We do not believe that the current regeneration plans are socially sustainable. Current proposals do not reflect local housing needs at the Elephant & Castle, where there is severe overcrowding and many living in poor housing conditions. The proposed solution to provide more private housing at the high end of the market and reduce the concentration of truly affordable housing, bears no relation to what local people can afford to pay for their housing and has lead to widespread opposition.
The forced displacement of people is deplored when it happens in third-world countries, but in Britain we call it ‘decanting’, ‘regeneration’, and ‘creating a more mixed community’.
During the ‘decant’ of the Heygate estate, 1 in 3 secure tenants were subjected to eviction proceedings^1.
Secure tenants were offered a ‘right to return’ to the new-build Heygate homes once they had been built, but it now turns out that these will be let at levels twice that of council rents. In the meantime, just 1 in 5 secure tenants on the estate have managed to stay living in the SE17 postcode, the rest have been scattered across the four corners of the borough and beyond:
Leaseholders were displaced even further, with some now living as far away as Slough, Dartford and Croydon as this google overlay map shows:
The vast majority of the new private housing is being marketed off plan to overseas buy-to-let investors and offshore companies, many of which are bought as investments and remain empty or are let at unaffordable rents. This will price out many locals, create a transitory demographic of residents and is not conducive to creating a sustainable community.
The recently submitted outline planning application for the Heygate (ref:12/AP/1092) contains no guarantee that the new affordable homes will be affordable to local people. New housing policy has led to the term affordable housing meaning anything but affordable; if there are going to be any new affordable homes in the development then they are likely to cost upwards of £800 per month to rent.
This means that the promises made to rehouse former Heygate residents in the development will be broken, and will result in the creation of segregated community of private housing. This is further exacerbated by the planning application’s Estate Management Strategy, which proposes that the entire 10 hectare footprint comes under the control of a privately-managed ‘Estate Management Company’ patrolled by a private ‘Town Centre Security Team’.
Better Elephant is exploring proposals to retain and refurbish all of the family maisonettes on the estate, and redevelop the surrounding tower blocks within the framework of a Community Land Trust, which will enable families on low incomes to remain living in the area, and ensure that the Elephant remains a truly mixed community.