Last week, the GLA’s window for responses to their ‘Estate Regeneration Good Practice Guide’ – which can be found here – closed. The final document will set out principles that local authorities, housing associations, city hall and developers should look to when considering estate ‘regeneration’ projects – and the ways in which residents can hold them accountable.
Residents, community and campaign groups within the Radical Housing Network, and from the wider housing movement, sent in their responses. This blog summarises some key issues that came out in the responses from groups within and outside of our network. If you sent a response to the GLA which you’d like featured here, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
The (Draft) Guide
The guide sets out three key areas: the purpose of estate regeneration, recommendations about how to consult with residents and the overall ‘deal’ that tenants and leaseholders can expect in regeneration projects.
Responses: Some Key Issues
Demolition Last Resort
Though the guide does outline demolition as one of a range of options for regeneration – it doesn’t do enough to push back against the current practice of ‘demolish first, ask questions later’ that developers are carrying out all over London.
Submissions, like that from Demolition Watch, stressed that other options for regenerating estates – like upgrading and improving homes, funding the community and repairing local infrastructure should always come first. Demolition should always be a last resort. And when demolition does happen – no social housing should be lost. The guide does make some commitment towards this – but says only projects funded by the GLA will be beholden to the rule of ‘no loss to social housing’ – this needs to be broader and the terms set out clearly for residents to know what kind of power this commitment really has.
The London Tenants Federation pointed out the demonisation of estate residents as scroungers, embodied in policies like ‘Mixed and Balanced Communities’ (London Plan) – where areas with a high number of social housing residents have to be ‘diluted’ with wealthy neighbours – went unchallenged. Policies like these embolden developers to demolish people’s homes without accountability.
Several submissions addressed the vague commitments to residents’ democracy, and the importance of resident support for regeneration projects. Though the guide dismissed ballots as an ineffective way of gauging resident support, several submissions pushed back and demanded resident ballots on all regeneration projects. This practice would make concrete commitments to ‘democracy’, ‘support’ and ‘consultations’ that have systematically failed estate residents thus far.
Demolition Watch even set up a popular petition to the Mayor demanding resident ballots. They still need a few more signatures – and you can sign here.
Clarity – What’s the Use and Application
Sidestepping concrete commitments like these, and trading in vague language, the guide left little clarity about how the final document will actually be used – and what kind of power it really gives residents at all. How will developers be sanctioned if they don’t comply, for example? Several submissions, including that from Fuel Poverty Action, covered different areas of this topic – something Sian Berry’s submission to the guide also looks at.
Transparency was also raised – with groups arguing that data around the plans and implementation of regeneration projects must be made public.
Submissions criticised the guide’s lack of commitment to monitoring and addressing the impact that regeneration has on communities – Barnet Housing Action, for example, argued that councils should keep a duty of care to residents after they leave a borough if they have been driven out by regeneration.
Environmental and social impact – from the exploitation and environmentally damaging practices of energy companies to the destruction of the social and cultural fabric of an area, were also highlighted, and calls for the GLA to address these issues, with creative solutions for how they could do, were also raised.
Including All Residents
The guides’s focus on particular types of tenure – leaving out freeholders, for example – was challenged, particularly by Barnet Housing Action – who highlighted that this left people with particular types of tenure vulnerable, and encouraged splits in the community – something the guide said it wanted to avoid.
Demolition Watch, among others, pointed for the need to monitor the well being of people displaced by regeneration – so that data on the impact of regeneration of people’s lives can be made clear, and councils and developers held to account when people under their care are suffering.
A right to return to their areas, and cash compensation for those whose lives are disrupted, or who are permanently displaced – were also pushed for.
The expertise and campaigning work of grassroots groups affected by regeneration projects came out to shape the guide. Groups provided case studies, critical analysis and pushed for creative and simple policy the GLA could commit to if it really wants to support communities, regenerate rather than destroy areas, and commit to social housing , not social cleansing.
Watch this space to see what happens when the final guide comes out, later this year.
List of all submissions here:
London Tenants Federation: https://thtf.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/draft-response-london-mayor-regeneration-good-practice.pdf
Axe the Housing Act Letter to Mayor:http://www.axethehousingact.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/AtHA_letter_LondonMayor_Jan2017_A4_2pp_web.pdf
Demolition Watch: http://media.wix.com/ugd/395633_86a8c7e0ed214958b1bef55aeb9ed1be.pdf
Fuel Poverty Action:
Barnet Housing Action:
Sian Berry: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/final_estate_guidance_response_sianberry_mar2016_0.pdf