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CAMPAIGNERS fighting to stop the sale of a Tottenham housing estate to Australian developer Lendlease show that the London borough of Haringey remains on the front line of the battle to protect social housing.
The defeat of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) was a triumph for local democracy and people power, despite attempts by the likes of the Evening Standard to paint it as a takeover of the council by “hard-left” bullies.
A scheme opposed by the vast majority of the borough’s residents, both local Constituency Labour Parties and both local MPs was taken off the table by a newly elected council following years of campaigning.
That campaigning saw the arrogant and out-of-touch council leadership under Claire Kober forced from office because of their dogged insistence on driving through the handover of £2 billion in public assets to a private developer set on demolishing 17 housing estates.
Kober and her former housing chief Alan Strickland have both now secured jobs in the property development sector, giving rise to the understandable inference that they are being rewarded for their loyalty to it when in public office.
The revolving door between government — at the British state level as well as locally — and lucrative jobs with businesses that profit from public-sector contracts is a scandal Morning Star readers will be familiar with and the next Labour government will need to look at how to end that racket.
But most Haringey residents will simply be glad that councillors who tried to hand their houses to an unscrupulous profiteer from the other side of the world are gone and their elected successors have pledged to respect local wishes on the matter.
The sting in the tail is that, by signing off on another development with the same company that was due to deliver HDV, the outgoing council has sought to tie its successors’ hands.
Labour councillors were whipped to back a development agreement with Lendlease in December and even then 20 either stayed away or left the room to avoid supporting it. Only six of the councillors who supported the plan are still in place.
Lendlease’s record across the rest of the capital is not good. Its redevelopment of the Heygate estate in Southwark saw the loss of 1,200 social homes.
A report last year concluded that every home in the estate had been sold to foreign investors, with Lendlease beginning its sales in Singapore before anyone in this country had a chance to buy one.
The mantra that these sales subsidise “affordable” homes is doubly wrong — first, because at 80 per cent of sky-high market rates the “affordable” designation doesn’t mean anything and, second, because flogging houses to foreign speculators drives market rates, and therefore “affordable” rates as well, ever higher.
Even then, as Haringey Defend Council Housing points out, the Love Lane and High Road West development plan provides for just 30 per cent “affordable” housing, when local policy specifies a 40 per cent minimum.
In their letter to Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, campaigners note that “regeneration should be for the benefit of existing residents.”
But with no right of return for current tenants, this Lendlease scheme looks exactly like the sort of social cleansing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to stop.
Brokenshire should heed campaigners’ appeal and not grant any request to dispose of the estates in question, allowing Haringey’s newly elected council to consult residents on whether the redevelopment is in their best interests.
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