The Housing Question

Taking part in a seminar at Birkbeck The Housing Crisis: Experience, Analysis and Response organised by Paul Watt and Stuart Hodgkinson. Very interesting indeed. Starting with ‘The financial crisis and housing in the UK’ – Graham Turner (GFC Economics) with a left analysis of the crisis which was rather similar to mine but – in my view – too much obsessed by the public debt problem and the inevitability of austerity. He didn’t seem to have read (or accepted) Plan B or Chick and Pettifor.

Unfortunately he left before we could argue it out. Then me (doing a more action-oriented version of my talk of July – which will be a download on their forthcoming Housing Question web site – meanwhile the slides I showed are here: Edwards BBK 20111118), then Stuart H on the history of neo-liberal ideas on housing from the 70s until now – and looking at the (truly dreadful) plans the British coalition government has for housing in the future.

Film screening: A Palace for Us (Tom Hunter, 2010) – about the Woodberry Down Estate in London. Introduced by the director, Tom Hunter A really moving and brilliantly constructed film, essentially a reenacted oral history of wartime bombing, postwar reconstruction, stable community… daily life on the estate through to impending demolition for Barrett Homes – really valuing the estate, the society; challenging the stigmatisation.

Impressive PhD student reporting on emotional reactions to threatened displacement as social housing tenure becomes less secure… based on ethnographic work in Gospel Oak (Camden). Some very powerful and good material. ‘Mobility and security in mixed housing tenure: findings from an audio-visual ethnographic study of housing and class in an inner London locality’ – Debbie Humphry (Department of Geography, University of Sussex). [ Then a bit I missed. ]

Cllr. Rabina Khan, cabinet member for housing at LBTH. An area now deeply threatened by the government’s proposals. “Affordable rents’: LBTH committed to building at target rents (much lower, more-or-less today’s council rents) using Council’s own money on own land. Have refused to support developments which would be let at 80% [of current unregulated private rents] by providers. Trying to get developers to build mix of ‘target’ / ‘affordable’ and other units in each project – under planning powers. The LDF (local plan) calls for minimum 35% affordable dwellings in any private development, with aspiration of 50%. Absolute priority on family size units. CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) starts 2014/15 and we are wanting that money badly. Some developers’ sites we can’t build social housing on and then we demand that they provide an even higher proportion where it is offsite. Avoiding HCA money altogether because of the requirement to do 80% rents. Also got £94m for “decent homes” programme; should have 100% of LBTH units done by 2014.
We have also re-purchased many former RTB units. We have 1700 people in under-occupation and trying to persuade people to downsize, and we meet the occupiers’ needs very near by. On ‘intermediate housing’: not the best. Of 1028 acquirers in LBTH, only 13% were former council tenants and only 11% of them were Bangladeshis. It really wasn’t a programme which served the greatest needs. We also have a lot of elderly leaseholders who can’t leave or sell and afford to stay locally. Protection of private tenants too – towards accreditation of landlords and action against bad landlords.

[gap] Inspiring talk by Sarah Glyn: a biography of the Byker estate from conception through to today, with all the episodes – drawing also on Peter Malpass’s research. A very measured celebration of how good social housing can be. Richard criticised her for suggesting that one had to search for examples of good social housing. She replied that she didn’t mean that; she had wanted to look at Byker because it was a brilliant design and even so it had problems – problems which could therefore not be attributed to poor design, but instead to these buildings and communities being ignored, rubbished…

Finally Duncan Bowie on Coalition policies. Comprehensive survey. (NB also he refers to Boris’s recent issue of proposed alterations to the London Plan so that ‘social’ and ‘affordable’ rents are merged which would entirely remove the leverage from planning to get any social rented housing. He also reports that the Localism Act has abolished the requirement for Annual Monitoring Reports.) These notes are NOT a summary of Duncan’s talk, which followed broadly his Manifesto document.

Author: Editors


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