“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”.
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.
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”.
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?”
- 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 !”
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.
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 ?
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.
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…
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!
– 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.
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.
Wenlock Barn Estate