Developers at London's property fair are plotting how to demolish our homes

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Nov 3 01:40:49 GMT 2015

Developers at London's property fair are plotting how to demolish our homes

Global investors at Mipim UK this week are 
ignoring the people displaced by an unregulated 
dash to profit from soaring land values
Reader in Architecture at the University of East 
London and the author of Ground Control

Wednesday 21 October 2015 12.55 

Mipim UK, the British arm of the global real 
estate fair that launched in 2014, opened this 
year’s property show on Wednesday, once again to 
demonstrations of protest and fury.

Outside London’s Olympia, campaign group 
Architects for Social Housing is offering free 
consultations to housing protesters and 
campaigners for council estates threatened with 
demolition, in contrast to the secret deals being 
done behind 
closed doors. Alongside the free advice, Streets 
Kitchen will provide food for homeless and hungry people.

A key focus for the protesters is that while 230 
towers sprout in the City of London and its 
environs, an astonishing number of council 
estates are simultaneously being flattened. On 
the basis of research he carried out recently, Dr 
Paul Watt, reader in urban studies at Birkbeck, 
University of London, estimates that in London 
“as many as 90 council-built housing estates are 
potentially facing demolition as a result of what is called regeneration”.

UK, an international networking opportunity for 
global investors, developers and politicians, is 
seen as hoovering up the eye-watering 
opportunities for investors brought by the UK’s 
frenzied property boom. Sessions at the 
conference include “London – from social housing 
to super prime”, “Are you sitting on an untapped 
goldmine?” and “The Downing Street Forum”, which 
appears to offer investors and developers direct 
access to leading political figures.

Back in London, the south-east and other parts of 
the country with “super prime” spots, the 
demolition of low-income households means that 
tens of thousands of people will have to leave 
their homes. Since last year’s Mipim, a housing 
protest movement has been spawned, which 
witnessed the occupation of London’s Aylesbury 
Estate, while activist groups such as Architects 
for Social Housing, the Radical 
Network and Generation Rent have shot to 
prominence. In his acceptance speech, incoming 
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said he was fed up 
with the “social cleansing of London”.

The impact is already clear to see. Last year the 
Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle – home to 
more than 3,000 people on low incomes – was 
demolished. In its place, developer Lend Lease is 
constructing Elephant Park where, according to 
property website Rightmove, a one-bedroom flat is 
on the market for £515,000 and a two-bed flat for £750,000.

Even accounting for the government’s Orwellian 
redefinition of 
housing” – now up to 80% of market rent – that is 
not affordable for most Londoners on ordinary, 
let alone low, incomes. Needless to say, research 
shows that most former tenants and leaseholders 
who lived on the Heygate have left the borough.

It is very difficult to get exact figures and 
timescales for what individual boroughs are 
doing; some councils make more effort than others 
to keep people in the area. But the broad picture 
of people on low incomes displaced by an 
unregulated dash to realise soaring land values, is the same.

In Lambeth, for example, the council has decided 
to go ahead with the full demolition of 
Gardens, despite a very vocal campaign against it 
by the majority of residents. According to 
Birkbeck’s Watt, Lambeth is also considering 
demolishing another five or six estates in the 
borough, which it says is the only way it can build any affordable housing.

Particularly disturbing are the frequent 
complaints by residents of sham consultations 
conducted in name alone and managed by PR 
companies and lobbyists working alongside 
developers and local authorities. There is no 
doubt that these are the same networks of 
developers, local authorities and lobbyists who 
will be meeting this week at Mipim UK.

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