Poor Doors Protest: Why we are here
Every Wednesday for several months, protesters have been outside 1 Commercial St, a high-rise apartment block owned by Redrow. The main aim of the protest is to challenge the way in which London is being transformed into a city for the rich. Property developers from around the world are flocking to London in order to make huge profits. They have no interest in building homes for your average Londoner, but they are forced by law to provide a small percentage of ‘affordable’ housing in order to get planning permission. However, they are worried that potential investors will be put off if there is mixing between the two ‘classes’ of residents. One solution, favoured by Redrow as well as other developers around London, is to have two separate entrances: one for the rich and one for those in the ‘affordable’ housing part of the building. To us this symbolises what is happening to London; those who aren’t super-rich are not welcome by developers and local councils. We are being treated as second-class citizens in our own city.
Redrow is one of many examples of those who are profiting at our expense. In their promotional material, they target potential investors by stressing the predicted rise in property values in the area. They say: The Aldgate area is undergoing extensive redevelopment, which will help it become one of capital’s premier addresses. (from http://www.redrow.co.uk/london/en/develpments/one-commercial-street
We do not want to become one of the ‘premier addresses’; we want housing that we can truly afford, including a massive investment in social housing. Otherwise, more and more Londoners will be forced to move out of the area. This is nothing less than social cleansing!
We in Action East End are supporting this protest as part of our general campaign against gentrification and social cleansing in East London. We will be producing a new issue of our paper, The Howler, in a few weeks and would like to include comments and experiences from residents in the ‘affordable’ part of 1 Commercial St as well as from those who live in the area. All comments would of course be anonymous.
You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Housing is a basic human need that is increasingly becoming a luxury item for many people. The recent decline in house prices doesn’t mean that those on average or below average wages can afford to buy a home and rents continue to rise, with social housing practically non-existent.
Rising house prices have been a feature of the past 30 years. This has left the majority of people, in particular young people, with huge mortgages or high rents. Prices have got so far out of reach of most people that the current fall in prices doesn’t mean first time buyers will be able to afford anything. Instead, those that have taken out large mortgages are seeing their hard-earned savings disappear as the value of their home declines. With many people unable to afford to buy, rents will continue to remain high and may increase. The end result is your average earner is paying a large part of their salary on a place to live.
Making Money at our Expense
Many of the major new home builders have hit the headlines, making us think that these developers are really suffering. Profits may be down at the moment, but these companies have made enormous profits over the past decades and are certain to weather the storm. The top executives and shareholders will continue to pay themselves high salaries as they cut back by axing jobs. Meanwhile, they continue with major building projects, around the capital, with East London a major target. They are aiming to save their high profit margins by demanding that the government give them more subsidies, with the pretext that they need this to continue to build ‘affordable homes’. We all know what a sham this is. The definition of ‘affordable’ is well beyond the reach of your average London wage.
Tower Blocks for the Rich
What is advertised as an affordable development is highly suspect. Barratt’s Homes is currently promoting a major development on the site of St. Andrews Hospital by Bromley-by-Bow station. The glossy brochure that came through local residents letter boxes, made it seem that all the housing would be within the reach of locals and would provide a number of community services. A closer look reveals that the developer is hoping to build two large tower blocks, one which is 27 stories.
The result of the worry over falling house prices as well as the general motivation to make as much money as possible has led to the proliferation of tower blocks. It is clear by looking at the adverts on property developers’ websites that the target buyer for these is not your average wage-earner in the local community. The Olympics has made the East End a magnet for developers and is likely to remain so despite the fall in house prices. According to the Daily Telegraph (Sept 2007): ‘The countdown has begun for the 2012 Olympic games and with less than five years to go, London’s East End is already feeling the buzz, with investors flocking to locations around the Olympic Park and its huge regeneration area.’ They highlighted all of the new developments in the boroughs around the Olympic site and ‘who is buying, who is renting’. In the section on Tower Hamlets, the St. Andrews development gets a mention. ‘Buyers’ and renters’, according to the Daily Telegraph, will be:
‘The highly-paid, transient workforce of Canary Wharf on the doorstep provides a ready rental market for both seasoned investors and newcomers in search of a bargain’.
HOUSING FOR THE COMMUNITY, NOT PROFITS FOR THE DEVELOPERS
We need to organise locally, linking up with others in similar situations across London. We need to reject the logic that says that ‘we can’t control market forces’ and start demanding that communities are under the control of the people who live and work there. We must not let ourselves be subject to the whims of property developers and investors who put profits ahead of people, despite their advertising gimmicks.
ction East End for community and solidarity
• Affordable housing whether to buy or rent
• Housing must suit the living needs of a variety of local people, which means both family homes and flats that are comfortable, safe and secure, with plenty of light and green spaces and access to local services
• Housing should be attractive and enhance the general look of the area
• Property and construction companies must not be allowed to make huge profits on the back of these developments
• Spaces set aside for wildlife and for quiet recreation
• Leisure facilities built to suit the interests of a variety of ages
• Land for allotments and community gardens
• River side open to all and be enhanced for use by a range of leisure pursuits as well as wildlife; it should not be where luxury housing is built but should be part of the common land for the community
• Not just become a place to live, but the development of employment opportunities
• Reduction of traffic with improved public transport, more cycle and walking tracks, and increased use of the river for transporting goods