As Greens we believe our homes are a fundamental basic right. Whether you own or rent, you want to know you and your loved ones have somewhere to live. Yet Labour-run Southwark Council is pushing through the demolition of the Aylesbury Estate against the wishes of the residents - as it did with the Heygate Estate. Southwark is one of the worst three boroughs in London for affordable housing. So-called "affordable" rents set at 80% of market value are not affordable at all for many Southwark residents. Southwark Council is allowing developers to get away with providing far too low a percentage of newly built homes at social or affordable rents. And despite the tragic fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell in 2009 which killed six residents, Southwark Council has been ignoring residents’ concerns over building safety.
Southwark Green Party demands that the Council:
- supports refurbishment of estates over demolition
- enforces the 35% quota of social and affordable homes in all new housing developments
- listen to its tenants on fire safety, and finds fire safety measures which are practical, ensure safety, but recognise individual needs.
Latest articles about our housing campaigning
Read on for news about Southwark Green Party's campaigning for a safe, secure, affordable home for all.
Build more council housing - not unaffordable luxury flats
Temporary tenants need to be able to obtain secure tenancies rather than being shuffled about from one address to another, and so relieving Southwark Council from providing secure tenancies. Secure tenants need to be able to retain their secure tenancies, rather than losing them by being forced to change to a housing association lease.
Leaseholders demand like-for-like replacements for their flats, in the local area – so they can remain with their community, and have no increase in commute to work. They reject any invasion of their privacy with financial assessments, and financial restrictions like the £16k rule. They demand the right to transfer any mortgages at the same repayment level. They should be able to pass on their homes to their children, make alterations, and let out the property if they so wish.
Labour claim they have built 535 new council homes, while on the Heygate Estate they have already destroyed 941 council homes and they are in the process of destroying 778 council homes on the Aylesbury Estate – a total loss of 1,719 council homes. Architect Liam Hennessy says: “When it comes to social housing Southwark Labour is a total loss. The right to return’ on the Aylesbury cannot be taken seriously because the number of council homes to be demolished is 778 greater than being provided on the ‘regenerated’ estate.”
According to the most recent independent monitoring of Southwark Labour Council’s record on council homes, they built a grand total of 13 council homes in the three years 2014, 2015, 2016! (London Plan Annual Monitoring Report 2015-2016, pages 108-109)
Southwark Labour claim they will build 11,000 new council homes by 2043. At the rate of 4.33 council homes per year – from the most recent independent audit of new council homes - it will take Southwark Labour 2,540 years to build their target of 11,000 council homes!
Left out in the cold by Southwark Council
Homes on the D’Eynsford Estate in Camberwell were left without any heating for days in freezing weather earlier this year. What really upset residents was that no one answered the emergency helpline at Southwark Council. One resident reported that it was only when they took to Twitter that they got a response from councillors - and then from Southwark Council. A heater was produced for them - but nothing for those who weren't so active on social media. The council demonstrated little care for the many elderly people living on the D'Eynsford on their own.
Reassurance, information about the repair schedule, and practical action like the loan of a portable heater is the minimum tenants should expect. The council’s communication with Southwark residents must improve.
Betiel Mehari is a single mother who became a housing activist to try to save her own home.
Betiel works in retail on a zero-hours contract. She lived on the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton for 11 years, until her family lost their home when the estate was completely demolished by housing association Guinness Partnership in a £75m "regeneration" scheme. She was forced to leave Brixton, losing her much valued local community, with huge disruption to her family. ("That's what regeneration does," she says.) Rehoused in a smaller flat in Newington with no balcony, her two children (aged 11 and 10) are now commuting the lengthy distance from Newington to Brixton in order to maintain their educational stability and friends.
Furthermore, Guinness whacked up the rent in the family's new flat, from a "social rent" of £109 per week to a so-called "affordable rent" of £265 per week. Although Betiel had been a Guinness tenant for 11 years, Guinness claimed that demolishing her flat and rehousing her had created "a new tenancy".
Betiel says: "'Affordable' rent is a con. You'd assume it's based on wages, but it's not. It's set at 80% of market rents, not according to any measure of actual affordability. With two kids it requires an income of £35,000, which is higher than the national average. This measure puts us at the mercy of the housing market - it's absolute madness."
Members of the Wells Way Triangle Residents Association have organised informal workshops to help local people look at the plans for redevelopment of Burgess Business Park on Parkhouse Street. The proposal, dubbed 'Camberwell Union' by the developers, would create 505 residential units. The developers claim that with target profit margins of of 17.5% for private residential, 16.67% on commercial, and 6.0% on affordable units - agreed as 'reasonable' by the council's 'viability consultant' - they would not be able to provide 35% affordable housing.
After the 2014 local elections, Southwark's Labour-run council promised they would build 1,500 new council homes by the end of 2018. Now Councillor Mark Williams, lead for regeneration and new homes, has admitted "we will not be meeting this target".
Only 400 new homes will have been built - less than one-third of the local Labour promise. Southwark Labour's 2014 manifesto had promised 11,000 new homes, but it didn't say how long they would need to meet this pledge. It has since emerged that the Labour-dominated Council's official homebuilding targets stretch to the year 2043 - 25 years away from now.
In December, property developers Delancey put in an application to demolish Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and London College of Communication. Councillors on Southwark Council’s Planning Committee refused to approve the plan, yet accommodated an eleventh-hour promise from Delancey to make an improved offer. This means the committee will hear the proposal again this month.
Meanwhile, the Shopping Centre is being run down, conveniently bolstering the claimed 'need' for demolition. Certain entrances are now being closed during trading hours (right). Empty units are no longer available for re-let, enhancing a 'ghost town' feel. Escalators have been left broken for long periods. Pedestrian access has been unsatisfactory since removal of subways. Yet the building is structurally sound and could be imaginatively refurbished, re-landscaped and re-clad. This would avoid nine years of environmental destruction, intense construction noise, degraded local shopping and leisure facilities, and enormous disruption to nearby residents' home delivery access.
Eleanor Margolies slams council inaction on Camberwell house
A four-bedroom house in Camberwell has been left unoccupied for 20 years.
Local resident Eleanor Margolies said, "In 2002, I contacted Southwark Council about this house. I was told that the council was “in negotiations” with the owner. It's a scandal that the house is still empty and rotting away 15 years later. This is a shocking waste when so many in Southwark are in need of a home."
Local councils can make a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of unoccupied buildings. Or they can use an Empty Dwelling Management Order — they have to pay to refurbish the building but keep the rental income afterwards.
Keep the community together, say local campaigners and Green Party
Aylesbury residents have been fighting plans from Labour-run Southwark Council to demolish their homes. The second public inquiry is due to complete in April. Across the Aylesbury, 2,700 council homes are to be destroyed. None will be built in their place. Previous experience of the Heygate demolition suggests council tenants will be rehoused in scattered locations across Southwark, losing their communities while rents may increase.
Aylesbury Estate homeowners are being hit with Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) which will force them out with payoffs much too low to buy any other property in the area or even in London. The UK Government previously recognised that Southwark’s plans breach the homeowners’ human rights.
Estate demolition: it’s not a good deal, it’s not a done deal
Southwark Greens are taking a keen interest in the Aylesbury estate inquiry which opened today (Tuesday 9 January). The inquiry will hear evidence about whether Southwark Council should be allowed to make compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) for flats on the Aylesbury Estate, ‘for the purpose of redevelopment and regeneration’. The Inspector will report back to the Secretary of State - Sajid Javid of the recently renamed Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
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