Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Extending Right-to-Buy to housing association tenants

Housing associations will be compelled to sell homes to tenants at discounts
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

The Conservative majority government announces on Tuesday, 26 May 2015 what it calls ‘landmark changes to spread home ownership to millions of working people’.
Welcome to a pillar of Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘blue-collar conservatism’, writes Paul Coleman.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark says tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech (27 May) includes a Housing Bill that “will offer over a million people a helping hand onto the housing ladder”.
The Bill will extend to England’s 1.3 million housing association tenants the right to buy their homes at ‘significant discounts’ similar to those offered to council tenants.
Until now, ‘Right-to-Buy’ applied only to council tenants, or to those whose homes were transferred from a council to a housing association.
“Just because you’ve signed a social tenancy doesn’t mean you should be signing away your aspiration to own a home,” says Clark.

Clark says housing association homes that are sold under this extended 'Right-to-Buy' will be replaced on a ‘one-for-one basis’.
The sting in the tail is that local authorities will be forced to fund this policy for housing association tenants.
The Housing Bill requires councils to sell their ‘most expensive housing when it falls vacant’, says the government.
The government estimates this will raise £4.5 billion a year.
Receipts from the sale of these council homes will compensate housing associations for having to sell their homes below market value - but compels housing associations to provide new ‘one-for-one’ replacement homes with the same number of bedrooms in the same area.

Ann Powers, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics, says: “It’s probably an unworkable policy. It’s very unlikely that local authority sales will actually fund the right-to-buy of housing association homes.”
The Institute for Fiscal Studies say the new policy amounts to a ‘significant giveaway’ to the 1.3m housing tenants across England by ‘selling public assets.  
The IFS said in April 2015 that ‘sales of expensive local authority properties would reduce the availability of social housing in the most expensive areas, thereby creating clearer divisions between areas where richer and poorer households are located’.
It added: ‘There are considerable uncertainties surrounding the revenues that can be raised from sales of expensive properties…Given this uncertainty…there is a risk that these policies will lead to a further depletion of the social housing stock.'

But Clark insists the government is “creating a level playing field”.
Any social tenant, whether in a council or housing association home, will be able to buy their home at a significant and publicly funded discount.
House building will also rise, says the government.
Housing associations will be able to use sales revenues to invest in more affordable homes.
Council housing waiting lists will be reduced.
The government says rather than one rented property, there will be two – an older home with a new homeowner, and a new replacement home available for those in need on the waiting list.

But critics of the government say only a relatively small number of people will benefit.
They also say it will put more people in housing debt – and that even if sold homes are replaced ‘one-for-one’, most people waiting for a council homes will not be able to afford the new replacement ‘affordable’ properties.
The government increased ‘Right-to-Buy’ discounts for council tenants in 2012 to a maximum of £103,900 in London and £77,900 outside the capital – and said that sold council homes would be replaced ‘one-for-one’.
Around 40,000 council homes were sold between 2010 and 2015.
But only one in nineteen sold council homes were replaced by a newly built property.
Since the increased discounts in 2012, some 26,000 council homes were sold with just 2,700 replacements started.

Clark said on BBC Radio 4’s Today show (26 May) that ‘one-for-one’ replacement was not the objective in 2012  - that the coalition government sought only to increase the number of council homes being built rather than replace each one sold.
He also puts the blame on councils and housing associations for failing to replace sold council homes with new properties over the past three years. “There is a lag,” says Clark.

“But this new policy is to replace sold stock,” adds Clark. “Every property that is sold will be replaced on a one-to-one basis."
Clark insists the policy will increase the overall housing stock without acknowledging it could reduce the number of council homes and only – at best – maintain the existing number of ‘affordable’ homes.
He adds if housing associations fail to replace sold homes within three years, they will have to return the money with interest to the Homes and Communities Agency.
The HCA will then arrange for those replacement homes to be built.

Other detractors say the policy transfers public assets in the form of council homes and public land to private individuals and ultimately to private sector landlords and developers.
Housing associations also see the extension of ‘Right-to-Buy’ as a denigration of their charitable origins and their right to function as social housing providers. 
Some speak of taking legal action against the government to protect their assets.

The Housing Bill also includes a plan for 200,000 'starter' homes, offered at a 20% discount to first-time buyers aged under 40 - and a right for people to apply for permission to build their own homes on designated land.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2015

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Town Hall security guards refuse entry to Sweets Way and West Hendon estate tenants

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

Tenants and residents of the Sweets Way and West Hendon estates gather outside Hendon Town Hall.
It's a bright, warm Wednesday evening (13 May).
They want to hand petitions containing 200,000 signatures to Barnet Council leader Richard Cornelius.
They're protesting against the developer-led 'regeneration' of their estates.

They include children of families either compelled or evicted to move from secure council tenancies to private sector tenancies in other parts of the borough.
But private security guards bar the front door - as police look on.
Younger protesters and children vainly try to gain entry through a ground floor window opened by council staff.
Eventually, only a handful of protesters are allowed into the public building with their petitions.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2015

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Who is the woman on the balcony? What does she say about London's housing debacle?

The woman on the balcony © London Intelligence 2015

She’s poised like a Tsarina on a palace balcony.
Two topiarised olive trees flank her, like sentries.
She’s clad in candid evening sunshine and a clinging, pristine white, sleeveless sports top with matching white bottoms.

Where is she?
Well, she’s right where she’s meant to be.
Inside your head.
Does her image stir you? Fire your imagine. Will she turn with all that flowing hair and fluid bronzed skin, face you and, knowingly, reciprocate your gaze?

Who is she?
Maybe she is like you. Or, at least matches your desired self-image? 
Does she possess the ‘beach body’ you want and embody the lifestyle you crave?

The manicured fantasy image of the woman on the balcony is conceived by marketing people – a 'species' once labelled as ‘Satan’s little helpers’ by the American comedian Bill Hicks.
The ad’s message says splash out and buy a new luxury apartment – and you too could live that dream-come-true lifestyle – with all its potential sexual potency.
Chaps, the woman on the balcony might like you.
Ladies, you could be like the woman on the balcony.

It shouldn’t surprise us that marketing people in the developer-led 'regeneration' business concoct sexualised images of women to sell new luxury homes. 
We live in an epoch of lifestyle advertising targeted at consumers who desire exciting lives. 
Advertisers try to show how their products and services meet these desires.
Many ad folk believe sex sells almost everything, including real estate to wealthy newcomers.
And, that belief clearly stretches to selling new luxury apartments that are replacing the West Hendon public housing estate in north-west London.

The image on the site of new luxury flats replacing council homes © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

West Hendon residents protest against loss of their homes

Certainly, the 'woman on the balcony' is not meant to represent the West Hendon estate's current tenants and leaseholders.
Many have lived on the estate for decades.
They now see their 680 homes undergoing phased demolition and their estate being rebranded as 'Hendon Waterside' - a new Barratt development of 2,000 mainly private luxury apartments with an average price of £415,000.
None of those 600-plus homes rented to council tenants will be replaced 'like-for-like' on the rebuilt estate or elsewhere in the host borough of Barnet.
Seen from this angle, the woman on the balcony symbolises a net loss of council homes.

Barnet Council consented to the development - and sold part of the council estate for just £3 on the condition that development partnership Barratt-Metropolitan agreed to build some 'affordable' homes.
Yet few decanted tenants will even be able to afford the 287 'affordable' shared ownership properties being built at 'Hendon Waterside' by Metropolitan Housing Trust.
'Short-term' low-income tenants, many of whom have lived on the west Hendon estate for five years and longer, are being evicted and displaced to other parts of Barnet and further still across London.
And leaseholders won't be able to afford a 'Hendon Waterside' apartment and balcony - as compensation levels for the loss of their homes are too low.

Prototype 'Pulse' resident dude as envisaged by marketing people © London Intelligence 2015

'They're arriving' at Pulse development near Colindale tube station © London Intelligence 2015

Similar ‘regeneration’ marketing images can be found at other new expensive private developments in London.
Take a look at 'Pulse', built by Fairview on the site of a former National Health Service hospital at Colindale, an area just a short bus ride along the Edgware Road from the West Hendon estate.
They show the intended target markets of buyers - young, white professional couples, 'hipsters', and affluent cash-rich young folk from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. 

At nearby Beaufort Park, images of bronzed, tanned and gleaming toothed people abound.
Catwalking along a 'Mediterranean style boulevard', they look less like real residents but more like models who've just stepped out of a catalogue.
Certainly, there's no representation of working class Londoners, or elderly folk. 
No images that depict working Londoners born of Asian, Caribbean or African origins.
Or of people with disabilities.
And, definitely nobody from the nearby west Hendon or Grahame Park council estates.

The same is true of marketing images on sites elsewhere in London, such as Barratt's Royal Arsenal development in Woolwich.
Working Londoners on average and lower incomes desperately need genuinely affordable homes. 
But they're simply not the intended target market for these luxury apartments.
Just ask the ornamental mannequin on the balcony.
She'll tell you.

Pulse images aim to tempt younger affluent overseas buyers © London Intelligence 2015
Marketing imagery at Pulse © London Intelligence 2015

Marketing image at Beaufort Park © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

Marketing image at Royal Arsenal © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

To read the full version of this feature article, visit:  

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2015

Friday, 8 May 2015

Three tribes in the UK after the General Election May 2015

London's only daily paper always backs the Conservatives

London bucked the national trend with Labour winning more seven more seats in the capital than in the 2010 General Election.
This didn't stop the Conservative Party winning a working majority across the UK in the 2015 General Election held on 7 May) - or prevent pundits from saying Labour needs a radical rethink, especially with the London mayoral elections due in May 2016.

Labour won 45 seats in London in the General Election 2015, up by seven from 2010.
Conservatives won 27 seats, one less than five years ago.
Liberal Democrats won only one seat, losing six of their 2010 seats.
The election splits the United Kingdom roughly into five main tribes. 

Conservative voters fearful of losing their slither of housing market prosperity to the extent they vote for austerity and cuts to public services.

Labour voters in a post-industrial archipelago from south Wales to the Midlands and north-east who would rather spit in their own socks than vote Conservative.

Scottish 'red nationalists' advocating Swedish-style social democracy and devolved power. 

English nationalists who blame Britain's decline as a world economic and geo-political player force on the European Union and immigration.

Liberals and Greens who believe the market can be regulated to guarantee socially beneficial outcomes.

Here's some reactions to the election outcome from people on Twitter.

'Just woke up and it wasn't a nightmare. The spectacle of millions of turkeys voting for Christmas was real. How truly dreadful.'

'Goodbye NHS.
Goodbye welfare state.
Goodbye human rights.
Hello in/out EU referendum.
Hello Trident renewal.
Hello £30bn more austerity.'

'Ed Balls is gone. Labour's slightly slower austerity message wasn't supported.' @jeremyhoad

What a majority Conservative government means for housing » Housing » 24dash.com: 

'1 million @TheGreenParty votes = 1 seat
10 million Conservative votes = 325 seats.
And our voting system isn't broken?'

'There is no parliamentary or legal road to stopping these cuts, we must take to the streets. It is the only power we have.'

(These tweets appear here merely as a snapshot of some of the reactions to the election outcome; it doesn't mean they're endorsed!)

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2015

Friday, 1 May 2015

Questions and a few answers: Broadwater Farm and Lordship Rec

Broadwater Farm residents demand answers about future of their homes
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

On 23 April, Broadwater Farm estate residents and Lordship Rec users demand to know if Haringey councillors and officers are planning to demolish their homes and redevelop the estate - and build on the Rec used for decades by Broadwater United's local young footballers.

Haringey included Broadwater Farm and Lordship Rec as 'Site Allocation 63' in its draft Local Plan for Haringey 2011-26 - that lists potential development sites across the North London borough.

On 5 March, Helen Steel submits a Freedom of Information request asking Haringey Council to show 'correspondence, emails, minutes and any other documents relating to the inclusion of areas shown on SA63...'

On 7 April, Haringey's Head of Strategic Planning Matthew Patterson replies: 'The Council does not hold any correspondence or minutes relating to the inclusion of the areas shown outlined on the map SA63 Broadwater Farm...as the decision to include it was taken as part of a verbal discussion between council officers.'

On 30 April, London Intelligence asks Haringey Council to identify 'the officers who discussed and then decided to include the areas shown outlined on SA63 Broadwater Farm'.
London Intelligence also asks, 'why are there no minutes or record of this important discussion and decision?'
Thirdly, 'how is Haringey Council seeking to reassure Broadwater Farm residents that they won't lose their homes - and similarly, Broadwater United's young people that they won't lose their football facilities?'

Today, (1 May), a Haringey Council spokesman replies: 'While we've carried out some initial studies on proposals for Broadwater Farm, there are no firm plans for the estate, Lordship Rec or the surrounding area.
'We know how much local people value the excellent work of Broadwater United and the football pitch, and we guarantee that any proposals would see the facilities retained or replaced.'
The spokesman adds: 'There is no suggestion that any redevelopment will definitely happen and we'll be speaking to residents this summer about what improvements they would like to see as part of our commitment that every family has a modern high-quality home.'

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2015