By Andy Slaughter MP
An article in yesterday’s Financial Times exposes Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s latest attempt to bulldoze affordable homes and turn the sites into luxury flats.
The scheme is a ‘joint venture’ with developer Stanhope – owners of the BBC Television Centre site in Wood Lane which received planning permission for over 1000 luxury homes on 19 December – which both they and the Council will fund and profit from. The Council’s investment in the speculative scheme comes from selling the best quality existing Council homes as they become vacant. So far over 200 such homes have been sold and 150 left empty for development. That’s 350 local families forced out of the area or housed in expensive, overcrowded or unfit flats.
According to the FT:
‘Leading regeneration developer Stanhope is facing a political row over a groundbreaking deal that it is about to sign to redevelop a swath of London council estates. The plan will see hundreds and possibly thousands of council houses in Hammersmith & Fulham, west London, demolished and replaced with properties for sale.
Conservative-dominated Hammersmith & Fulham Council, which is widely seen as pioneering in its approach to housing policy, is set to approve the 15-year joint venture early next month. But the area’s Labour MP has written to the company warning that the deal risks its corporate reputation.
Andrew Slaughter, MP, called the joint venture “the clearest example yet of social engineering in a borough that is now notorious for such schemes”. He warned Stanhope chief executive David Camp that such plans would face “huge public opposition” during the forthcoming local elections in May.
Hammersmith & Fulham has sold off 209 empty council houses in the past four years, raising £88.5m cash, according to data disclosed to Mr Slaughter under the Freedom Of Information Act. The council said that it would spend the proceeds on the development of new homes.
Mr Slaughter said: “Using the sale of vital affordable homes to enable the demolition of others and building unaffordable developments in their place is not regeneration, it is social engineering, and no respectable developer should associate themselves with such pernicious, politically-motivated activity.”
The council will put two initial sites of 150 existing social rented homes into the joint venture, replacing them with 300 homes for sale, of which 40 per cent will be sold at a discount to their market price.
All the current homes on both sites are empty. Some have been unoccupied for several years. Mr Slaughter said that some former residents, his constituents, complained they had been “tricked into moving out of their homes to allow improvements works then not permitted to return”.‘
The basic angle is a familiar H&F approach – how do we build more luxury flats and get rid of affordable ones in the process. But there are several more twists here that make it more blatantly political.
Current schemes are like the Earl’s Court/West Ken partnership with Capco which aims to replace 760 council or ex-council houses and flats with ten times the number of luxury high-rise flats. This notionally includes replacement floor space for the demolished homes on similar terms, but there is no guarantee they will end up as affordable.
But the new Stanhope deal offers even less to low income or average earners. The council tenants evicted from their homes will be offered existing council flats, but they are just jumping ahead of other families who would have been re-housed, the stock is still shrinking.
I have written to the Chief Executive of Stanhope which claims to be a leader in ‘responsibility to the community’ asking them to withdraw from the scheme. Read my letter HERE.