Manifesto

Architects for Social Housing(ASH) was set up in March 2015 in order to respond architecturally to London’s housing ‘crisis’. We are a Community Interest Company that organises working collectives of architects, urban designers, engineers, surveyors, planners, film-makers, photographers, artists, writers and housing campaigners for individual projects. Tailored to meet specific needs, these collectives 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 being 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 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 estate demolition schemes through designs for infill, roof extensions and refurbishment that increase housing capacity on the estates by up to 50 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 with residents over a period of time, providing them with 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 correct unfounded statements and counter negative perceptions about social housing in the minds of the public, and raise awareness of the role of relevant interest groups – including political parties, local authorities, housing associations, property developers, real estate firms and architectural practices – in the regeneration process. Using a variety of means, including publications, presentations, reports, case studies, exhibitions, films and protests, we are trying to initiate policy change within UK housing.

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 projects, please get in contact.

E-mail: info@architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk

Facebook: ASH (Architects for Social Housing)

Events: www.opengardenestates.com

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

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

 

Saving Northwold Estate: The Design Alternatives to Demolition

northwold-axosm.jpg

The Northwold estate in Hackney has around 580 homes. Built in the 1930s, it was extended in the 1950s, and in 2009 the estate stock-transferred to the Guinness Partnership housing association. In 2016 Guinness announced it was going to regenerate the estate, and subsequently planned to demolish and redevelop half the estate. In September 2016 residents invited Architects for Social Housing into their Love Northwold campaign. Over the next 9 months we worked with residents to try to save their homes, advising them on the tactics that would be employed against them and some of the things they might want to do and not do in setting up their campaign.

As part of this community support we published several articles making the Save Northwold campaign known to a wider audience, with The Future of Northwold Estate being read by over 1,800 people, and The Consultation Game exposing the Guinness Partnership’s pre-consultation plans for the partial demolition of the estate and the financial motivations for doing so. We also held several open meetings with residents, the first in November 2016, when we discussed what estate ‘regeneration’ would mean for residents, and another in April 2017, when we presented the alternatives to demolition, as well as numerous smaller meetings with campaigners. Finally, with the collaboration of architect Douglas Wong and the Architectural Workers, ASH produced a preliminary design alternative to the planned demolition of half the Northwold estate.

Our design alternatives for infill development on disused land and roof extensions on top of existing blocks found space for 245 additional flats, with the refurbishment of 18 disused flats, for a total of 843 homes. This compared with the 846 properties proposed by TM Architects, who had been employed by the Guinness Partnership to push through the demolition of 154 existing homes and the construction of 420 new properties. However, unlike their redevelopment proposals, ASH’s design proposals achieved this 42 per cent increase in the housing capacity of the estate without demolishing a single existing home or evicting a single one of the current residents. This would allow the tenure of the new flats to be for social rent, rather than the market sale and affordable rent properties required to replace the 154 demolished homes.

In February 2018 the Guinness Partnership announced that it had scrapped its plans to demolish the Northwold estate, and were now looking at building 100 new homes using available land without demolishing the existing buildings. ASH received no payment for the hundreds of hours of design, written and community work we put into this campaign: neither from the Guinness Partnership, who appear to have adopted the principles of our design alternatives to demolition, nor from the Love Northwold campaign. But before history passes over it, we thought we’d recall how we helped save the Northwold Estate.

Photographs of ASH’s consultation with resident in April 2017 are by Alessia Gammarota

Architects for Social Housing

Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (no. 10383452). Although we do occasionally receive minimal fees for our design work, the majority of what we do is unpaid, and we have no source of public funding. If you would like to support our work financially, please make a donation through PayPal:

 

What is Community-led Housing? Proposal for a Co-operative Housing Development

ASH, Brixton Gardens, architectural rendering by Leonie Weber

Brixton Gardens, architectural rendering by Leonie Weber

What is ‘community-led housing’? The phrase is used these days with increasing frequency, but what does it mean? How can it embrace the resource and advice hub set up by the London Mayor to build more affordable housing, and which has just been allocated £38 million of funds, and, at the same time, proposals made by campaigners trying to save the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Lewisham, which has been condemned to demolition and redevelopment by a council and housing association acting with the financial support and planning permission of the same London Mayor? Beyond its rhetoric of government decentralisation and resident empowerment, what does ‘community-led’ mean in practice? Is it an initiative by London communities in response to the threat to their homes of estate demolition schemes implemented by councils in which they no longer have any trust? Is it emblematic of the kind of initiative envisaged by the former Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, in his image of a Big Society that takes back responsibility for housing UK citizens from the state and places it in the hands of entrepreneurs, whether small developers or housing co-operatives? Is it a way to relieve London councils of the responsibility for housing their constituents? Is it just another term in the increasingly duplicitous lexicon of Greater London Authority housing policies designed to hand public land and funds over to private developers and investors under the guise of being ‘community-led’? Or is it a genuine, if limited, solution to London’s crisis of housing affordability, one that will finally build and manage at least some of the homes in which Londoners can afford to live? In this article we address these questions through looking at ‘Brixton Gardens’, a proposal for a co-operative housing development that was made last year by Architects for Social Housing in partnership with the Brixton Housing Co-operative.

Continue reading “What is Community-led Housing? Proposal for a Co-operative Housing Development”

The Business of Homelessness: My Container UK Ltd

On 30 August 2017 Martin McGrail and Stacy Reed incorporated My Container UK Ltd, which lists its business on the Companies House website as the ‘Construction of commercial buildings’, and for which they are both Directors: McGrail the Managing Director, Reed the Operations Director.

The following year, on 4 June 2018, they incorporated Gorilla Holdings Ltd, for which they are the two Directors, with an equal share of the 100 shares. Its business is listed by code 64209, which is a company primarily engaged in holding or owning securities of other companies for the purpose of controlling their activities.

On the same day McGrail and Reed incorporated another one of these other companies, UK Land & Assets Ltd, which lists its business as ‘Other letting and operating of own or leased real estate’, and for which, once again, they are the two Directors.

The following day, 5 June 2018, they also incorporated Brass Monkey Brewery Ltd, which lists its business as ‘Public houses and bars’, and for which they are two of the four Directors. In December 2018 the company opened a craft ale and artisan gin bar opposite both Hillsborough Park, which hosts a large inner-city music festival, and Hillsborough Stadium, the home to Sheffield Wednesday FC. Of the other two Directors, one is Robert Johnson, the Labour councillor for the Hillsborough ward who sits on the Council’s Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee, and is also the council’s representative on the Together Housing Local Panel.

A month before the bar opened, on 7 November 2018, McGrail and Reed additionally incorporated My Sleeper Ltd, a subsidiary of My Container UK Ltd, which also lists its business as ‘Construction of commercial buildings’. Once again they are the two Directors, although Reed resigned on 24 January 2019, the same day he also resigned from Gorilla Holdings Ltd, presumably because that same month Reed took up an appointment as Construction Manager at FM 247 Group (UK) Ltd.

All five of these companies list the same address: Suite 4G, Goods Wharf, Goods Road, Derbyshire, Belper, England, DE56 1UU.

Continue reading “The Business of Homelessness: My Container UK Ltd”

Policy SD10: Social and Racial Cleansing in the Draft New London Plan

Figure 2.19, Strategic Areas for Regeneration, Policy SD10 Strategic and local regeneration, Draft New London Plan

A. Boroughs should:

  1. Identify Strategic Areas for Regeneration (see figure 2.19) in Local Plans based on a thorough understanding of the demographics of communities and their needs
  2. Seek to identify Local Areas for Regeneration taking into account local circumstances.

B. Development Plans, Opportunity Area Planning Frameworks and development proposals should contribute to regeneration by tackling spatial inequalities and the environmental, economic and social barriers that affect the lives of people in the area, especially in Strategic and Local Areas for Regeneration.

– Policy SD10, Strategic and local regeneration, Draft New London Plan

‘Spatial inequalities’, the latest euphemism in the lexicon of social cleansing, and the key term in Policy SD10: Strategic and local regeneration of the Draft New London Plan, is an interesting one. It maps the cause of economic inequality – i.e. capitalism – onto an area with the potential for ‘value uplift’ – i.e. gentrification. Crime, drug-abuse, anti-social behaviour, broken families, teenage pregnancies, and all the other blights with which middle-class ideology fills the phantasmagorical space of working class existence, has been identified as endemic – not to poverty, which would imply a criticism of capitalism, but to working-class ghettos.

The ‘ghetto’, of course, was originally a neighbourhood of sixteenth-century Venice where Jews where isolated and contained; and there’s an instructive comparison to be made to the late nineteenth-century notion of ‘Lebensraum’(living space), which argued that the German nation needed – and had a right to – the lands to the east in order to expand. In the 1930s this was used by the Nazis to justify their deportation of mostly working-class Jews and Slavic peoples from Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Czechoslovakia and other nations to the East (i.e. into camps) and the repossession of their lands and homes.

In a similar application of geo-political land grabbing and social cleansing, the London Plan is arguing that the way to eradicate ‘spatial inequality’ from Inner London is to deport the poor from their ghettos and resettle them, once again, to the East – which in our case also includes the North – then subject their homes and the land they are built on to ‘regeneration’ (i.e. demolition and redevelopment as high-value property). In this reconceptualisation of urban space, it is the location that constitutes what is referred to as the ‘poverty trap’, not the economic relations of capitalism or the welfare policies of the state.

Of course, we’re not carting the poor off in cattle trucks and placing them in concentration camps – not yet; we’re merely forcibly evicting them from their homes and communities in London and relocating them in temporary accommodation in Margate, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle. But the principal of identifying the poor geographically as a ‘problem’ and providing a ‘solution’ that forcibly relocates them is the same. And just as it was in Berlin in 1933, in London in 2019 ‘the poor’ is also a racial categorisation, disproportionately including, as it does, not just London’s longstanding black and Asian population but the more recent influx of migrants from Eastern European and the Middle East.

In the imagination of the middle classes, which struggles to distinguish between politics and aesthetics, the city must repeatedly be cleansed of alien bodies: the poor, the black, the brown, the foreign, the ugly, the unhealthy, the disabled. Think of all those Nazi propaganda films in which ‘the Jew’ is identified with inner-city poverty, rats and disease, as a blight or stain on the rural, clean, productive Aryan body. Or, more contemporaneously, think of the eviction and deportation of what both Israeli and Western propaganda depicts as the lazy, backward, ‘Eastern’, criminal, terrorist Palestinians and Bedouin from their demolished villages in the Naqab and the West Bank.

The dark-red areas on the Policy SD10 map identifying ares of London to be ‘regenerated’ of ‘spacial inequality’ are the equivalent of that stain, something to be socially cleansed from the city, a foreign infestation to be eradicated, a disease in the body politic that needs to be cured, a problem in need of a (final) solution. As such, the strategies of regeneration in the Draft New London Plan are a continuation of the disastrous housing policies published by the London Mayor, which we have commented on before. This article is ASH’s response to the ideological justification for this New London Plan, which is a geo-political blueprint for the social and racial cleansing of London.

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing

The Carpenters Estate: A Fresh Start or Business as Usual at Newham Council?

Photograph by Alessia Gammarota

On the 27 October 2018, at a meeting between members of the Focus E15 Campaign and Rokhsana Fiaz, the Mayor of Newham, and members of her new administration, it was agreed that Architects for Social Housing would make a presentation to Newham council on the financial, social and environmental benefits of estate refurbishment and infill versus the costs of demolition and redevelopment. This presentation would present the findings from our report, The Costs of Estate Regeneration, which we had published in September and have since been presenting to various organisations across London. These included the inaugural Festival of Maintenance held at University College London; at a meeting of the Tulse Hill branch of the Labour Party; at a GovDesign meeting on Repair, Renovation and Maintenance; and to Len Duvall, the Greater London Authority Member for Greenwich and Lewisham and Leader of the Labour Party in the London Assembly. We have also been invited to present its findings to the Government’s Planning Advisory Service forum on Planning, Housing and Affordable Homes, which will be attended by council leaders, regeneration and planning officers from Brent, Havering and Merton in London, Milton Keynes, South Cambridgeshire, Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Southampton, West Dorset and other local authorities.

At the Newham council meeting the Mayor stated that she would be making a public announcement about the Carpenters estate in early December. We were pleased to note the Mayor’s commitment to consider all the options for the regeneration of the estate before proceeding, but concerned that the information on the costs of refurbishing the estate on Newham council’s website was inaccurate. On 8 November we wrote to Deborah Heenan, the Major Projects Director at the London Borough of Newham, to propose a meeting at which we could present our more accurate findings and discuss the possibilities available to the future of the Carpenters estate that are both financially viable to the council as well as socially and environmentally beneficial to residents and constituents.

Following on from our subsequent telephone conversation on 21 November, I wrote to Ms. Heenan explaining that it would be very useful for us if, prior to our meeting with Newham council, we could have clarification on a number of issues for which the information has not been made public. ASH has developed design alternatives to demolition for 6 housing estates in London, and on every one we were able not only to increase their housing capacity by around 50 per cent, but also to increase the supply of homes for social rent, rather than demolishing and replacing them with market sale, shared ownership, rent to buy and other forms of so-called ‘affordable’ housing required by the huge costs of demolition and redevelopment in today’s market. In order to better advise the new Mayor on the possibilities of refurbishment and infill on the Carpenters estate, therefore, we requested the following information.

Continue reading “The Carpenters Estate: A Fresh Start or Business as Usual at Newham Council?”

Homes for Londoners? Sadiq Khan’s Record on Housing

sadiq-khan-for-london

‘The housing crisis is the single biggest barrier to prosperity, growth and fairness facing Londoners today. I’ve found that, both as a MP, and throughout my campaign to be Mayor of London, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to business leaders, local residents, charities or community groups: far and away the biggest issue across the board is London’s housing crisis. The city’s shortage of decent and affordable homes is causing real misery to millions of Londoners, and damaging London’s competitiveness.’

– Sadiq Khan, Homes for Londoners, March 2016

Very few politicians deliver the promises they make when campaigning to be elected to office; none have ever improved on them. With the charity Shelter announcing that 170,000 Londoners would be homeless this Christmas, the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in a letter leaked to the Guardian newspaper, responded that he was ‘considering’ introducing rent controls in 2019. This May Sadiq Khan will have been Mayor of London for two years, so now seems like a good time to assess the gap between what he promised voters in March 2016 and what he has delivered to address London’s housing crisis.

In his election manifesto Sadiq Khan promised to build 50,000 new homes in the capital every year of his administration; he promised to maximise the affordable housing in new developments; he promised to build new social housing and other ‘genuinely affordable’ homes; he promised to support councils and housing associations to build them; he promised to grant funding and planning permission to estate demolition schemes only when it has resident support and it does not result in the loss of social housing; finally, he promised to ‘tackle’ the source of homelessness. He promised a lot more besides, but that’s enough to be going on with. So let’s look at how the man Time magazine last year included in its list of the ‘World’s 100 Most Influential People’ has met these promises. The Mayor’s policies on housing are published under the title of Homes for Londoners. Here are the three most important.

Continue reading “Homes for Londoners? Sadiq Khan’s Record on Housing”

ASH Christmas Carol

At the first stage of Regeneration
My council promised me
Resident-led is what this will be

At the second stage of Regeneration
My council promised me
Transparency
Resident-led is what this will be

At the third stage of Regeneration
My council promised me
High density
Transparency
Resident-led is what this will be

At the fourth stage of Regeneration
My council promised me
Refurbishment
High density
Transparency
Resident-led is what this will be

At the fifth stage of Regeneration
My council promised me
DE-MO-LIT-ION
Refurbishment
High density
Transparency
Resident-led is what this will be

Continue reading “ASH Christmas Carol”