A BBC 1 documentary on Barnet's Conservative-run council's controversial regeneration of the West Hendon estate has brought national attention to the eviction of hundreds of families to make way for 1,500 luxury flats, an act that has been described as "social cleansing".
"The Estate We're In", which aired last night (Tuesday 15th March), filmed residents fighting to stay in their homes over the last year. The programme also highlighted that:
- Barnet council sold the estate land to private developer, Barratts, for £3 despite it being valued for £12.3m on the basis that all 680 social rented homes would be replaced and that all residents would be re-housed in the new development on a like-for-like basis.
- The scheme was later revised because the developer claimed it was no longer viable, and the social rented homes were reduced by 430 (63%).
- Tenants who bought their homes on the estate under the Right to Buy have been offered significantly less for their properties then the cost of the new homes in the development, and hardly any of them can now afford to remain on the estate.
- Non-secure tenants who were housed on the estate after 2002 are also being forced to move - some of them outside Barnet, and even London.
- The new housing for social tenants who are remaining on the estate, Bullfinch House, has been built at the back of the development on a traffic island with no crossing - effectively cut-off from the rest of the development - while the luxury flats benefit from views of the Welsh Harp reservoir nature reserve.
- Many of the luxury flats are being bought as investments rather than as people's first homes.
- Over 134,000 people have signed a petition calling for the residents to be allowed to remain in the community that many of them have lived in all their lives
The Labour Group's recently published Housing Commission report sets out that regeneration should always benefit local people first and foremost, and existing residents should always be re-housed in new developments on a like-for-like basis with no loss of social housing.
It also sets out that social tenants and leaseholders should not be ghettoised in new developments, and that viability assessments for developments on council-owned land should always be transparent and public.
In addition the Labour Group proposed replacing the 800 social homes being lost across all Barnet council regeneration projects in their alternative budget earlier this month.
Deputy Leader of the Labour Group and Labour's Housing Spokesperson, Cllr Ross Houston said: "What has happened on the West Hendon estate is social cleansing masquerading as regeneration and it is a disgraceful dereliction of the council's duty to secure community and social benefit when handing over public land to developers for next to nothing.
"We know that Tory Housing Boss, Cllr Tom Davey is on record in the past saying that those who cannot afford to live in Barnet should move out, and what they want in Barnet is 'Good Conservative voters' .
"The re-development of this estate is a real life example of how people on low incomes are being forced out of their homes and out of the borough to make way for people who can afford luxury flats. As Tory council leader Richard Cornelius acknowledges West Hendon’s Labour councillors have been vociferous in defending residents interests.
"Regeneration should always benefit the existing community first and foremost, and existing residents should always be re-housed on a like-for-like basis, this is being done in other boroughs like Camden. The West Hendon estate regeneration fails on both counts."
Sadiq Khan, Labour candidate for Mayor of London said: "I grew up on a council estate in South London which meant my brothers, sister and I had a stable and secure place to call home. We had a strong local community when we were growing up - the kind of community that, in Barnet, the Tory council is uprooting on the West Hendon estate.
"If I'm elected Mayor, I'll make sure estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support - and where there are full rights to return for displaced tenants and a fair deal for leaseholders."
1. Details of the BBC programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00t0ydd
2. Press coverage of the programme:
3. Barnet Labour Group Housing Commission report (p24-28) and budget amendment:
4. Sadiq's Manifesto: http://www.sadiq.london/a_manifesto_for_all_londoners
Sadiq’s manifesto says:
Require that estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support, based on full and transparent consultation, and that demolition is only permitted where it does not result in a loss of social housing, or where other all options have been exhausted, with full rights to return for displaced tenants and a fair deal for leaseholders
5. Our West Hendon petition: https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-put-our-homes-before-profit
6. Footage and coverage of Cllr Davey's comments on the affordability of housing in Barnet:
For more information contact:
Deputy Leader, Cllr Ross Houston: email@example.com
West Hendon Councillor, Adam Langleben: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568