New Cross fights new wave of housing privatisation

Lewisham residents object to a new trend in local authority housing developments

November 18, 2016
3 min read

besson-st-endResidents of New Cross, London have rejected the borough of Lewisham’s proposal to build council-owned private rental housing on public land. The council plans to run a profit-making housing business in an area of deprivation and housing need.

“We want more council housing, not private housing. The council just wants to make money,” said a resident in a consultation initiated by local activists. Other responses pointed out the gentrifying implications of the proposed development. “People in this area can’t really afford it. It will bring people from outside. We’ll be the next Shoreditch. It’s not fair on the people here,” said one resident.

Lewisham proposes to build, in collaboration with a private company, a rental development on land that previously held social housing. The re-developed site, which is currently empty, will offer no social housing at all. Rather, all the housing units will be let out on the private housing market, 65 per cent at market rent and 35 per cent at an ‘affordable’ rent requiring a household income of about £40,000. None of the residents will be taken from the local housing list, making it a clearly gentrifying project in an area desperately in need of low income housing. Instead, both the private partner and the council will make a profit from the development.

Realising that Lewisham planned to avoid full consultation until the contract with the private partner had been signed, a group of local residents decided to initiate their own consultation. The survey showed a strong majority against the development, and revealed that most local residents were unaware of the new type of privatised, profit-making housing being planned on their doorstep. Most respondents expressed a preference for council housing or at least, as one resident put it, “Houses that people can really afford on average Lewisham incomes and spaces they can rent at below market prices.”besson-street-view

The report on the consultation, carried out by local group A Better Besson Street, points out that this new form of privatised council-owned housing at a time of housing crisis comes in response to Conservative government calls for councils to be more ‘entrepreneurial’, rather than in response to the needs of local residents. Lewisham claims in return that they will offer a better service than most private landlords, and say that rent rises will be capped, though it is likely a change of tenant will see rents return to market levels.

Lewisham sees Besson Street as a pilot project for a series of private rented sector (PRS) schemes owned or part-owned by the council to be built across the borough. Other councils, including Lambeth, have plans for council-owned PRS projects, but Besson Street may be the first largely profit-motivated development with no social housing included. It therefore marks the beginning of what may be a new trend in local authority housing developments: while the council retains ownership, it is in reality privatising the property by acting as a private business. The community-initiated consultation in New Cross makes clear that most people are opposed to this stealth privatisation and many will be prepared to fight it.

Jacob Stringer is a member of A Better Besson Street. For further information please contact abetterbessonstreet@gmail.com


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry

Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram

Momentum Kids: the parental is political
Momentum Kids is not about indoctrinating children, but rather the more radical idea that children have an important role to play in shaping the future, writes Kristen Hope


55