Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

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

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum