Manifesto

Architects for Social Housing (ASH) was set up in March 2015 in order to respond architecturally to London’s housing ‘crisis’. We organise working collectives of architects, urban designers, engineers, surveyors, planners, film-makers, photographers, web-designers, map-makers, artists, writers and housing campaigners that operate with developing ideas under set principles.

First among these is the conviction that increasing the housing capacity on existing council estates, rather than redeveloping them as properties for capital investment, is a more sustainable solution to London’s housing needs than the demolition of the city’s social housing during a housing shortage, enabling, as it does, the continued existence of the communities they house.

ASH offers support, advice and expertise to residents who feel their interests and voices are increasingly marginalised by local councils or housing associations during the so-called ‘regeneration’ process. Our primary responsibility is to existing residents – tenants and leaseholders alike; but we are also committed to finding financially, socially, economically and environmentally viable alternatives to estate demolition that are in the interests of the wider London community.

ASH operates on three levels of activity: Architecture, Community and Propaganda.

  1. We propose architectural alternatives to council estate demolition through designs for infill, roof extensions and refurbishment that increase housing capacity on the estates by up to 45 per cent and, by renting a proportion of the new homes on the private market, generate the funds to refurbish the existing council homes, while leaving the communities they currently house intact.
  1. We support estate communities in their resistance to the demolition of their homes by working closely with residents over an extended period of time, offering them information about estate regeneration and housing policy from a reservoir of knowledge and tactics pooled from similar campaigns across London.
  1. We share information that aims to counter negative and unfounded myths about social housing in the minds of the public, and raise awareness of the role of relevant interest groups, including local authorities, housing associations, property developers and architectural practices, in the regeneration process. Using a variety of means, including protest, publication and propaganda, we are trying to initiate a wider cultural change within the architectural profession.

Whether you are facing the regeneration of your estate and in need of advice, or whether you want to offer your skills, expertise and time to our many projects, please get in contact.

E-mail: info@architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk

Facebook: ASH (Architects for Social Housing)

Events: http://www.opengardenestates.com

Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (CIC). Although we do occasionally receive minimal fees for our design work, the vast majority of what we do is unpaid and we have no source of public funding. If you would like to support our work, you can make a donation through PayPal:

Architects for Social Housing (CIC), company no. 10383452

 

The Costs of Estate Regeneration: A Report by Architects for Social Housing

One of the biggest problems faced by residents informed that their estate is being considered for ‘regeneration’ is the disinformation they are given by the local authority or housing association implementing the process. This is compounded by the consultants employed to relay this disinformation to them; by the council officers who run the resident engagement panels and steering groups designed to persuade resident representatives of the benefits of regeneration; by the professional consultants employed to manufacture resident consensus for what they have been told will happen; by the architects who visualise that disinformation in promises of what regeneration will means for residents; and ultimately by the property developers and other private development partners that will build the new development. For whatever residents are initially told about ‘regeneration’, on estates built on London’s lucrative land, this invariably means the demolition of the existing estate, the redevelopment of new properties at greatly increased densities, and the privatisation of the management and maintenance of the new development.

This problem of disinformation, however, isn’t confined to residents. Housing campaigners trying to resist the demolition of residents’ homes, as well as the journalists who occasionally write about their campaigns, share the same misunderstandings about the costs of estate ‘regeneration’. As a result, such campaigns of resistance are almost entirely confined to ethical arguments about the right of the estate community to continue to exist. These arguments are important, but they are of no concern to the agents of regeneration: either to the developers after the land residents’ homes are built on, or to the council undertaking the process of moving them off it. The registered social landlord, whether local authority or housing association, will make gestures of appeasement towards those rights right up to the moment residents are forcibly evicted from their homes; but those arguments will have little or no influence on what gets built on the land cleared of the demolished homes. What determines that is one thing, and one thing only: the financial costs of demolishing and redeveloping estates.

It is important, therefore, that residents and campaigners understand these costs, and can base their resistance to the estate regeneration programme that is clearing the land for London’s property boom not only on arguments about ethics, but on a clear understanding of what will result from the continued demolition of the city’s housing estates in the middle of a crisis of housing affordability. The financial figures show that, if an estate regeneration scheme begins by demolishing the existing estate – which is current policy for London’s Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat councils, the Greater London Authority and the UK Government – the cost of demolition, compensation for leaseholders and tenants and the construction of new-build dwellings is so high in today’s housing market that the resulting redevelopment will overwhelmingly be made up of properties for private sale, with a hugely reduced number of homes for social rent, increased rental and service charges for existing council tenants, and enormously increased sale prices and reduced tenancy rights for leaseholders.

It is on the basis of this understanding that over the past three years Architects for Social Housing has developed its design alternatives to estate demolition for five London estates, including the Knight’s Walk and Central Hill estates in Lambeth, the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in Hammersmith and Fulham, and the Northwold estate in Hackney. These design proposals increased the housing capacity on the estate by between 35 and 50 per cent without demolishing a single existing home. In addition, the funds raised from the market sale and rent of around half of the new builds meant the other half were able to be allocated as homes for social rent. Finally, the sale and rent revenues from the new builds generated the funds to refurbish and improve the current estate up to the Decent Homes Standard and higher. The ASH model of estate regeneration through refurbishment and infill new development is easily the most socially beneficial and environmentally sustainable option to address the crisis of housing affordability in London; but it is also the only financial option that doesn’t result in the social cleansing of existing residents from their estate and the mass loss of homes for social rent that is being implemented by the estate regeneration programme in its current form.

Continue reading “The Costs of Estate Regeneration: A Report by Architects for Social Housing”

Oy Vey! No Latkes for Labour

Al-Araqib, Naqab

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.’

– Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial

1. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

This is the document, and the definition it proposes, that’s been causing all the trouble for Oh Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, and which the party’s National Executive Committee adopted in full yesterday, 4 September, 2018. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which itself adopted this definition on 26 May, 2016, calls it a ‘non-legally binding working definition of anti-semitism’, which makes me wonder why the Labour Party is so eager to turn it into party policy and perhaps, in the unlikely event they form a government, British law. But even as a non-legal document this is a mess from start to finish. The basic definition above is pretty irrefutable: that anti-semitism is the rhetorical or physical expression of hatred against Jews based on negative perceptions about Jewish identity; but when the document goes on to list what it calls guiding ‘illustrations’ of anti-semitism we get into all sorts of unrelated statements that are neither logically consequent upon nor illustrations of the basic definition. It’s been the refusal of the Labour Party to adopt these ‘illustrations’ in full and without question that has been the occasion for the accusations of anti-semitism against Labour in general and Oh Jeremy Corbyn in particular, and which yesterday’s abject concession was meant to silence.

Quite apart from the extraordinary arrogance of expecting any organisation, let alone the largest political party in Europe, to adopt any document in full and without question – as if it were carved in two tablets of stone by the burning finger of Yahweh and brought down from Mount Sinai – the problems begin with the equation of being Jewish with the State of Israel. So we get off on the right foot, let’s be clear that being a Jew is not the same as being a follower of Judaism, since many Jews are secular; but for a lot of people Jews are a race (although there’s no biological basis to that claim) and perhaps a culture (although how that encompasses, say, Ethiopian Jews and Ashkenazy Jews is unclear) or a set of practices (although whether these extend beyond religious rituals and a fondness for gefilte fish is also in question); while the State of Israel is, of course, a country created by the United Nations in 1947 from the British Mandate of Palestine.

Continue reading “Oy Vey! No Latkes for Labour”

Calling All Architects: New Approaches to Old Housing

This article is based on separate video conference interviews conducted by Emily Schmidt in October 2017 with Geraldine Dening and Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH), architect Frédéric Druot, and Graeme Stewart and Ya’el Santopinto of ERA Architects and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R).

Emily Schmidt and Rosalie Genevro, ‘Calling all Architects: New Approaches to Old Housing’, in Housing as Intervention: Architecture Towards Social Equity, guest-edited by Karen Kubey, Architectural Design, vol. 88 (July/August 2018)

Memorial for Grenfell

After JAA Studio

Image after JAA Studio

Private contractors and consultants on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment

  • Mark Allen, Technical Director of Celotex, and member of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee
  • Deborah French, UK Sales Manager, Arconic
  • Ray Bailey, Managing Director, Harley Facades
  • Bob Holt, Director and Executive Chairman of Lakehouse services
  • Bob Greene, Technical Contract Manager, RGE Services
  • Roger Greene, Managing Director, RGE Services
  • Chris Train, Chief Executive, Cadent Gas
  • Andrew McQuatt, Partner, Max Fordham engineering, and Lead Engineer on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment
  • Mark Palmer, Senior Partner, Max Fordham engineering, and Senior Engineer on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment
  • David Lloyd Jones, Founding Director of Studio E Architects
  • Andrzej Kuszell, Founding Director of Studio E Architects, and lead architect on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment
  • Mark Mitchener, Managing Director, Rydon Construction
  • Jeff Henton, Managing Director, Rydon Maintenance, and Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • Robert Bond, Group Chief Executive, Rydon, and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building
  • Philip James Boulcott, Director and Chartered Quantity Surveyor, Artelia UK
  • Ian Bailey, Director and Public Sector Lead, Artelia UK
  • Carl Stokes, Fire Safety Consultant on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment

Board Members and directors of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation

  • Simon Brissenden, independent Board Member, KCTMO
  • Anthony Preiskel, independent Board Member, KCTMO and Non-Executive Director of the Homes and Communities Agency
  • Paula France, council-nominated Board Member, KCTMO
  • Judith Blakeman, Labour councillor and council-nominated Board Member, KCTMO
  • Maighread Condon-Simmonds, Conservative councillor and council-nominated Board Member, KCTMO
  • Fay Edward, Chair and Resident Board Member of the KCTMO
  • Claire Williams, Project Manager on Grenfell Tower refurbishment, KCTMO
  • Laura Johnson, Director of Housing, KCTMO
  • Sacha Jevans, Executive Director of Operations at the KCTMO
  • Yvonne Birch, Executive Director of People and Performance at the KCTMO
  • Barbara Matthews, Executive Director of Financial Services and Information and Communication Technology at the KCTMO
  • Robert Black, former Chief Executive of the KCTMO

Councillors and officers on Kensington and Chelsea council

  • John Allen, Building Inspector, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council
  • Vimal Sarna, Senior Solicitor at Legal Services, RBKC
  • Michael Clark, Director for Corporate Property and Customer Services, RBKC
  • Jonathan Bore, Executive Director for Planning and Borough Development, RBKC
  • Nicholas Holgate, former Chief Executive and Town Clerk, RBKC
  • Elizabeth Rutherford, former Member of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • Adrian Berrill-Cox, former Member of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • Eve Allison, Member of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • Will Pascal, Member of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • Matthew Palmer, Member of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • Kim Taylor-Smith, Member of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee and current Deputy Leader, RBKC
  • Tony Holt, former Vice-chairman of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • David Nicholls, Vice-chairman of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • Quentin Marshall, former Chairman of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • Sam Mackover, Chairman of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee, RBKC
  • Ruth Angel, Senior Project Manager in Housing Regeneration, RBKC
  • Catherine Faulks, former Cabinet Member for Education and Libraries, RBKC
  • Emma Will, former Cabinet Member for Family and Childrens Services and current Cabinet Member for Education and Libraries, RBKC
  • Paul Warrick, former Cabinet Member for Facilities Management and Procurement Policy, RBKC
  • Timothy Coleridge, former Cabinet Member for Environment, Environmental Health, Leisure and Arts, RBKC
  • Mary Weale, former Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, RBKC
  • Tim Ahern, former Cabinet Member for Planning Policy and Transport, Kensington and Chelsea council, RBKC
  • Warwick Lightfoot, former Cabinet Member for Finance and Strategy, RBKC
  • Gerard Hargreaves, former Cabinet Member for Civil Society and Community Safety and current Chief Whip, RBKC
  • Marie-Therese Ross, Mayor, RBKC
  • Rock Feilding-Mellen, former Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration, RBKC
  • Nicholas Paget-Brown, former Leader, RBKC

Members of Parliament and civil servants

  • Stephen Kelly, Chief Operating Officer for Government and Head of the Efficiency and Reform Group
  • Brian Martin, Principal Construction Professional in the Building Regulations and Standards Division in the Department of Communities and Local Government
  • Andrew Stunell, Construction Spokesperson in the House of Lords and former Parliamentary Under-secretary of State in the Department of Communities and Local Government
  • Ken Knight, Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser for England
  • Richard Blakeway, Chief Adviser to the Housing and Urban Regeneration Unit at Policy Exchange, and Board Director at the Homes and Communities Agency
  • Stephen Williams, former Liberal Democrat MP and Parliamentary Under-secretary of State in the Department of Communities and Local Government
  • James Wharton, Conservative MP, Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for International Development and former Parliamentary Under-secretary of State in the Department of Communities and Local Government
  • Oliver Letwin, Conservative MP, former Minister of State for Government Policy and current Chair of the Red Tape Initiative
  • Eric Pickles, Conservative MP, United Kingdom Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
  • Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP, Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Theresa May and former Minister of State for Housing and Planning
  • Brandon Lewis, Conservative MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party, Minister without Portfolio and former Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Services

Architects for Social Housing

Southwark Sleeper: A New Housing Initiative for London’s Homeless (Or Not)

In exciting news for developers, Sadiq Khan has announced a new package of funding under his Homes for Londoners programme. In collaboration with Southwark council, ‘Southwark Sleeper’ will be test-piloted this winter as a solution to the growing army of London’s homeless. Peter John OBE, Leader of Southwark council and newly-elected Chair of London Councils, told reporters: ‘I’m very excited about this new initiative, which demonstrates once again that Labour is the party of practical solutions. Every homeless family will be offered their very own container, the construction of which by Sheffield-based My Container Ltd will be subsidised by London’s Labour Mayor to the sum of £50,000 per container. All the lucky recipient has to do is clean up the contaminated land on which it will be located.’ When asked whether constituents refusing to be housed in the containers will be classified as ‘intentionally homeless’, Councillor John said he had an urgent business lunch with property developers Lendlease at the London Stadium and ‘couldn’t take anymore questions’.

Continue reading “Southwark Sleeper: A New Housing Initiative for London’s Homeless (Or Not)”

What Is To Be Done? Changing Metaphors of Change

Jean-Luc Godard, La Chinoise (1967)

1. Radical for Revolutionary

During my misspent youth we spoke, however hopelessly – no doubt because hopelessly – of ‘revolution’; even, with an eye to dialectical materialism, of ‘The Revolution.’ I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. But nowadays (except among my communist comrades) the standard appellation among socialists and activists alike, including many self-styled anarchists, is the word ‘radical’, which is used to describe everything from networks, assemblies, meetings, marches, communities, groups and theories, to book fairs, magazines, trainers, pop bands, fitness clubs, restaurants, marketing consultants and advertising agencies. To understand this shift in metaphor – from the turning wheel of revolution to the excavated root of radicalism – it’s useful to consider the origins of this word, both etymological and historical, and why it has been adopted as a viable alternative to the previously revolutionary aims of political practice. This definition is from the Oxford English Dictionary:

Radical / adjective & noun
[Late Latin radicalis, from Latin radix: root.)
A. adjective. 
1. Forming the root, basis, or foundation; original, primary. (Late Middle English)
2. a. Of a quality etc: inherent in the nature of a thing or person; fundamental. (Late Middle English) b. Of action, change, an idea, etc: going to the root or origin; pertaining to or affecting what is fundamental; far-reaching, thorough. (Middle 17th Century) c. POLITICS. Advocating thorough or far-reaching change; representing or supporting an extreme section of a party; specifically: History. belonging to an extreme wing of the Liberal Party. (Early 19th Century) d. Characterised by departure from tradition; progressive; unorthodox. (Early 20th Century)
B. noun.
1.
PHILOLOGY. a. A root; a radical word or letter.

2. A basis, a fundamental thing or principle. (Mid 17th century)
5. A politically radical person. (Early 19th Century)

The political sense of radical as meaning ‘change from the roots’ was first recorded in 1802 (as a noun) and in 1817 (as an adjective) to describe the extreme section of the bourgeois Whig Party, which went on to form the Liberal Party in 1859. It has been used to mean ‘unconventional’ since 1921, and has been used in slang since 1983, derived from 1970s U.S. surfer-slang meaning ‘at the limits of control’.

Continue reading “What Is To Be Done? Changing Metaphors of Change”

The Propaganda of Estate Regeneration: The Lincoln Estate, Poplar Harca and the British Broadcasting Corporation

In April of this year the BBC re-televised its three-part series Dan Cruickshank: At Home with the British, which had originally been aired in May 2016, and was again in May 2017. Halfway through the final episode, ‘The Flat’, which focuses on the history of the Lincoln estate in London’s Bow, Dan Cruickshank jumps into a Black Cab and says:

‘When the Lincoln estate was designed, the London County Council had the largest, and in many ways the finest, architectural practice in the world. Indeed, it was responsible for some of the most iconic modernist housing schemes in Europe.’

So it’s a shame that, when he gets out the cab and speaks to Historic England’s Elaine Harwood, who sings the praises of its housing schemes, he doesn’t ask her why Historic England didn’t see fit to list Central Hill estate, one of the LCC’s masterpieces, and save it from demolition by the vandals at Lambeth Labour council.

Nonetheless, Cruickshank accurately identifies three of the main causes of the decline of council estates in the UK in the late 1960s and 70s:

  1. The poor construction methods of unregulated developers throwing up systems-built housing, leading to the collapse of Ronan Point in 1968;
  2. The systematic neglect and lack of maintenance and refurbishment of buildings by councils;
  3. The obligation of those same councils, following the 1977 Housing Act, to house the homeless, leading to the change in the use of council estates as homes for working class families to becoming dumping grounds for everyone who had fallen through the welfare net and, soon after, Margaret Thatcher’s brave new world of free market capitalism.

What Cruickshank doesn’t identify is the impossibility of any form of public housing existing within the logic of an unregulated capitalist economy that must always find new markets in which to invest its surplus, which is the primary cause of the mass demolition and privatisation of council housing that is happening today.

Continue reading “The Propaganda of Estate Regeneration: The Lincoln Estate, Poplar Harca and the British Broadcasting Corporation”