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

 

Knight’s Walk: The Good Practice Guide to Gentrification

Prior to the launch of the ASH report on Central Hill, which we’re holding in the Residents’ Hall of Cotton Gardens estate in Kennington on 26 April, we thought we’d catch up with what’s happening on Knight’s Walk, the low-rise component of Cotton Gardens that was specifically designed by London County Council architect George Finch for elderly residents or residents with disabilities – and the news isn’t good.

Mae Architects, Proposal to Lambeth Cabinet (October 2015)

In December 2014 Lambeth council placed Knight’s Walk on its six-estate ‘regeneration’ programme and the following February the residents were presented with three options, all of which were for full demolition. In response, residents invited ASH to start working with their campaign in March, when we set about producing design-alternatives to demolition that forced the council to look at other options and ultimately helped save half the estate from demolition. In October 2015, Lambeth council proposed to cabinet the partial demolition of Knight’s Walk according to option Scenario 2D drawn up by Mae Architects. This would entail the demolition of just over half of the existing homes – 18 out of a total of 33 – and the development of 82 new and replacement properties. 1 of these was to be a replacement freehold property and 17 would be replacement homes for council rent; while of the 64 proposed additional properties, 25 were to be for council rent, and 39 for private rent. These figures, however, were described in the proposal (above) as ‘indicative’, and subject to what the council called ‘further detailed analysis’. This was where things stood when ASH last wrote about the Knight’s Walk redevelopment scheme, in which we ended with the warning: ‘Watch this space to see if Lambeth council honours its promises!’

While mid-size estate regeneration schemes such as Central Hill with 475 homes or Cressingham Gardens with 306 homes will take 10 years or more to complete, and large schemes such as the Aylesbury estate with over 2,700 homes several decades from the start of the process to completion, the regeneration of Knight’s Walk is set to start on site in 2019. This allows us to follow the journey from the time the council announced its plans to regenerate the estate to residents in February 2015, through the brief period of resident consultation culminating in the council’s proposal to cabinet that October, and up to the granting of planning permission in March 2018, within a relatively short period of time – in this case 3 years. This provides a more immediate and clearer picture of the practices pursued by councils such as Lambeth in pushing estate demolition and redevelopment through, and therefore of the extent to which current legislation and policy on estate regeneration either enforces their duties as public bodies or, on the contrary, allows them to act like property developers, without any obligation to honour the guarantees and promises they make to the residents whose homes the proposed schemes will demolish. This article, therefore, is not only about exposing the dishonest practices of Lambeth council and the warning the example of Knight’s Walk should present to residents on other estates threatened with demolition and redevelopment, but also about the inadequacy of existing legislation and policy from the UK Government, the Greater London Authority, the political parties whose local authorities are implementing estate regeneration and the councils putting them into practice, in protecting the right of residents to continue living in their communities.

Continue reading “Knight’s Walk: The Good Practice Guide to Gentrification”

Central Hill: A Case Study in Estate Regeneration

Architects for Social Housing (ASH) is pleased to announce the publication of a book-length report based on our work on the alternative to the demolition of the Central Hill estate in Crystal Palace. Titled Central Hill: A Case Study in Estate Regeneration, the report includes not only our designs for the estate’s refurbishment and increase in housing capacity by up to 50 per cent without the demolition of a single existing home, but also our account of why and how these proposals were rejected by Lambeth council, which in March last year announced its intention to demolish Central Hill estate. But despite this decision, which is opposed by 77 per cent of the residents, and which is being repeated on hundreds of estates across London, the refusal of London councils to consider estate regeneration options other than demolition has begun to weaken.

Last November ASH was invited to present our designs for Central Hill and the five other estates we have worked with to the Haringey Council Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel, who are looking into alternatives to the Haringey Development Vehicle, the future of which is now in doubt. Then this February the Labour MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, Andy Slaughter, speaking in the House of Commons, said that ASH’s design alternatives for the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates ‘shows how new development ought to be done’. Most professionals involved in housing will recognise that there is a sea change in attitudes towards London’s estate demolition programme – partly, no doubt, in the wake of Brexit and the consequent fall in the market for the luxury developments being built in their place; but also because of increased awareness of the central place the estate regeneration programme occupies in London’s housing crisis, in which it plays the paradoxical role of both primary mechanism and proposed solution. ASH believes that there is the beginning of the search for an alternative to the current model, one that sees regeneration not in terms of demolition and redevelopment but of maintenance of existing stock and sustainable increase in housing provision.

However, there is nothing, either in current government legislation or in the housing policies of the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat parties, that will stop councils from following the same practices Lambeth council employed to push through their plans to demolish Central Hill estate against both the wishes of residents and the demonstrable social, financial and environmental benefits of the design alternatives. The Greater London Authority’s recently published Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration fails to deliver either target requirements for councils in terms of retaining and building much-needed homes for council and social rent, or the financial support residents need to propose alternatives to demolition, whether refurbishment or infill or both. Central Hill: A Case Study in Estate Regeneration is not only a presentation of what these alternatives can be, but also an example of why and how legislation needs to change for these alternatives to become the enforceable default option for local authorities and housing associations when undertaking the regeneration of a housing estate.

Architects for Social Housing is holding a launch for this report on Thursday, 26 April, from 7-9pm. The venue is the Residents’ Hall of Cotton Gardens estate, the low-rise component of which, Knight’s Walk, has also been consigned to partial demolition and redevelopment by Lambeth council, also against the wishes of residents. We are extending an invitation to a representative from the Lambeth branch of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties, as well as any independent candidates standing on this issue, to come and make a short statement about the concerns raised by the ASH report, and specifically about how to bring about the required changes to existing policy on estate regeneration in local authorities, the GLA and central government.

Please join us for the launch of the ASH report, and add your voice to this debate on issues that will have consequences for the local elections the following week and in the years beyond. Copies of the report can be downloaded from the links below.

Table of Contents

Introduction
1. The Alternative to Demolition
2. Criteria for Estate Demolition
3. Deliverability of the Proposal
4. Transparency
5. The Community
Appendices

If you would like ASH to come and talk to your department, group or organisation about this report, please contact us at info@architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk.

Simon Elmer and Geraldine Dening
Architects for Social Housing

Continue reading “Central Hill: A Case Study in Estate Regeneration”

The Social Realism of the Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn and the Socialism of Fools

Mear One, Freedom for Humanity (2012)

The mural (above) at the centre of the latest publicity disaster to engulf Jeremy Corbyn has been compared to the anti-Semitic depictions of Jews in Nazi propaganda. One Labour Party website has even taken readers through comparisons between the offending mural and historical examples from Der Stürmer (below), a vehemently anti-semitic and anti-communist German tabloid newpaper. However, while this interpretation of the mural, which has been denied by the artist but eagerly embraced by the public, relies almost entirely on the size of the noses of its central figures, the mural makes a far more conscious reference to the history of art that has been entirely passed over by the press, most obviously because it doesn’t fit into the reductive and sensationalist narrative that has been woven about the anti-Semitism of the mural and Corbyn’s initial support for it. Followers of ASH will know that we have no love either for Jeremy Corbyn or for the Labour Party, but the willingness with which our national press and media, as well as our parliamentary parties, have embraced the mob-rule of Twitter to pursue their political ends is something we oppose. Behind the universal accusations of anti-Semitism directed at both this mural and Corbyn there is the collusion of the British establishment in silencing, through ad hominem attacks, unfounded accusations and personal slander that is disseminated without question in the press and repeated across social media, anyone who dares question what is being questioned across the world at the moment – the cultural hegemony of world capitalism.

Continue reading “The Social Realism of the Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn and the Socialism of Fools”

The Duties of an Architect: Regeneration and Gentrification in New Mildmay

‘In carrying out or agreeing to carry out professional work, Architects should pay due regard to the interests of anyone who may reasonably be expected to use or enjoy the products of their own work. Whilst Architects’ primary responsibility is to their clients, they should nevertheless have due regard to their wider responsibility to conserve and enhance the quality of the environment and its natural resources.’

– Architects Registration Board, Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice, 2002

‘Whilst your primary responsibility is to your clients, you should take into account the environmental impact of your professional activities.’

– Architects Registration Board, Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice, 2010

‘Where appropriate, you should advise your client how best to conserve and enhance the quality of the environment and its natural resources.’

– Architects Registration Board, The Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice, 2017

Under Section 13 of the Architects Act 1997 the Architects Registration Board (ARB) was required to ‘issue a code laying down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of registered persons’ (i.e. as architects). It further specified that although failure to comply with the provisions of this code ‘shall not be taken of itself to constitute unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence’, such failure by the architect ‘shall be taken into account in any proceedings against him’ before the ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee. The code itself, which was first published in 1997, specified that architects are expected to be guided in their professional work not only by the letter but also by the ‘spirit of the code’. However, where the 12 constituent standards typically have 4 and up to 8 codes, section 5.1 is the single code on the standard architects should meet when ‘considering the wider impact of their work’.

Continue reading “The Duties of an Architect: Regeneration and Gentrification in New Mildmay”

Thatcherwocky

On the 34th anniverary of the beginning of the miners’ strike, 5 March, 1984

’Twere ’84, and the Tory whores
Did scheme and plot in Parliament:
On strike were England’s collieries,
And the coppers were all bent.

‘Beware Maggie Thatcher, my son!
‘The deeper cuts, the rising rents!
‘Beware the Milk Snatcher, and shun
‘The Conservative Government!’

I took my P45 in hand:
Long time a paying job I sought –
Then saw the view of a soup queue
And stood a while in thought.

And as with coal-black face I stood,
The Iron Dame, in the Law’s name,
Rode roughshod through our mining towns,
And closed them as she came!

Her Boys in Blue, they galloped through,
Our picket lines were charged and snapped!
Now ‘modernised’, she took our lives,
And went triumphant back!

‘Hast thou destroyed the unions?
‘Welcome to our class, O grocer’s daughter!
‘We’ll bury you a Baroness!’
(They shook with noble laughter.)

Three decades on, and Thatcher’s spawn
Are once again in Government;
Society is dead and gone,
And the money’s all spent.

– after Lewis Carroll

West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates: New Homes and Improvements without Demolition. Feasibility Study Report

‘Residents came up with the People’s Plan, which shows the professionals how new development ought to be done. At the outset, Community Homes brought more than 100 residents into workshops and site visits with architects.* Residents and architects together identified space for up to 327 new homes and devised plans for improvements to their homes, streets and community spaces. The plans were costed and valued, and residents were able to show that they could help to pay for improvements and subsidise the building of new homes at social rent levels through sales. Residents from 65 per cent of households provided written feedback on these proposals, and 90 per cent of respondents said that the plans were “excellent” or “good”, and “better” or “far better” than the Capco scheme.’

– Andy Slaughter, Labour Member of Parliament for the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, ‘Social Housing and Regeneration: Earl’s Court and West Kensington’, speech in the House of Commons (20 February 2018)

* Architects for Social Housing

Housing Crisis or Capitalist Crisis? ASH Presentation at the Platypus Society European Conference 2018

The questions we were posed for possible discussion on this panel, even if I were qualified to try and answer them all, would take up the rest of this day at least. So I want to focus on just one question, which I think is coming into sharper focus in the UK, and which relates most closely to what have been ASH’s attempts to propose alternatives to London’s estate regeneration programme. This question is:

‘Why does capitalism appear to produce a housing crisis? And can it be solved in capitalism?’

I chose this question, first, because by proposing that our current housing crisis has been produced it refuses the discourse of ‘crisis’ by which we have been paralysed, and which has made us accept, uncritically and without question, the ‘solutions’ proposed to solve this ‘crisis’, rather than challenging the ends to which it has been produced. One only has to recall that the same terminology has been applied to the financial crisis, the deficit crisis, the benefits crisis, the NHS crisis, the education crisis, the population crisis and (the mother of all crises) the environmental crisis to understand something about how this discourse acts as an instrument of privatisation.

But I also chose this question because it questions the extent to which the so-called solutions to the housing ‘crisis’ are in fact producing and reproducing the very crisis they have been proposed in order to ‘solve’, and in doing so understands our housing crisis not as a failure of capitalism at this particular instant of that seemingly eternally recurring crisis to which it has been doomed almost since its inception, but rather as the instrument of capitalism’s latest colonisation of what housing activists inaccurately describe as a ‘human right’. Indeed, if we wish to understand the mutation capitalism is undergoing as it shifts on its global axis, we could do worse than examine London’s housing ‘crisis’.

Continue reading “Housing Crisis or Capitalist Crisis? ASH Presentation at the Platypus Society European Conference 2018”