Unite Community is launching a London-wide campaign bringing together residents whose estates are threatened by regeneration schemes which divide communities and force families from the areas they have called home.
Unite has been actively fighting to defend affordable and council homes in London including opposing the social cleansing of the West Hendon estate, raising the plight of residents facing eviction from the New Era estate in Hoxton and Sweets Way in Barnet and backing the E15 campaigners in Newham.
“Across London we are seeing a wave of so called ‘regeneration’ of council and social housing estates,” explains Pilgrim Tucker, Unite community coordinator.
Councils, in partnership with private property developers, are demolishing existing estates and building new residential developments in their place.
“A high proportion of the flats being built are for private sale. The number of homes available to rent at genuinely affordable prices for people on low to middle incomes vastly reduced,” she added.
The benefits to property developers from such schemes are enormous, with access to prime London land and billions in profits to be made from the new developments while the costs to local communities affected by the estate regenerations are devastating.
Residents – social tenants as well as leaseholders – in the old estates are forced from homes they may have lived in for decades. Unable to find a home they can afford in the local area many families are forced out of London altogether.
“This is being called the ‘social cleansing’ of London, where those on low incomes are driven out of the capital by housing costs,” says Pilgrim.
This is made worse by the fact that where social homes are being replaced, they are likely to be rented at the new so called ‘affordable rent’ levels – 80 per cent of market rents – totally out of reach for those on low-middle incomes in many areas of London.
“The Hands off London event will act to launch a London-wide campaign, led by residents and supported by Unite,” added Tucker.
Residents who are fighting to save their homes have so far been running their campaigns largely in isolation from each other.
“We want to unite all these residents, fighting for the same thing, to keep their homes, in order to shine a light on what is happening to our city. At a local level we’ve been providing resources and media support for their campaigns.”
Many thousands of social rented homes have already been lost through this type of estate regeneration. Recent rapid extension of such schemes means many thousands more will be lost in the imminent future.
“Politicians, especially the next London Mayor, will have to take note. They need to protect local communities, keep residents in their homes and prevent any more of these destructive schemes taking hold,” she added.