Affordable housing

To follow on from the recent documentary How to get a council house which showed the dire situations some people find themselves in due to the shortage of low cost housing. I thought it would be appropriate to shed further light on the social housing situation many people across the capital find themselves in. In particular the very borough in which I live in, Ealing. Currently there are many redevelopments and regenerations taking place within the borough. There are seven sites which are currently in the process of being regenerated all of various sizes. Some are completed or near completion whereas some are due to begin in the coming months.

What this means is that a large number of people who live on these sites are most likely going to need to be re-homed. Now just by peeking on the Ealing council website you can find the number of houses they have  available for people on the housing register each year, they say that this is somewhere in the region of 900 homes on average. Now with over 13,000 people on the housing register in Ealing alone it is clear that there is a huge shortage, which is pretty much the case across the rest of London. Now with a housing shortage already rife in the borough, you need to ask are these regenerations really necessary? It is clear that regenerations such as the ones taking place will further lengthen the wait for people who were already waiting for housing. To further illustrate how bad the shortage is last year 175 2 bedroom properties were available and over 2,400 people were waiting for properties of that size. With this in mind regenerating must be seen as something of a luxury at times like these, we simply don’t have the housing stock available to re-house the people on the waiting list already, let alone the people being made to move by council regeneration schemes.

I myself am a 17 year resident of Havelock estate, one of the 8 housing estates deemed necessary for regeneration. I speak for myself when saying this; however I know that most of the other residents will echo me when I say that the people of Havelock would rather not move. Approximately eight years ago, a ballot was held to decide whether or not residents wanted Havelock estate to be sold to a Housing Association company 51% voted against this attempted venture by the council.

A council official has confirmed that the recent turn of events in Havelock (namely the regeneration) is pretty much exactly what the council proposed to do eight years ago, this time around there was no ballot of course. The reason being is the council were obviously afraid of losing, and why risk the embarrassment when they are not required to even hold a ballot in the first place? It’s not like residents should have the right to decide what happens to their homes or anything. I was also told by the council official that the Havelock estate properties are at the end of their life cycle and it would cost more to refurbish them than it would to build completely new homes. Again the ugly word profit rears its head, this should not be about money, and the council should be providing residents with what they ultimately want.

Perhaps if the housing list was not 13,000 long and the council had the houses to re-house the residents without putting unnecessary pressure on an already long list, then and only then should such “regenerations” be considered. However what’s taking place would be better referred to as gentrification not regeneration. The proposed prices of the rents here may well be too high for many of the current residents, so coming back to Havelock upon completion may not be a realistic option for many people. Following on from that more than half the current properties on Havelock are to be sold (current housing stock 845, 434 for outright sale), if the residents of Havelock could afford to buy their own houses would they really be renting a council home? The splitting up of the long standing community of Havelock estate is despicable; what’s worse is this is all being masqueraded as “being for the good of the community” my community will no longer be a community so how can we be seen to benefit from whatever comes of the so called regeneration? Not to mention that the council had promised to find the residents of Havelock better or similar properties than the ones we currently have.

A number of residents that have been re-housed and moved away from the estate are unhappy with what the council has given them. For the last remaining residents which needed to be out before the end of last year, we have received letter in which the council state that we will be given a direct offer of residence and if we chose to refuse this offer then they will begin legal proceedings against us. A regeneration that was neither wanted nor arguably needed is going to displace and break up a long standing community all in the name of profit. The question remains, does this money actually go back to the community? Or does it end up in the pockets of some shameless politicians?

BY: Seth J Pereira

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