The Real Face of Regeneration

Regeneration or Social Cleansing
The Hackney Independent newsletter has been drawing attention to the real nature of regeneration in Shoreditch for the last three years. It sounds good. Who wouldn’t want money spent in their area: encouraging new job and educational opportunities, less crime on the streets, better housing and community facilities…? But the experience of local people is that it often does nothing for them. Usually the opposite. Regeneration schemes are often another way of socially cleansing working class areas to make room for yuppies.

The New Deal schemes are a prime example of this. The government offered Shoreditch £50 million for regeneration, and set up a board partly comprised of local people to ensure it was spent in our interests. Local people said they wanted the money to be spent on refurbishing homes. The government said ‘no’. The money will only be spent if the community agrees to less council homes in the area and more high-rent or private flats. Now Shoreditch Our Way, eager to please the government, is using the money to buy public land to sell for private flats – claiming this is a victory for local people! ShOW have commissioned reports that recommend the demolition of council housing. Even their plans for the reopening of Haggerston Pool include the development of private flats.

Another recent example is the plan to redevelop Kingsland Basin. £116 million is to be ‘invested’ in the area by a private developer to build ‘live-work’ units, ie yuppie flats, but there will be no affordable housing for local people. Even MP Brian Sedgemore – not known for speaking up about the effects of regeneration in his constituency – has spoken out about the yuppie invasion. De Beauvoir estate’s tenants & residents association are right to point to the fact that Kingsland basin will be lost to local people if the development goes ahead.

The director of the company involved, Investland, says “they would rather lift people out of social housing by providing jobs than create more social housing” (Hackney Gazette, 18 July 2002). How stupid do these people think we are?!

More private flats to buy or at high rents means less affordable housing for local families. Sons and daughters are forced to move away as property prices soar and affordable housing vanishes. The new city workers don’t need a lot of the facilities that local people do, so the swimming baths are shut, nurseries and youth facilities are threatened. New shops and bars don’t employ local people and don’t charge prices we can afford.

The Council is not neutral in this process. It encourages the process of regeneration – and the privatisation that goes with it : the council makes it harder for working class people to stay in the area by cutting funding to the nurseries and clubs etc that local people depend on; it collects rent but often does no repairs, deliberately running down some estates so people will welcome new private landlords that will charge higher rents; it sells its land to property developers who build more expensive flats but it does not reinvest the money where it is needed.

Hackney Independent is not opposed to regeneration, but we are opposed to what is being done in its name. If the New Deals were genuinely run by locally elected people instead of by consultants and business people we would not have much to complain about, if the government would offer money without attaching strings that were not in the interests of local people we wouldn’t be so critical, if the council used our money to improve our lives we wouldn’t be opposing them.

Regeneration is a massive con trick being perpetrated by New Labour, the other political parties and their middle class cheer-leaders. Hackney Independent opposes it in its current form because we are sick of being pushed around and pushed out, of being patronised and dictated to, because we should be given a real say in how we run our own lives…