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.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill


57