providing housing for London’s poor ? Well, conveniently they’ve just written that part of their history out of their constitution.
As if to show that the pro-gentrification forces can’t have it all their own way, a packed meeting on Monday 15th saw proposals to demolish 822 council properties voted down. Angry tenants had mobilised in large numbers from all affected blocks to present petitions which had been put together at only a few days notice, and to oppose the demolition of their homes.
The proposals on the table were:
1. The Pol Pot option – demolish Shoreditch and then rebuild it. Obvious problems there…
2. Demolish 822 council properties and reallocate the affected tenants to newly built homes.
3. Fully refurbish all blocks.
It was clear that the preferred option of the pro-gentrification board members was the first one, and the game was given away when a so-called “housing expert” began referring to people’s homes as “economic units” only to be met with a stony silence. So flustered by the response was this man that he finished his presentation early and sat down, suddenly feeling a bit out of sorts.
As tenants and sympathetic board members pointed out in the discussion (which amazingly came after the vote – so much for tenants’ representation!) while the idea of having your block knocked down to make way for a shiny new development may appeal to many of us who live in buildings which have been neglected for decades, the reality of what was proposed is very different.
Does anybody really believe that having knocked down council properties, tenants will find that they are given tenancy in a new development? Looking at what has been going on in the area, it should be clear that working class people are not wanted here and there is a bigger agenda at work, namely to “socially cleanse” the working class out of the area and start at Year Zero without the “riff raff” -in other words us!
In the end, thanks to the obvious anger of the tenants at the meeting and those board members who stand up for working class interests, the proposals were amended and a new one was tabled, which put forward full refurbishment with the option to have the block demolished should the tenants vote for it . Given the abilities of the gentrifiers to sell demolition to pissed off tenants in problem blocks, this was met with scepticism from some on the board who voted for full refurbishment (option 3) to make their position clear, but the final vote went against them and the new option passed.
An interesting spin off from the meeting was the resignation of Winnie Ames as chair of Wenlock Barn Tenants’ Association. Winnie – long time friend of the gentrifiers and rabid opponent of the IWCA – was put on the spot by some of her own tenants, who asked her why she wasn’t representing their interests. Faced down by those she claimed to represent, Winnie did the decent thing and resigned her position, although she remains on the New Deal Board, but for how long?
While we should be happy to see such a positive mobilisation of working class people putting the gentrifiers on the back foot (and not forgetting those board members such as Tony Goodchild, Clayeon Mackenzie and Eugene Francis who voted against all attempts to demolish council homes) we should be wary of the next step. Already, “housing expert” Anna Eager and her developer friends are sizing up the possibilities for getting rid of the working class in the area.
As we have said before, it is sometimes very tempting to think that you have no other alternative to your block being pulled down, especially if it’s been left to rot for years. But we should be under no illusions that once pulled down, working class tenants will get housed in the same area or even in any sort council accommodation. After all, if the developers had their way there wouldn’t be any council housing at all, just endless loft apartments and bistros for the beautiful people.
The gentrifiers have been held back this time, but the battle goes on.
A report in this week’s Hackney Gazette says that Brick Lane Music Hall looks likely to be shut down. The reason ? Spiralling rents. As reported on this site months ago, rents are rising so quickly that local businesses are finding it impossible to stay open.
Vincent Hayes, the owner of the music hall, states “When I came here, Shoreditch wasn’t very fashionable and it was very working class. Now it has become trendy and all the traders have been pushed out. The music hall faces the same fate – and the irony is that it has done a lot to change the area and make it an appealing place for people to come. This is the only theatre like this in Britain and where will the working classes go for a night out if we have to close down ?”
As the IWCA has stressed in the past, the gentrification of Shoreditch is heading on apace and local people are being priced out of their own community. The influx of trendy types into Hoxton and south Hackney does no good for working class communities. They won’t be spending their money in locally owned businesses and how many of the new businesses moving into the area actually employ people from the nearby estates ? It’s all part of a process of “social cleansing” that involves housing too.
Under the New Deal, several blocks are being targetted for the introduction of market rents. Charles Gardner and Aske House, both conveniently placed on the edge of the city, are already set for “pepper pot” renting of a significant percentage of their flats. Take a look at the market rents in letting agencies around Old Street and you’ll see that not many working class people are likely to be able to afford the £250+ weekly rents that are advertised.
Letter to the Hackney Gazette, 9th November 2000
Has anyone noticed that the building work has started on the Town Hall Square development? The council says it can’t afford our essential services, but can bring in money for this kind of thing. Our middle class councillors want to be able to grab a late night coffee after a hard night voting through the latest round of cuts. At the same time the latest block of yuppie flats is just being finished off in Shoreditch, while the council says it has no money for essential repairs on our estates, and is cutting the estate cleaning budget by £860,000.