1. The Tory Housing Crisis
‘A new world of energy innovations: E.ON’ – is the advertisement that pops up on screen when I go to download the agenda for this year’s Labour Party Conference, obscuring the information behind. I guess it’s appropriate in a way, since its to E.ON – one of the world’s largest electric utility service suppliers with total assets of €55.95 billion – that Labour councils like Lambeth are binding residents of estate redevelopments such as Myatts Field North on obligatory 25-year contracts, and whose district heating system was judged to be ‘not fit for purpose’ by Fuel Poverty Action. But what a wonderfully apposite token of the sort of public-private finance initiatives that are at the heart of Labour’s plans for ‘Rebuilding Britain: for the many not the few’ – as this year’s marketing line puts it.
When I’d clicked the corporate advertisement away and could see the timetable of events, it took me a while to find the policy session on Housing. Well, it was partly about housing, combined with Local Government and Transport in a seminar, and was held concurrently with two other policy sessions between 8.15 and 9.30 on Tuesday morning. I bet they were turning the crowds away from that one.
I also found, on Tuesday’s fringe timetable, a meeting being held at 5.15pm today titled ‘How Can Housing Associations Reconnect With Their Social Purpose?’ It was hosted by London & Quadrant Housing Association, which was responsible for the first redevelopment site of the Aylesbury estate, Albany Place, where 2-bedroom properties went on sale for £550,000; for the demolition, redevelopment and privatisation of the Haggerston West and Kingsland estates, which resulted in the loss of 148 homes for social rent; and which is currently engaged in the demolition, redevelopment and privatisation of the 178 homes on the Excalibur estate, and their replacement with 371 new properties, of which 143 will be for private sale, 35 for shared ownership, 15 for shared equity, and 178 for affordable rent.
Speakers at this meeting included John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, whose recent Green Paper on Housing has made it clear that a Labour government would hand over responsibility for so-called ‘affordable’ housing provision to housing associations such as L&Q; James Murray, the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development at the Greater London Authority, where he is presumably helping to draft housing policy that has been specifically designed to expand and fund the demolition and privatisation of council estates; Andy Brown, the Chief Operating Officer at London & Quardrant; and Councillor Peter John, the newly elected Chair of London Councils and long-standing Leader of Southwark Council, which is at the forefront of Labour’s estate demolition programme, the man who signed off the demolition of the Heygate and the Aylesbury estates, and who is intent on demolishing a swathe of estates along the Old Kent Road Opportunity Area. For those of you still in doubt, this is what the Labour Party means by ‘social purpose’.