The Howler: Local Community Newspaper
KEEP THE RICH OFF OUR PITCH
Another five years of a Conservative government, determined to attack the working class and those most vulnerable in society, has caused both anger and despair. Whilst some spend their time moaning and planning for the next election, others are stepping up the fight-back that had already gained momentum well before the election. Campaigns continue to spring up all over East London: eviction resistance, saving social housing from developers, protests against the tower blocks being built for the rich, fights to preserve important community places such as markets and pubs, and a general fightback against austerity and cuts. What all the campaigns have in common is the determination to make sure that the working class can afford to live and work in East London. This is becoming increasingly difficult as the whole area is becoming gentrified, as seen in the increased rents and house prices and the spread of up-market chain stores, ‘boutiques’, and expensive cafes and restaurants. Working class neighbourhoods are being rebranded, like the new ‘Upton Village’. The Chief Executive of Galliard, Stephen Conway (born in Bow himself) is quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying: “London is no longer affordable for people on normal wages. In fact, it never really was”.
In this issue of , we focus on some of the new campaigns that are adding their voice to Focus E15, Friends of Queen’s Market, Fred John Towers and others in the struggle to stop social cleansing and gentrification. Boleyn Development 100 is demanding 100% social housing on the site of the West Ham stadium. The lack of truly affordable housing is the main factor forcing people to move out of the area. Save Chrisp St Market in Poplar, similar to Friends of Queen’s Market in Upton Park, realises the danger to the community if a traditional market is ‘redeveloped’; it means higher prices, shops and traders forced out and social housing knocked down. The end result is that a working class community has been changed into one that is aimed at the well-off. The campaign stresses that cheap shopping is as crucial to maintaining a local community as housing. More and more people are joining the struggle. As one campaigner from Boleyn Development 100 said: ‘Keep the rich off our pitch!’
SAVE CHRISP STREET MARKET! Interview with a campaigner
During our demonstration in February, part of the Radical Housing Network week of action, walking through Chrisp Street Market, the visual and verbal response we got from tenants and traders and shoppers was quite powerful, and so we looked into what was going on at Chrisp Street and we found out that the plans to knock it all down, all the shops, the market square and all the housing, and to build a modern multi-use complex. You know in one report it was described as a ‘food shopping destination’, referencing Canary Wharf and the Bloomsbury area, so you can imagine who it is aimed at not around the traditional people from the area who are on low incomes. They will be priced out in terms of the shopping that is available and the rents, loss of social housing, but also the traders will be forced out of the area. They can’t afford the rates on these places when they have been rebuilt. But of course there is lots of social housing here around the estate that will be knocked down. We have seen this from other regeneration schemes of Poplar HARCA: there is the loss of social housing on assured tenancies on council rents. When they are rebuilt rents will be significantly higher, which will mean people won’t be able to afford to come back. We believe they shouldn’t be allowed to carry on with this without any fight. It is far too easy for them to knock down homes or replace them with private ones. Very few socalled affordable ones. We are trying to bring the community together. We could have some successes and it is also important to highlight to the wider borough and London what is going on. To try and build a critical mass, not just on what is going on housing wise, the loss of social housing, the money that private companies are making from it. Encourage people to organise themselves. A lot of us take confidence, shown in E15 and the New Era Estate campaigns. Stand up, you have success. People are enjoying these campaigns, working people or unemployed it doesn’t matter. There are a number of reasons to do it and they are all important.
Two of our colleagues went around a number of stalls. They spoke to about ten stall holders and got very similar responses. The number one thing was no information. Everyone is left in the dark as to what is going on now. To be fair the planning permission hasn’t gone in yet. However, when there is consultation it should be real consultation with those affected. I am not aware from the people we’ve spoken to of comprehensive consultation or any consultation. I am aware of an online questionnaire which has very simplistic questions. It is not robust or comprehensive by any standards. They [the traders] say the proposed design is no good. There is no parking so people won’t come here. They also say that the type of place it will be is not aimed at local people, but people on better or higher incomes, more affluent, not working class.
Quite a lot of people do say the place could do with a facelift. There are enough people who would like to see it revitalised in some way, but not such that it will be exclusive or boutique places, such that it would be of no use to most people or unaffordable to most. Same if they are going to open up lots of restaurants here. How many people eat out or can afford the restaurants they’ll open? It is really a case of who it will be aimed at, people are not against improvement, a lot of people are for it for sure, but it’s how it’s done and who it’s aimed at. People want to be part of the process, genuinely consulted.
Well I guess you know the bulk of East London seems to be part of the ongoing process of housing associations getting sucked into the process of selling off social housing. Some people take the view that housing associations are a halfway house to going over to private housing.
Poplar HARCA and HSBC
Poplar HARCA states that it is a social housing organisation based in the East End. That means that it is meant to be a custodian of the working class and the poor in terms of housing. What seems to have slipped under the radar is that Stephen Green served for many years on the board of Poplar HARCA. Green is of course now Baron Green of Hurstpierpont and Tory peer. Green served as the chairman of HSBC during the years of dodgy accounts, earning £3 million a year in the post. He left the HARCA board in 1998 and was replaced on the HARCA board by Bernadette Conroy, also an HSBC official. She was HSBC’s Global Head of Planning and Strategy and now sits on HARCA’s finance and audit committee and is Chair of the HARCA board. The magazine Inside Housing (March 2005) tells us that “the banking giant HSBC has a long association with Poplar HARCA”. She is also on the board of Barnet Clinical Commissioning Group. We are informed by the CCG website that Conroy also serves as “non-executive Director of North London Estates Partnership, a private public partnership that develops and manages property within the healthcare sector. Lord Mawson, one of the founders of Poplar HARCA, described her in the House of Lords as “a very experienced businesswoman”. Question 1. Why are bankers and business people serving on the board of an organisation supposedly pledged to providing social housing? Question 2. Why are ex-officials of HSBC, serving on HARCA? When HSBC was involved in enabling money laundering by Mexican drug lords (chiefly for the Sinaloa Cartel), and had conducted business with companies with links to terrorism. (according to an investigation by the US Senate). In addition they enabled more than 100,000 clients from over 200 countries to evade tax worth hundreds of millions of pounds through HSBC’s Swiss private bank. These questions need to be answered, and ANSWERED SOON! P.S. Other members of the HARCA board include Tanya Martin “employed within….the private property sector in residential sales and lettings.”
Steve Stride, Unpoplar HARCA and Outstanding Landlord of the Year
Firstly, a massive congratulations to Steve Stride and his Registered Social Landlord Poplar Harca, what an incredible achievement being awarded Outstanding Landlord of the Year at the 2015 UK Property Awards. We find this to be an incredible achievement because you have managed to pull the wool over the eyes of much of the housing industry. However, you are not fooling your tenants or the locals who have watched as you have created almost total insecurity amongst your tenants, as you set about ruthlessly socially cleansing Poplar. We are fairly sure that when you balloted your potential tenants as to whether the nil-value stock transfer from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets should go ahead, that would allow you to take control of taxpayer funded social housing, that you failed to mention that your real motives were the destruction of that which you claim to support; social housing. The result has been the displacement of those in secure social tenancies, the selling off of prime assets to private property developers, the demolition of social housing which is then resurrected as blocks of luxury flats without any social housing and creating an entire area living in fear of when their estate will be the next to fall to greed and property speculation. A wave of destruction is emanating outwards from Canary Wharf, making those at its periphery very nervous about the security of their homes, and where their families are going to live when the axe falls on their estate. Was Poplar Harca ever under the delusion that they were set up to provide luxury flats for bankers? Outrageous manipulation of the figures in which they claim to have as many social housing tenants now as they did when they ruthlessly lied and cheated their way into possession of billions of pounds of tax payer funded housing are just lapped up by lazy journalists from journals like Inside Housing, content to buy into their PR without checking out any of the facts. “Affordable” housing is not social housing. When you need a £60,000 income to even buy a part share in a home any claims for affordability is just another lie the housing industry and the National Housing Federation, are happy for us to believe. BMW’s, Porsche’s and even a Lamborghini outside a local “affordable” housing block is clear testament as to just how unaffordable “affordable” housing actually is. We believe that most people who work in social housing believe in its core principles of providing genuinely affordable homes to people that need them, and do not believe that the dismantlement of social housing is in the interests of our communities, or our country. We believe that Steve Stride of Poplar Harca has failed our local community, presiding over a phenomenal land grab that would shock people if they were to look beyond their highly effective PR. This destruction of our homes and our communities must stop. It is time for individuals, tenants, the insecurely housed, housing activists and any organisations out there who believe that what is happening is a crime against our communities to stand up and make yourselves heard before it has all been sold off and there is nothing worth fighting for any more. Too many Registered Social Landlords seem to be under the impression that they are luxury property developers rather than providers of genuinely affordable social housing serving our local communities. So Poplar Harca, enjoy your worthless Landlord of the Year award, and feel pride in the devastation you are causing.
RESIDENTS OF HOLLAND ESTATE FIGHT TO SAVE THEIR ESTATE
Residents on the Holland Estate in London’s Spitalfields have been campaigning against their registered social landlord, EastEnd Homes who plans to demolish the homes of over 600 people on the estate. Here is an extract from their latest press release (end of June).
The campaign continues to gather pace. Last week a residents’ petition recorded 73% of households demanding that their estate be refurbished rather than demolished. The petition was presented at an EastEnd Homes Board meeting on Monday 15th June, at which the board discussed the registered charity’s failed attempts at resident consultation on the proposals.
Residents were angry that it was left to them to carry out the petition in the absence of any meaningful consultation by EastEnd Homes themselves, well over a year into their redevelopment planning. Meanwhile the charity have taken advantage of the recent disarray in Tower Hamlets council to dismiss two elected council representatives from their board, effectively removing residents’ trusted representation at the meeting.
The estate was given to EastEnd Homes by Tower Hamlets Council in 2006, on the condition that the housing stock be refurbished. But to date, EastEnd Homes have ignored residents’ calls for this promise to be honoured and instead ploughed on with their demolition and redevelopment feasibility study. On Thursday 11th of June the Estate Management Board – a body of residents elected to represent the views of residents to EastEnd Homes –voted unanimously on a motion for EastEnd Homes to abandon the demolition plans and instead to make good on its promises of refurbishment.
Residents have said that the charity’s proposed scheme amounts to indefensible overdevelopment, purely driven by the desire for profit from the luxury apartments with which they propose to replace the estate. They argue that the charity is sacrificing the welfare of the current residentsthat they are supposed to be helping.
The estate is located a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street on prime development land at the border of the City of London and the rapidly gentrifying area of Brick Lane. The mid-century L.C.C London stock brick blocks border several local conservation areas and nestle among the many listed buildings that comprise the architectural heritage of Spitalfields.
EastEnd Homes’ redevelopment plans are to replace the existing mix of 192 tenanted and leasehold low cost and social rent homes with a 25 storey tower block containing 263 luxury flats for sale on the private market and only 165 “affordable” homes. With the government’s current model of affordable rent allowing social landlords to charge up to 80% market rate this would place the new homes well beyond the reach of current residents.
Residents previously gained cross party support when they took their case to Tower Hamlets Full Council in April. Councillors voted unanimously on an emergency motion in support of residents’ demands for the promised refurbishment of the housing stock.
Now that the strength of residents opinion of demolition is clear, with remarkable cross-party political support from all sides of Tower Hamlets Council, and with both the Mayor and the local MP backing their campaign, the residents of Barnett, Brune, Bernard, Carter and Wheeler Houses wait eagerly to hear if the demolition plans will finally be dropped, as requested. Will EastEnd Homes, a charity and registered social landlord, continue with their unpopular plans to break up a community and overshadow a conservation area with towering luxury investment opportunities for transnational capital?
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