LONDON, March 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Residents of
London's public housing blocks will be left without a voice in
construction projects that could demolish their homes unless
drastic changes are made to the Mayor of London's plans,
according to some city politicians and estate residents.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is asking for feedback by March
14 on draft guidelines for development projects on London's
social housing estates - large-scale complexes of apartments
built mostly by government for low income residents.
Khan said projects will have to meet these guidelines to be
eligible for his planning applications support or grants from a
3.15 billion pound ($3.8 billion) fund for London housing.
The plan is intended to "put local people at the heart" of
dozens of schemes reshaping the city's skyline by demolishing or
upgrading housing estates, and guarantee low-income Londoners a
right to remain in central areas, said Khan.
London's estates, many built in the 1960s and '70s, have
become flashpoints in the capital's housing squeeze as local
government-led schemes have bulldozed concrete high-rises to
erect higher density modern developments.
After consulting with residents, Sian Berry, London Assembly
member for the Green Party, said the guidelines are "worse than
useless" and "need rewriting from scratch".
Berry, a member of the assembly's housing committee, said
rules for local governments and developers are too vague to be
enforced, and criticised the mayor for rowing back on a promise
there would be no demolitions without a ballot for residents.
"The mayor's estate guidance draft is extremely
disappointing and puts thousands of homes at risk because it
doesn't offer a way for tenants to have a real say in the
futures of their estates," Berry told the Thomson Reuters
A spokesman for Khan, who grew up on a south London estate,
said the mayor is committed to getting resident support for
projects and will respond to public feedback before guidelines
are published later this year.
Estates across London accommodate more than 660,000
households, according to a report by Savills estate agency.
Academics have criticised the Mayor's guide for failing to
say which housing blocks are defined as estates.
As average London property prices soared 90 percent in the
past decade, more than 30,000 new homes have been built by
estate regeneration schemes, according to the London Assembly
which works with London councils and the government on issues.
While the number of private properties on estates has soared
during these schemes, 8,000 homes rented at below-market social
rates were bulldozed and not replaced, the report said.
A group of academics, activists, and estate residents
convened by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council
demanded an independent "Estate Regeneration Board" be set up to
monitor if regeneration projects met any new guidelines.
Their response said guidelines lacked clear conditions under
which regeneration could go ahead and asked why the guidance is
overwhelmingly written for institutions leading the construction
projects rather than the estate residents it aims to empower.
($1 = 0.8245 pounds)
(Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith;
Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm
of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's
rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and
resilience. Visit news.trust.org)