MP tells developer to beware of council's 'social cleansing'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Development, Housing
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A Labour MP has warned a major housebuilder that its proposed joint venture with a London council will involve it in "social engineering".
Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith, has written to developer Stanhope over its planned deal with Hammersmith and Fulham Council for the development of luxury flats after the demolition of "hundreds and possibly thousands" of council homes.
In a letter to the firm's CEO, David Camp, the MP warns that Stanhope risks losing its corporate reputation if it proceeds with the scheme.
Noting the company's claims to social responsibility, Slaughter outlines a number of issues he believes have put the council in an ethically poor light which could damage Stanhope's reputation, including:
- That the council’s investment in the joint venture comes partly from its decent neighbourhoods programme which was funded by selling more than 200 vacant homes over four years, raising £90 million. A further 80 are being sold at present.
- That it has kept 150 flats in the first phase of the JV empty for up to four years, all of which will now be demolished and permanently lost as council properties.
- That the 'low-cost' third of the new flats that will be for 20% discount market sale would be unaffordable to anyone on even several times average income even if discounted by 50%. The borough's average property price is currently £693,000.
In the letter, Slaughter wrote: "The effect of this policy so far is several hundred council homes sold or demolished and not one new one built. Council planning policy does not permit the construction of new social housing except to replace existing stock, but even this concession is generally ignored, as here.
"Nothing could be further from the return of councils to housebuilding, unless building for the investment market is what the Government intended. Meanwhile, there are thousands of families in overcrowded or unfit housing, both council and private tenants, and hundreds being forced, by benefit cuts or landlords wanting higher rents, to move out of the area.
"Using the sale of vital affordable homes to enable the demolition of others and building unaffordable developments in their place is not regeneration, it is social engineering, and no respectable developer should associate themselves with such pernicious, politically-motivated activity."
"Huge public opposition to estate demolition schemes, such as that still proposed for West Kensington but dropped for the time being at White City and elsewhere, has made the council change tactics. Now it appears they prefer the incremental but continual redevelopment of council housing as private estates through the vehicle of the JV. I have no doubt however that this will prove just as unpopular with my constituents."