Lambeth Council are banging on about their 1,000 new homes for the borough’s residents, but boasts are never all they seem.
For starters the target is woefully under-ambitious and it’s not as if it is being reached via all new developments. No, instead established communities like Cressingham Gardens in Tulse Hill face demolition despite being promised a refurbishment option – one that was taken away at the last minute by Lambeth, making their whole ‘consultation’ a sham.
With 461 of the 1000 new homes accounted for, it looks like a significant percentage (perhaps even 50%) are coming from the ‘estates regeneration programmes’ of which Cressingham Gardens is one, Knight’s Walk, Kennington another and Central Hill, Upper Norwood another. All are preparing for a fight, and all are suffering from Lambeth’s suspect assessment of repair cost over destruction and the borough’s poor management of repairs.
On the issue for repairs and the council’s excuses, this post on Cressingham Gardens Facebook page from former councillor Jeremy Clyne, is very revealing about the mismanagement that council tenants are now paying the price for: http://www.lambethunitedhousingco-op.org.uk/?page_id=1068
Meanwhile, the period of time that the new houses are being ‘rolled out’ over has been quoted as 2014-18, and then it was tweeted by Lambeth Labour the other day as a plan over three years. That’s the passing of time for you, it allows sleight-of-hand repackaging.
Finally what of the nature of these new ‘social homes’?
Well, these are homes at ‘social target rent’ which, the council say is the term “coined when the Government applied a rent increase formula to Council social rents to bring them up to the same level as housing association rents.”
We all know that housing association rents are high, so ‘social target rents’ is a much more fluid terminology than social rent. It’s another buck that will be passed on to central government, but that’s unlikely to temper the council’s boasts. Lambeth are still quite happy to fall into line and use government terminology to boast about their own record. One key example of this is Lambeth chuntering on about how many more ‘affordable’ homes they have provided one minute and then, the next minute, they take up the battle cry about how inadequate ‘affordable’ rent is.
Furthermore, let’s not forget the housing stock sold by Lambeth, providing further context for this figure of 1000 new homes. Aside from Right to Buy sales, the sale of ex ‘shortlife’ housing co-op homes meant the sale of 170 homes from 2011.
But that wasn’t the only knock-on effect on housing stock. Rehousing people who already had homes means at least the same number of homes taken up – but the figure will be higher because many of the households contained people who, because of their age, were rehoused separately rather than in one home with the requisite number of bedrooms. “We’ve got loads of one beds” said officers to us. Tell that to the 20 000+ folk on the waiting list, over half of whom need 1 beds.
We campaigned to make sure our members, forced from their homes, achieved the outcomes they wanted and were appropriate to their needs – but we did warn Lambeth about the effect on housing stock. Lambeth’s own councillors once said themselves that: “it would be senseless as well as expensive to evict people only to rehouse them again”. That statement went by the wayside as the same Labour councillors who said that then cheer-led the eviction of long-term residents.
So Lambeth’s boast about a thousand new homes is tainted – it’s tainted by the suffering of those people on estates whose cherished homes are threatened with demolition, tainted the sacrifice made by long-term housing co-op residents who were forced out (the monies raised have not been put back into housing), it’s tainted by lies and broken promises and it is tainted because it is a paltry response to the housing crisis.
Better than nothing? Is that how low the bar is now? Can Lambeth only achieve unambitious targets by screwing over long-term and established residents?