Worst Housing Crisis For 10 Years

“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”.

Pointing the finger 2

We hear that Paul Davis-Poynter (see last news story) is now demanding an inquiry to find out how so much news from the New Deal for Shoreditch is “leaking out.” Remember this is supposed to be a community-led initiative – so there should be no secrets, or meetings behind closed doors. From now on everyone on the New Deal Board should assume that everything they say is going to get back to the people who they are meant to be representing. The best community leaders will have no problem with that – but what have the others got to hide?

We also hear that Paul Davis-Poynter wants a retraction of our last news story. We won’t do that, but we’ll go one better. If Paul wants to write a reply of no more than 300 words, then we will put it on-line unedited as a news story.

Worst Housing Crisis For 10 Years

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”.

Pointing the finger

To be elected Chair of a tenants’ association is an honour, but it brings responsibility. The highest standards should be expected of our community leaders, and if they are not up to it then they need to step down and let others take over.

The Chair of one of our tenants’ associations walked into the New Deal Office yesterday (February 1st) with a leaflet he claimed had been distributed by Hackney IWCA (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) on his estate. He implied that it had been written by leading Shoreditch tenant activist, Clayeon McKenzie. This was quickly checked out and the true position emerged.

The “Hackney Independent leaflet” was text taken from this website (the 20th January news item – Demolition of Shoreditch averted – for now) and rearranged by someone into the form of a leaflet. This had not been distributed by Hackney IWCA, or any other local tenant or community activists who we work with. So this begs the question “what was the aim of claiming this was a Hackney Independent leaflet?”

The TA Chair was Paul Davis-Poynter. Paul has featured in our newsletter before (see below) and as soon as an election was called Paul was voted off the New Deal Board. It could be that with Clayeon McKenzie having recently lost the rigged election for New Deal Board Chair (see 20th January story New Deal Board stitch-up?) Paul sees this as his opportunity to kick Clayeon when he is down, and re-establish himself with the pro-stock transfer group now in the driving seat on the Board.One section of the article itself has come in for a little bit of friendly criticism. This was the section that read
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 Hackney Independent – 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?
It is claimed that this paragraph was too personal, and that we should only talk about the issues. A considered response is that, like with Paul Davis-Poynter, high standards are expected of our community leaders. When people stand for elections – to the Council, New Deal Board or as Chair of their TA, then they must be held to account. In Winnie Ames’ case to win elections she has stood as anti-stock transfer, but she has used her positions:
  • to support sell-off’s on the New Deal Board
  • to defend Pinnacle against any criticism whatsoever on the Shoreditch Panel
  • to argue for rent rises in the Hackney Gazette (13th January 2000) and on the New Deal Board
  • to attack Hackney Independent, while never having a word of criticism for the middle class parties that run Hackney Council.

There are some outstanding community leaders in Haggerston and Hoxton, but Paul Davis-Poynter’s leaflet that never was and Winnie Ames’ actions, show that we do not just have problems with our councillors – our own local community leaders need to be held to account as well.

New Deal Diary from Hackney Independent Issue 2:

I note that Paul Davis-Poynter was voted off the New Deal Board Area 1 by tenants. Paul was the chair of the Board and made a habit of criticising Hackney Independent behind closed doors. Always trying to look reasonable, he would claim to have tried to contact us countless times on our phone number and through our mailing address. In reality he did not make a single phone call or write a single letter. Now he is off the Board, Paul will have more time to make contact with us. One local tenant leader remarked that Paul’s problem is “that he spent too long in the Socialist Workers Party and too long trying to prove that he is not a member !”

Demolition of Shoreditch averted – for now

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.

New Deal Board stitchup?

In the elections for the Shoreditch New Deal Board a leading opponent of estate sell offs was beaten by 9 votes to 7 in the election for chair. Not the most shocking decision in the world, you might think, especially since several on the board are known to be very keen on handing over control of our estates to private companies, but there were other factors too.

An ex-member of the board who has resigned and moved to the West country (and is known to be pro-gentrification) was allowed to vote and the person who was elected to replace her (on a platform of opposing privatisation) was not allowed to. Sarah-Jane Prattent (or Lady Penelope as she has become known to some tenants’ representatives) cast her vote predicatably. As the vote was between Clayeon McKenzie, an implacable opponent of the sell-offs of our estates, and Carole Young who is sympathetic to housing associations, it is obvious who got her support. The final vote was 9-7 against Clayeon and this made all the difference.

There is obviously a huge difference between the interests of a board member who has recently sold her Georgian townhouse for nearly half a million to decamp to the West Country, and the working class people she has left behind. The question has to be asked, how many other members of the New Deal Board are truly representing the working class majority of Shoreditch ?

Shoreditch – too trendy for its own good?

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.

2 letters from the "New Deal For Shoreditch" magazine, October edition

Hackney Council consult on rent increases (for extra services) but they do not consult the tenants on the extra rent they collect. For instance rents go up to put in central heating and tenants agree to a rent increase of £1. The Council then put on an extra rent of £2.60. So the rent (increase) would then be £3.60 not the agreed £1. This means hardship for tenants on low wages, pensioners and those who are disabled that are not on housing benefit as these people have to pay full rent and council tax. The Shoreditch New Deal Trust Board made a policy to help council tenants to become leaseholders, why don’t they make a policy to help council tenants with the Council and government MP’s heartless rent policies.

John Skeet, member of Shoreditch Tenants’ Association.

Shoreditch TA ask a good question. We think the answer is that the New Deal Board, with a few honourable exceptions, are more interested in selling-off council tenancies than helping council tenants. Only five of the 12 “community” representatives are staying as council tenants – despite three quarters of the homes in the New Deal being council tenants.

I have to criticise the newsletter/New Deal Trust. (They) seem to give too much space to those people who find fault with everything new. I find that too much time is spent moaning about the growth in restaurants and bars etc…. These bring in money some of which is spent in local shops and pubs. It’s not surprising that new people to the area prefer to go to the newer bars etc some in the new deal area are so unfriendly to anything new, verging on the hostile.

Chris Nelson, local resident and businessman.
We wonder why…

Hackney Independent: Stanway Newsletter


Tenants across Shoreditch and South Hackney are fed up of having our lives disrupted by anti-social elements. Loud music, in-your-face drug use, syringes left on the stairs, vandalism and muggings can all make life hell. For most of us, life is hard enough without having to live through this.

Anti-social behaviour on our estates has been the biggest single issue raised with us since the last newsletter. Many people have complained repeatedly to the police, the Council and Pinnacle and have been sickened by their lack of response. Can you imagine the police taking no notice if these problems were going on in Hampstead or Chelsea?

The Council have run this area down. They leave the streets filthy. They don’t offer our kids play facilities or enough youth clubs. The Council, and Pinnacle in Shoreditch, don’t carry out the basic repairs our homes need, and seem either unwilling or unable to tackle the problems – as long as it stays in working class areas. We have problems with two sorts of vandals – the young ones who we can see terrorising our estates – and the ones in suits who work for Pinnacle and the Council.

Maybe the police, the Council and Pinnacle really don’t give a damn about us and the areas we live in. After all very few councillors and senior officers live around here. As they let this area run down – both through doing nothing about the anti-social elements and through not spending our rent money on improving our homes – you have to ask whether this is all part of a deliberate plan. We all know that they want to drive us out and fill this area with yuppies from the City. And you can bet that they won’t turn a blind eye to anti-social behaviour if the rich take over the area!

Lets get this straight. The police, the Council and Pinnacle have a duty to solve these problems. But they have shown themselves to be unwilling and unable to solve them. And so we need to begin to find our own solutions. The IWCA has begun discussions with tenants on a number of estates to look at ways of solving this problem. We cannot sit back and let anti-social elements take over our estates. This has always been a strong working class area, and we need working class solutions to the problem of anti-social behaviour.

Let us know what you think the major problems on your estate are. If you have any comments or views on this issue, please get in touch with the IWCA through the address and phone number given at the bottom of the page.

New Deal or Raw Deal? We know what you are doing.

Hackney Council have been letting our homes run down for the last 30 years. The difference now is that running our estates down is part of a plan. The Council want to make things so bad that we are prepared to accept anything else as an improvement.

This year the New Deal will be pushing two “choices” at us. Plan A is to sell-off our homes to housing associations, and Plan B is to bring in a Private Finance Initiative.

One New Deal Board member sent us the following letter, which we are happy to re-print.

“In the next 2-6 months there will be intensive consultation with the community commissioned by Shoreditch New Deal to find out what housing Shoreditch people supposedly want. I strongly suspect the questions will be loaded to engineer private sector solutions. Could you possibly print in your next Newsletter to tenants a warning not be conned, with the simple message, NO STOCK TRANSFER, NO NEW LANDLORDS.”

This is the New Deal’s Plan A. But their Plan B has just as many problems. Their idea is to raise money by:

1. selling-off some land and homes. All five “options” for housing include sales of land and three of them involve selling-off homes;

2. putting up the rents. Hard-line New Deal supporter, Winnie Ames stated in the Gazette on 13 January 2000, “As for the rents having to go up, if anyone thinks we can have our homes refurbished, new windows and lifts as well as in some cases new roofs, without a rent increase, they are living in cloud cuckoo land.” So Mrs Ames argues that we should pay more rent than now, if the Council finally fulfils its obligations and repairs our homes.

3. letting Pinnacle borrow money. Kingsland News, the Council’s sales pitch to get estates like Colville and St Mary’s that are in the New Deal area, but not yet run by Pinnacle to go over to them had the following quote. “If all the Council housing is managed by JSS Pinnacle, then all will be able to benefit from any new forms of investment that JSS Pinnacle and the New Deal manage to attract. This is possible because JSS Pinnacle are a private company, and they are able to raise private funds.” Some New Deal Board members may not be happy with this, but the Council and Pinnacle – who are the ones calling the shots – have given the game away.

The problem for them is that the figures don’t add up. As with PFI in hospitals you end up giving so much away in interest to the banks and profits to the contractors that it is just not worth it. It would not be a problem to the Council or Pinnacle if hundreds of our homes have to be sold off to balance the books – but how would the New Deal supporters explain this in the community?

To avoid taking the blame for this later, New Deal Board members should demand that whatever plans the New Deal comes up with GUARANTEES that there will be “not one less Council home in Shoreditch at the end of the New Deal.” When, and only when, this is guaranteed will the IWCA be able to give any support to the New Deal. Until this is guaranteed we will continue to build up opposition, and prepare to fight to defend our homes.

Some other questions for PFI supporters on the New Deal Board:

  • Did you know that Pinnacle are promising the Council that they can keep the £5,000,000 a year profit that Hackney Council makes from Shoreditch rents?
  • Did you know that Pinnacle are trying to stitch up the contract for themselves, so no other company will compete with them to bring in the PFI?

We just cannot trust this company. They are only in Shoreditch to make a profit, and not satisfied with running the housing contract they want the to make even more money out of us through the PFI. We need to draw up our own solutions for the problems in Shoreditch – and Pinnacle are no part in them.


Eugene Francis is one of the elected tenant minority on the New Deal Board. In his election campaign he promised to oppose the privatisation of housing management, to keep people aware of all the decisions being made about the area and to make the workings of the New Deal Board more “transparent” to local residents. The IWCA put the same questions to him as we put to the other candidates in the letters page of the Hackney Gazette.

How will you oppose plans to sell off council homes in Shoreditch?
Any way I can. Before standing as a candidate in the elections for the New Deal Board, I was already fighting plans to privatise the management of our homes, which, as far as I’m concerned, is only one step away from sell off. I’ve pledged to continue this opposition even if I have to produce the leaflets and other information myself.

In what ways will you be accountable to Shoreditch tenants now you are elected?
I have already produced leaflets and information for residents in Shoreditch and I will continue doing so, making sure residents know what is going on. I also have a website and I am keen to hear from anyone who has a comment to make, whether they agree with my views or not. (My e-mail address is eugene.francis@virgin.net) Bear in mind also, that the IWCA and Tenants Associations have a valuable – and perhaps the most critical – part to play when it comes to ensuring that people are better informed about what’s happening. I have no qualms about people knowing my views and have already insisted that the way each Board member votes should be recorded so that the public can see what their representative has said their area would or would not be happy with.

Obviously, if I or any other elected representative is not reflecting the views of their community then the community must make it know, either by contacting their representative or any member of the Board directly; and ultimately by not voting for that person if they stand for re-election.

The New Deal Board does have a website the address is: www.shoreditchnewdeal.co.uk you can also write, visit or phone the New Deal Shop at: 182 Hoxton Street N1. Tel: 0207 729 8987

Do you believe that people other people on the Board, like the business representatives, have the same interests as the elected Tenants Representatives?
Without going into personalities, it’s painfully obvious that the views of the business representatives will differ from those of the Tenants Reps. For a start, business representatives are probably not representing people with a cockroach infestation problem or people who have to live and sleep in rooms that are so damp they’re covered in fungus and the wallpaper is falling off the walls.

That said, one cannot survive without the other i.e. we must encourage businesses to locate here, stay and expand, so that the local community will benefit, not just with shelf-filling jobs. I would like to see it made a condition that companies locating here train local people to fill management and other jobs too. Personally, I believe the person filling the shelves usually makes a greater contribution to the companies’ success than the management; however, the reality is that managers are paid more.

Will you resign and speak out publicly when the Board makes decisions against the interests of Shoreditch’s working class majority?
Although one should never say never, I cannot envisage an issue arising that would make me feel compelled to resign; remember, if we do not have people fighting to represent the views of the masses, the cycle of exclusion and deprivation as a result of that exclusion will continue, and there’s no guarantee that if I resigned, my replacement would promote the views of the working class majority. What is really needed is the greater involvement of local people, particularly those belonging to sections of the community that are not represented on the Board; e.g. the Asian, Turkish speaking or the Vietnamese sections of our community.

Not waving but drowning
Time to stand and fight for Haggerston Baths

In a stunning display of political cowardice and deceit, Hackney council has closed Haggerston Baths. A Health and Safety report (compiled in a 20 minute visit, and published – coincidentally of course – 3 days after private bidders for the pool had met with the council) claimed that the pool was a “risk to the users and workers at the centre”. Local people have smelt a rat and suspicions over the timing of the closure have been reinforced by a secret document obtained by the Haggerston Pool Community Action group which reveals that the pool has been closed in order to free up funds for the Clissold Pool. As one speaker at a packed emergency meeting put it, “A poorer part of the borough is being used to subsidise the building of a lovely new leisure centre in a better off part of the borough”.

The document reveals that the bidders for running the councils leisure facilities (all of which are up for tender) have demanded a larger injection of cash from the council in order to make a profit and satisfy their shareholders. This is the logic of this PFI-style initiative – which the council is now trying to apply to housing too – if there’s no profit for private business then they’re just not interested. All of this flies in the face of the work done by the local community in putting forward its own scheme for running the pool and goes to show what the IWCA has been saying all along: if you’re working class the council couldn’t care less.

Now is the time to stand and fight for Haggerston Baths. And let’s not let the Haggerston Labour Councillors Young and Nicholson off the hook. Labour voted to close the baths. We will remember this in the next elections in 2002.

Focus on Charles Square & Pitfield Estate

As part of an ongoing series focussing on estates, the IWCA looks at the issues raised by tenants of Charles Square & Pitfield Estate. Like other estates in Shoreditch, both Charles Square and Pitfield show signs of their age. One in three flats on Charles Square have no central heating, whereas Pitfield Estate has none at all. Newer blocks on the estate have had central heating from day one and tenants have been campaigning for at least 20 years to get the rest up to scratch.

Most ground floor flats on Pitfield Estate are suffering from damp, where the lack of central heating, combined with the estate being built on marshland has caused the problem. Gentrification has made the situation even worse as the already fragile sewers and drains are being overloading by the Council allowing residential developments to go up all over the south of the area. The balance between industry and housing in the south that used to exist has now been so upset that the yuppie lofts and housing association properties (with rents set beyond the reach of council tenants) are now, literally, swamping the estates with their sewage.

Coupled with this comes the added burden the “night time economy” brings to the estate. Being right next to the trendy bars and clubs the Council are encouraging to spring up in the area, Charles Square & Pitfield Estate have faced the brunt of the increase in drugs, prostitution, break-ins and muggings. “We are asking for caretakers and entry phones for our security but we can’t get the money,” said one leading tenant. The individuals running the clubs are getting rich but local residents are not seeing any benefits themselves. How many of us use these new bars? And how many of us have got jobs in these places?

With all the New Deal money flooding into the area, as the Council would have us believe, why then is south Shoreditch not in the so-called “New Deal Inner core”? To cut a long story short, the Council don’t care what happens to tenants, in fact they don’t even want them to be council tenants much longer. “They’re deliberately running down our estate so they can step later and privatise us,” said one tenant.

With Pinnacle and the Council continuing to let down the tenants on Pitfield & Charles Square, the only solution is for the tenants themselves to take action to improve their estate.

Community information for Charles Square and Pitfield Hoxton Lions Club: Boxing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – 6.15-8.45pm Computers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – 7.00-8.30pm Youth Club 8-22 years. Monday to Thursday 6.30-9.30pm Bell Club. Irish Dancing on Tuesdays, Over 60’s Bingo on Thursdays

Living With Canalside

Hackney Council and the housing associations tell us how much better off we’ll be when our homes are sold off, but George Birch, Chair of HAWK Tenants & Resident Association, reveals that the reality is very different. With the help of tenant’s reps like George, the IWCA will continue to show in its newsletter what life on privatised estates is actually like.

“This report is for Canalside tenants – but should be interesting for any Council tenants.

It is now a year since Canalside (made up of Metropolitan Housing Trust and Community Housing Association) took over ownership and management 700 homes on Whitmore Estate and the Eastern half of Haggerston Estate, plus one block of Kingsland Estate.

Although I am going to be critical of Canalside, it is only fair if I state the things they have done which have been good. These are:

– Canalside has paid for us to have our own Community Worker for 14 hours a week and given us some grants.

– Canalside staff have made real efforts to reach out to those off us who opposed the sale of our estates

– There has been some helpful consultation in sub-groups

– Elections to the Community Board have taken place and the right of Board members to speak out against decisions they oppose has been maintained.

But some concerns of residents about what has happened in the last year are:

1. The works programme was changed with little or no consultation. Publicity about the new works phasing is still not out. However for most tenants works will be completed quicker.

2. Before the vote we were getting things through the door all the time – now communication from Canalside is been patchy at best. For example only two rent statements have been issued since March 1999 – the latest covering 5 months.

3. We need to be consulted much earlier about proposed actions or changes of plans. For example policies have been changed without consultation – such as on moving tenants to allow works to occur. The amount of us who will have to move twice has also been increased.

4. Some extra charges have been made – for example, insurance paid weekly is now much higher than under the Council.

5. There is also a call out fee for when tenants miss appointments.

6. The number of empty homes is almost 20% – much higher than planned.

7. We still do not have a date for the introduction of caretakers – which we were promised in the vote.

8. Wages for cleaners look like being cut from the Hackney Council rates by about £3000 a year. We do care about the wages and conditions of workers on our homes.

9. Because of the chaos caused by the privatised Housing Benefit Service ITNET, many tenants have rent arrears and two evictions have already been authorised. More intensive work will be necessary to make sure that every tenant in rent arrears gets the support she or he needs.

Ascent 21, the regeneration group used by Canalside, does not consult tenants and residents groups. Why not?

As for Hackney Council, once the Ballot was won, the Estate Regeneration Strategy team which was supposed to continue supporting tenants and residents disappeared, regularly missing meetings and after March 1999 was nowhere to be seen, apart from one leaflet.

The Council has also backtracked on the vote promised to our neighbours on Haggerston West and Kingsland Estates. We were promised just before our vote that they would also have a ballot. We care about our neighbours’ futures.

A good Tenants and Residents Organisation makes the difference in keeping our new landlords to their pre vote promises. We know that it’s absolutely vital that as many tenants and actively participate. On our estates, and on all other estates, we would urge our neighbours to get involved.

For tenants on Estates still with the Council we would remind you that our estates received the 2nd highest level of government grant in the country (over £15,000 per flat) to subsidise our transfer. Privatisation won’t solve all the problems. Proper funding and sound management of housing along with strong tenant organisation makes the difference between good housing estates and the other kind!

Contact HAWK TRA at the Haggerston Community Centre on 0171 254 2312 HAWK TRA covers the Haggerston and Whitmore estates and 37-78 Bryant Court.

New Deal letters

The letters page of the Hackney Gazette has recently covered the spat between Carole Young (former TA chair of Wenlock Barn & well-known pro-sell off member of the New Deal Board) and the IWCA following our coverage of the New Deal meeting where proposals to demolish 822 council homes were chucked out.

Carole Young accused the IWCA of “spinning” the story (like New Labour!), claiming that demolition was never a real option and that she was proud to see so many local people taking part in the decision-making processes of the New Deal – not quite the same as her response on the night itself, as Tony Butler points out below!

Spin Doctoring?

– an IWCA member responds to Carole Young’s attack on the IWCA

It’s good to see Carole Young agreeing with so many of the IWCA’s points about the New Deal’s plans to demolish 822 council homes in Shoreditch, but we’re not the ones spinning the story. If the option to demolish the council stock was just looked at to fulfil government requirements, why did the New Deal officers put it forward as their “preferred option” ? People turned up at the meeting not because of the New Deal’s record of community involvement and transparency (both of which we’d like to see more of) but because they felt their homes were at risk.

If anyone’s doing any spinning it’s Anna Eagar and her team who’re doing the rounds of the estates with glossy brochures and displays trying to convince tenants to have their blocks demolished and let the developers move in; this might seem an attractive option to someone who’s lived in a rundown block for years but it’s one with no guarantee that tenants who move out will be council tenants when (or if) they return. If you hear any rumours of the New Deal targeting your block, phone the IWCA on 07000 752752. We will help you to organise to stop them, and to campaign to get improvements carried out to your block.

Dan Carter
Hackney IWCA

Crawling out of the Woodwork

– a Wenlock Barn tenant responds to Carole Young’s attack on the IWCA

Contrary to Carole Young’s views in the letters page of 15 February, the fact is 100 people gate-crashed, and were not officially invited to this historical decision making meeting on the future of our homes. Carole’s reaction on the night, far from being happy was “it’s funny how people are now crawling out of the woodwork” (as witnessed by everyone there).

As a Council tenant in Shoreditch I would like to say thank you to some of the New Deal Board members who have consistently opposed the plans to sell off our estates. I would also like to say that if it wasn’t for the work of people like the IWCA in warning that the New Deal might be a “RAW DEAL” then most people wouldn’t have known what was going on. Where have the other political parties been in the last couple of years? Carole Young should get used to big turnouts at every meeting when her Board considers demolishing or selling off our homes.

Tony Butler
Wenlock Barn Estate