Surprise as Tories Judge that Compulsory Purchases for the Regeneration of Southwark’s Aylesbury Estate Breach Leaseholders’ Human Rights


One of the main blocks on the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, south east London, photographed in November 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).It was with some shock that, two weeks ago, I read the following headline in the Guardian: “Government blocks plan to force out London estate residents.”

The article was about the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, south east London, one of the largest estates in western Europe, built between 1967 and 1977. Labour-held Southwark Council is in the process of destroying the estate, replacing it with new, privately-funded housing in which genuinely affordable flats will be almost non-existent, and ensuring that many of the estate’s residents are socially cleansed out of London — or at least have to move to less desirable boroughs than Southwark.

At the Aylesbury, the council is working with Notting Hill Housing, a former social homebuilder that has enthusiastically embraced the drive towards building private housing and offering unhelpful — and not genuinely affordable — part-rent, part-buy options for former social renters that has been prompted by government cuts.

Astonishingly, this is the same Southwark Council that engaged in social cleansing at Walworth’s other huge estate, the Heygate, for which they were soundly criticised. The estate was sold for a pittance to the Australian developers Lendlease, who are currently building a monstrous new private estate, Elephant Park, which features no genuinely affordable social housing. The Heygate’s tenants, meanwhile, have ended up scattered across south east London, Kent and beyond, as the graph below shows.

A map showing the displacement of tenants from the Heygate Estate in Walworth, south east London.As the Guardian reported, however, an inspector for the department of communities and local government, tasked with investigating compulsory purchase orders required for the Aylesbury demolition to proceed, delivered a highly critical report that was backed by the government, and, specifically, the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, who accepted the inspector’s conclusions on September 16.

The government inspector found that Southwark Council’s “request for permission to issue people on the Aylesbury estate with compulsory purchase orders ‘adopted extremely low valuations,’” as a result of which “residents would ‘need to invest considerable personal resources’ if they were to stay in the area after they were moved out of their homes.”

This, if anything, was something of an understatement, although be honest I find myself bewildered that Southwark Council and Notting Hill Housing were unable to work out that offering, on average, £187,000 to leaseholders on the estate for their properties, while new replacement flats cost £459,000, was going to be perceived as grossly unfair.

And yet that is what has happened. Those renting their homes off the council have no protections, of course, and can be disposed of with impunity, as is happening across London, and up and down the country, as greedy developers and crooked or weak politicians seek to demolish as many council estates as they can, with the developers rebuilding them privately for eye-watering profits.

Leaseholders, however — those who bought their properties as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s sell-off of council housing in the 1980s — thought that they would enjoy the protections of the property-owning class, and were never told that, whenever politicians on the local or national level felt like it, they too would be kicked out of their homes.

Turning down Southwark Council’s plans, Sajid Javid backed the inspector’s findings that, “For elderly residents, who are of an age where they would probably be unable to obtain a mortgage to make up any shortfall and their future earning potential is likely to be limited, using their savings and other investments would severely limit their ability to choose how they spend their retirement.”

The inspector added, “In this regard, the compulsory purchase order would not only deprive them of their dwelling but also their financial security. If they chose not to pursue this option, they would inevitably need to leave the area and this would have implications for their family life, including the lives of those dependent on them.”

The Guardian added that the inspector has also concluded that “it was likely that people of black and ethnic minority backgrounds would be disproportionately affected,” and that all these issues “would lead to an unjustified breach of the leaseholders human rights, which the council could have avoided by seeking a different agreement with the leaseholders,” as the investigative journalist and researcher George Turner noted in a follow-up article in the Guardian.

In passing, I must note that any Tory minister defending human rights can only be regarded as being able to do until his own government succeeds in removing Britain’s human rights obligations, as Theresa May intends.

The Guardian’s initial report also noted that, “According to documents released by the council, the plan to demolish then rebuild the estate would leave about 30% fewer social rented homes and more than four times the number of private homes,” and research undertaken by the newspaper also suggested, as it overwhelming to be expected, that “those let at social rent levels after the rebuild would be more expensive than their current value.”

As well as being a blow to the greed of developers, the government’s intervention should also strengthen calls for properties to be upgraded wherever possible, rather than demolished.

As Eileen Short of the organisation Defend Council Housing explained, “Whether it’s motivated by cynical financial interests, competing interests of other landlords, or fear of the political consequences of attacks on tenants and housing, the government’s decision to block compulsory purchase on Aylesbury is good for council housing. Tenants and leaseholders have fought long and hard against privatisation, demolition and sell-off of the Aylesbury, pushed by governments over 20 years. Councils and ministers need to stop all demolition of good quality council homes and instead invest in existing and new homes to meet the growing and desperate housing need for secure and really affordable council housing.”

In his follow-up article, George Turner provided further details of Southwark Council’s miserliness, explaining that information about the amounts paid by Southwark Council for homes on the Aylesbury Estate were obtained by campaigners under the Freedom of Information Act, which reveal some “very low offers being made and accepted under the threat of compulsory purchase.”

As he explained:

In September 2012, for example, Southwark council paid one leaseholder on the Aylesbury estate £75,000 for a large, 47 sq m, one-bedroom flat. In 2014, the council paid £147,500 for a four-bedroom, 97 sq m maisonette. To put this in some kind of context, by January 2013, the average house price in London had hit £400,000.

On the neighbouring Heygate estate, Southwark council paid an average of £107,000 for a two-bedroom flat. Its purchases on that estate started in 2004, but as late as 2011 the council was still paying £115,000 for a two-bed flat there.

Turner also provided an example beyond Southwark “where councils have been forcing sales at low prices” — specifically, the West Hendon estate in Barnet, where, as the leaseholder Jasmin Parsons explained, “some leaseholders were offered just £90,000 for a one-bed flat and £130,000 for a two-bed maisonette when the council applied for the first in a series of compulsory purchase orders.” Turner added, “This offer was later increased after the leaseholders employed a surveyor to act on their behalf, but still fell far short of the amount required to buy an equivalent home.”

Turner went on to point out that, although “some leaseholders on council estates who bought their property directly from the council would have benefited from the right-to-buy discount” offered under Thatcher’s 1980s legislation, while “[o]thers, who had bought their property off another leaseholder, would not,” the key issue is that “right to buy offered a price which allowed them to move into or stay in their area,” while, in contrast, “[e]state regeneration has offered a price that compels them to move out.”

He then provided further explanations of the problem with compulsory purchases:

In theory, people facing compulsory purchase must be given the market value of their homes. But until now, local authorities, the government and the land tribunal have all backed an approach that has compensated leaseholders based on the average value of homes on the estate to be demolished, not the average value of homes in the wider area. That approach comes with some very obvious problems.

An estate facing demolition is generally the lowest-value housing in any given area, partly because councils will have let the buildings deteriorate, seeing little point in maintaining something that is going to be knocked down. And who wants to buy a home scheduled for demolition anyway?

Another issue facing these leaseholders is that once the council signals its intent to regenerate an estate, it kills the market in the area. That can happen years in advance of a compulsory purchase order being made. Instead, the “market value” becomes the price that leaseholders can get from a single purchaser, the council, which is also their landlord, and the body applying for compulsory purchase.

Given the approach adopted by councils, it is obvious that the amount offered to compensate leaseholders for the loss of their homes will rarely, if ever, be enough for them to afford a home in the area. Unless they can raise significantly more cash to buy back into the redeveloped and more expensive estate, or to buy more expensive housing in the local area, they will be compelled to leave. It is “pay to stay” for leaseholders.

To account for this, councils sometimes offer residents subject to a compulsory purchase order the chance to enter a shared ownership scheme. Having had their property taken from them by compulsion, leaseholders are given the “opportunity” to buy back part of a home on the new estate with the money they have been given, and the privilege to pay rent on the remaining share.

Leaving aside the obvious inequity, for many residents these offers are simply unrealistic. At West Hendon, 85-year-old Adelaide Adams was forced to sell her home for £175,000. An equivalent home on the “regenerated” estate would be £407,000, with service charges of over £2,000 a year. To her it was obvious that, after having spent 30 years on the estate, she was no longer welcome.

Turner called Sajid David’s decision to halt Southwark Council’s compulsory purchase “a change of heart,” although only time will tell if it was merely a blip. It is, however, certainly progress after the this same government “allowed Barnet to compulsory-purchase homes at West Hendon last year and Southwark to go ahead with compulsory purchase at the Heygate and on previous phases of the Aylesbury.”

In conclusion, Turner also pointed out that Sajid Javid’s decision “does not end the government’s support for the controversial policy of ‘estate regeneration,’ and will bring little comfort for those who have gone through the financial brutality it often creates, but it may give some protection to those facing eviction in the future.” He added that the ruling “establishes an important point of principle, which is that while compulsory purchase can force people out of their homes, it cannot force them out of their communities.”

However, as he also noted, the government still wants to bring forward plans to regenerate 100 estates across the UK, and campaigners — and anyone concerned with the importance of providing large-scale and genuinely affordable social housing — needs to be prepared to fight these plans, first announced by David Cameron in January, when, in an article in the Sunday Times, he wrote patronisingly about “sink estates,” making shameful generalisations about life on council estates, and indulging in typical Tory suggestions that poverty is somehow linked to moral turpitude and social dysfunction, rather than being caused by wider economic trends.

“Within these so-called sink estates, behind front doors, families build warm and welcoming homes,” Cameron wrote. “But step outside in the worst estates and you’re confronted by concrete slabs dropped from on high, brutal high-rise towers and dark alleyways that are a gift to criminals and drug dealers. Decades of neglect have led to gangs and antisocial behaviour. Poverty has become entrenched, because those who could afford to move have understandably done so.”

In London, the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor promises a greater emphasis on the importance of social housing, but Theresa May’s new, post-EU referendum government has been quiet on housing so far, and we will have to wait and see what is proposed, although I would be surprised if the greed and class disdain that fuelled David Cameron’s diatribe against “sink estates” will disappear.

Also see below for a letter by a number of housing action groups to the Evening Standard, which ran an article on September 20 entitled, “Aylesbury estate residents ‘elated’ after the Government throws out bid to remove them.” The letter, in response, was published on the extraordinary Southwark Notes website, which has been covering the Heygate story and the wider struggle for social housing in Southwark for many years.

Letter To Evening Standard re: Aylesbury CPO rejection

In Monday’s article (regarding the secretary of state allowing Aylesbury Estate residents the right to remain in their homes in the face of Southwark Council’s and Notting Hill Housing Trust’s socially unjust ‘regeneration’ scheme) important points were missed. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid’s rejection of the compulsory purchase order should shame Southwark. Aylesbury Estate has a large Black and Minority Ethnic population. Javid’s report was clear that the redevelopment scheme will affect these most vulnerable local residents and noted Southwark’s failure to uphold its public sector Equality Duty in this respect.

The article also gave the impression that the leaseholders involved in this case are the last ones left on the estate. In fact, this recent Public Inquiry only relates to the “First Development Site”, a small part of the 60 acre estate. There are still hundreds of residents in the rest of the Aylesbury, watching this case with great interest because their homes are due to be affected by Phases 2, 3 and 4. The scheme if it goes ahead will result in a minimum net loss of 800 affordable council homes further impacting available housing for locals on the housing waiting list. After Heygate Estate’s demolition and replacement by mostly private sale homes, residents are fearful of Aylesbury becoming another Heygate. Campaign groups in Southwark are calling for a moratorium on estate regeneration schemes that are premised on demolition and decanting of residents.

Finally, the statement by Southwark’s head of regeneration states that the regeneration is “supported by the vast majority of residents”. This is not true – the only ballot of residents to date (in 2001) rejected redevelopment with a 73% majority on a 76% turnout. Southwark Council and Notting Hill Housing Trust must now rethink this entire regeneration model and listen to the residents’ needs and desires.

Aylesbury Tenants and Residents First
35 Percent Campaign
Elephant Amenity Network
Fight For the Aylesbury
People’s Republic of Southwark
Southwark Notes
Saving Southwark
Southwark Green Party
Southwark Defend Council Housing

Note: For further information about the Aylesbury Estate, see “The fall and rise of the council estate” by Andy Beckett in the Guardian in July, and also see “It’s hard going for people left behind on ‘sink estates’” by Hannah Layland (from the Guardian in February) about a family trapped in prison-like conditions on one of the Aylesbury’s blocks scheduled for demolition, which was the disproportionate response of the council and the developers to squatters taking over an empty block in 2015. For West Hendon, see the Guardian articles here and here. For the Heygate, above and beyond Southwark Notes, see this article in the New Statesman from 2013, and this from the Guardian at the same time.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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62 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, looking at the surprising news that the Tories’ communities secretary, Sajid Javid, has accepted the conclusions reached by an inspector for the department of communities and local government, who concluded that Southwark Council has been breaching the human rights of tenants on the Aylesbury Estate in south east London, which is being demolished and redeveloped, by offering them derisory amounts for their flats through compulsory purchases – £187,000, for example, when new flats cost £459,000. Southwark has a deservedly poor reputation for defending social housing, having sold the nearly Heygate Estate to the developers Lendlease, whose Elephant Park development includes zero social housing, while the former tenants have mostly had to leave Southwark completely. It is to be hoped that the decision regarding the Aylesbury makes the council – and the developer, Notting Hill Housing – seriously rethink their efforts to destroy the Aylesbury Estate and get rid of those who live there.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    I should mention that Southwark Council is seeking a judicial review to challenge Sajid Javid’s decision:

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    ‘Government-mandated rent rises of 350% will lead to social cleansing’:

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tashi. Yes, this is the disgusting policy branded “pay to stay” – presumably by the same smug people who dismissed the withering effect of greed on young people by describing them as “Generation Rent.” Sadly, it’s proving impossible to unite all Britain’s renters – whether private, council, housing associations or co-ops – to stand up for the principles of social housing. So housing associations have opted out of this, but councils are supposed to be implementing it from April, although no one has yet explained how. Brand-new legislation would be required to allow councils to access details of their tenants’ incomes, and it’s difficult to see that actually coming to pass, as it’s clearly an unacceptable intrusion into people’s privacy. What’s also not been thought out – because this is classic back of the fag packet incompetent Tory cruelty – is what would happen to people with fluctuating incomes, like the many, many self-employed people, but as I say, I’m hoping it won’t – can’t – be implemented.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    ‘The Housing and Planning Act 2016: implications for social housing’:

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Tashi. I wrote about the Housing Act back in May, in ‘The Tories’ Wretched Housing Bill is Passed; Another Step Towards the Death of Social Housing’:

    These were my opening paragraphs:

    Sadly, I never seem to run out of opportunities to berate the Tories for their cruelty and stupidity, and the latest example came on Wednesday evening, when Parliament passed the Housing and Planning Bill, which will do nothing to ease Britain’s chronic housing crisis, and, in fact, contains several developments that will continue the Tories’ malignant obsession with destroying the provision of social housing. This can have only one end result — contributing further to the scale of the housing crisis, which is already unprecedented in my adult life.

    During debates on the bill in the House of Lords, Baroness Hollis of Heigham described the “skeleton Bill” as the worst she had seen in 25 years. “This is a half-baked, half-scrutinised, quarter digested Bill that is not fit for purpose,” she said.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    So what’s our plan?
    “Today I am announcing that we will work with 100 housing estates in Britain, aiming to transform them. A new Advisory Panel will help galvanise our efforts and their first job will be to build a list of post-war estates across the country that are ripe for re-development, and work with up to 100,000 residents to put together regeneration plans. For some, this will simply mean knocking them down and starting again. For others, it might mean changes to layout, upgrading facilities and improving local road and transport links.”
    David Camoron’s own words.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    It is so sad! There isn’t enough housing as it is. Then they ‘regenerate’ what’s left?!
    And they want to charge those in social housing higher rents and put a fixed time limit on their stay!
    The rich are completely out of touch with reality.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    I mentioned Cameron’s “sink estates” speech in my article, Tashi, but it was revealed in February that it was something of a sham – ‘David Cameron’s £140m to tear down sink estates turns out to be a loan’:
    The thing is, there are many Tories who want to keep charging social tenant more and more and making their lives as insecure as so many poor beleaguered private tenants, but I’m hoping things will change. The government needs to learn that it can’t keep screwing money out of people that they don’t have.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m hoping that Theresa May’s unelected replacement for Cameron and Osborne’s discredited government recognises that the policy to date has been cruel – and a spectacular failure. The Guardian ran a promising article last Friday, ‘Housing minister signals change in government social housing policy,’ which began:

    Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell has signalled a small but perceptible change in government policy towards social housing, with an admission that affordable, sub-market renting is vital to help solve the country’s housing crisis.

    At the annual conference of the National Housing Federation, which represents social housing providers, Barwell, appointed housing minister by Theresa May in July, admitted that having fewer homes for sub-market rent has increased the amount of housing benefit being paid to those renting privately.

    He said the housing crisis was not just a problem for those who want to own their own home, but had consequences for everyone. “If more and more people can’t get on the housing ladder, competition for tenancies in the private and social rented sectors will become more and more intense,” he said. “Rents will continue to increase and more working people will need help from housing benefit to pay their bills.”

    Barwell said the government remained committed to helping people on to the housing ladder, but also wanted to “maximise” the number of affordable homes. “We need more homes for sale, we need more homes for private rent, and we need more sub-market homes for rent.”


  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote, in response to 9, above:

    Wow. So sneaky. Lies within lies. At least the moron is gone. Glad they are halting this catastrophe. But … I still feel unsettled about it all. It’s like the calm right before the storm. Something is brewing in the cauldron. They are not going to give up on austerity measures — not without immense pressure.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    I understand your concerns and I share them, Tashi. As a social tenant, I haven’t felt insecure except since Cameron and Osborne got in in 2010 and made it clear that they despised me – and everyone else in social housing. The Tories are currently taking a few steps backwards, but as you suggest, it’s impossible to trust them.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    The main thing in the whole austerity plan is getting rid of social structure and social safety nets. They want to make everyone compete for life and those who can’t, for what ever reason — be damned.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, survival of the fittest, Tashi, back to the horrible situation we had before the NHS, for example, or before the first universal welfare developments began, in the 1870s. The century from then until Thatcher and Reagan was the high point for a belief in the common good – when it wasn’t being hijacked by world wars, or fascists, that is!

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    From the excellent Architects for Social Housing comes this important analysis, ‘Reflections on the Outcome of the Public Inquiry into the Aylesbury Estate Compulsory Purchase Order.’ by Professor Jane Rendell, Director of Architectural Research at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. She was an independent academic witness at last year’s Public Inquiry into the Aylesbury Estate Compulsory Purchase Order, and states that “a key aspect of the evidence I gave was based on a study of the documents circulated to the meeting of the Executive Committee of Southwark Council on 27 September 2005, at which the decision to demolish and rebuild rather than to refurbish the Aylesbury Estate was made.”
    Her analysis continues: “I argued that the information provided to the Executive Committee for that meeting was inadequate and unbalanced, and key designed costings had not been included … Extraordinarily, the information for the option to demolish and rebuild the Aylesbury Estate consisted of a one-page ‘Indicative Cashflow Forecast.'”
    In a crucial passage, Prof. Rendall also examines what appear to have been clearly exaggerated costs for refurbishing rather than demolishing the estate, based on the only costed option that has been undertaken: “The work undertaken by Levitt Bernstein Architects for the south-west corner of the Aylesbury Estate – which was presented to Southwark Council in November 2004, nearly a year before the meeting of the Executive Meeting on 27 September 2005 – also included the only designed and costed comparison between the refurbishment and demolition-rebuild options that I could find. This comparison, which consisted of 3 options for refurbishment and 2 options for demolition-rebuild, showed that – taking as an example a 5-storey block such as 1-68 Chartridge House – the cost of Option 3 for refurbishment to Decent Homes Standard, plus gas removal and structural strengthening, was £3.54 million; whereas the cost of Option 4, for demolishing the block and constructing a new block with the same number of dwellings, was £9.45 million. Even if one estimated the cost of refurbishment at Decent Homes Plus (that is, including new kitchens and bathrooms), then refurbishment remained at 58 per cent of the demolition-rebuild cost, or 41 per cent in the case of those blocks which did not require removal of gas and structural strengthening.”
    In brief, then, the 2004 costings established clearly that:
    “1. Refurbishment of the estate was the cheaper option;
    2. New dwellings could have been added while retaining the existing footprint of the estate.
    However, not only was this information not put before the Executive Committee in 2005, but it appears not to have been taken seriously by the Public Inquiry into the Aylesbury Estate CPO in 2015.”

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    ‘A day in court showed me the misery of Britain’s housing policy’ by Polly Toynbee, the Guardian
    Every 90 seconds last year a renter faced legal proceedings and 99,000 ended up evicted, mainly due to rising rents and housing benefit cuts.

    The social housing tenants miles from home, by Peter Whittlesea, BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme
    Councils, particularly those in London, are choosing to tackle a shortage of affordable social housing by investing in accommodation in other parts of the country. But what is life like for the tenants who are forced to live miles from home?
    “I didn’t have a choice in the matter – I had to move here, or be homeless,” Lavonn Grant explains to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, distraught at her present situation.
    In June, she says, Redbridge Council in London left her with little option but to move 60 miles away to Canterbury in Kent, with her one-year-old daughter, in order to retain social housing.

    Tenant evictions reach highest level on record, Hilary Osborne, the Guardian
    The number of tenants evicted from their homes by bailiffs reached a record high in 2015, according to official figures for England and Wales showing that 42,728 households in rented accommodation were forcibly removed.
    Housing campaigners blamed welfare cuts and the shortage of affordable homes for the 2% rise in repossessions over the year, revealed in figures from the Ministry of Justice. More than half the evictions are thought to have been by private landlords.

    Why the occupation of this empty building highlights the housing crisis, by Frank Freeman, the Guardian
    Camelot is one of dozens of property guardian companies. More and more are springing up. The companies have the potential to make handsome profits out of some of the poorest people who cannot afford commercial rents. And the owners of the empty buildings can secure reductions in the rates they pay to local authorities if they fill these buildings with property guardians.
    Property guardianship can exploit those at the bottom of the housing food chain while making big profits for those at the top of the tree. It has taken off because of the housing crisis and is a symptom of it. Commercial rents are obscenely expensive, especially in London, and the pool of social housing has shrunk to unsustainable levels.
    There are more than a million empty buildings across the UK and a fairer way needs to be found to use them to provide housing for those in need.

    The roots of the UK housing crisis go back to the 1980s, when Conservative Governments sold off social housing, removed rent controls and security of tenure in the private sector, and unleashed a wave of cheap credit to encourage home ownership. This was part of a vision to create a ‘property-owning democracy’, but also a political strategy to attract working class voters and undermine the opposition. It was also designed to disempower local government, who provided most social housing, but received a fraction of the money from sales and were prevented from replacing the homes lost through privatisation.

    Focus E15:

    Here’s how we can translate London’s housing benefit bill into affordable housing, City Metric
    The result is more and more Londoners being priced out of the city, and a rising housing benefit bill, as government pays more and more subsidy over to private landlords – more than £6bn in 2014-15, 15 times more than the annual sum allocated to support affordable house building.
    You have to ask yourself whether this money could be better spent. In No Uncertain Terms, a report published last week by the Centre for London, suggests that it could. Our paper, written by Jamie Ratcliff, argues that developers could borrow money to build more affordable housing, repaying these loans through rent, supported by the housing benefit that would otherwise go to existing landlords.

    Brutal Tory cuts to social housing have led to a £400MILLION benefit bill rise, Daily Mirror
    Mr Healey said: “Six years of failure on housing under Conservative Ministers has led to the number of social rented homes being built falling to the lowest level on record.
    “It’s now clear that George Osborne’s decision to slash housing investment was the opposite of a ‘long-term economic plan’ – saving in the short-term only to pay in the longer term in higher housing benefit costs.
    “It’s also made the shortage of genuinely affordable homes much worse.

    Private firms will never build enough homes: time to invest in social housing, Colin Wiles, the Guardian
    It is universally acknowledged that the UK has a housing crisis. But the whole trajectory of Conservative thinking on housing and planning is towards home ownership and away from “affordable” housing built by councils and housing associations.
    The government’s current housing plans propose spending £42.7bn on a raft of home ownership initiatives and only £2bn on social and affordable homes. This balance should be reversed – it is time to invest in social housing.
    Pumping in money to increase demand without addressing structural supply issues is foolhardy. It simply pushes up prices and makes buying an ever more distant prospect for millions. Is it any surprise that home ownership is at its lowest level for 30 years?
    Despite the urgent need for affordable new homes, most local authorities do not have an up-to-date local plan for new homes, the house-building industry is a semi-cartel and the government continues in its misguided refusal to reconsider even limited development on the green belt, which could help ease constraints in some of the most unaffordable cities in the country, such as Oxford, London and Cambridge.

    Social Housing Under Threat:

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    I could go on and on about this subject, Andy.
    I am glad you are bringing it up, again. It’s really important to many people.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s never far from my mind, Tashi. I don’t get to write about it as much as I’d like, but here, for what it’s worth, is my “housing crisis” archive:

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Anita Gwynn wrote:

    and Millwall, and let’s hope it’s a hattrick with the Reginald Road Flats….. Council chambers tonight 6.30

  20. Andy Worthington says...

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Anita Gwynn wrote:

    Call to action: save the old Tidemill Garden, 6.30, Lewisham Civic Suite, in the council’s HQ, Laurence House in Catford

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    On one hand the Tories claim they want to improve the economy, get rid of social ills and on the other they create a worse environment of instability which creates the very things they wish to abolish. It is my feeling that they know precisely what they are doing and diabolically they go about causing destruction so they can profit from it.
    Lies within lies.
    I am glad you are paying attention to it, Andy. That may help others see the light. Fingers crossed.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    In a quote attributed to Edmund Burke, Tashi, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I do my bit, but my voice is not very loud in the cacophony of largely useless information flying around social media, and, most heinously, the indifference or hostility of the mainstream media. There are a few good journalists, and, at least on occasion, a few good editors, but too many people – and crucially, many of those who regard themselves as liberals – are living with the Thatcher/Blair/Cameron mindset, which encourages self-sufficiency. and minimises the need for a strong state to help the less fortunate in society – “the poor,” who, as I believe Jesus noted, “are always with us.”

  24. damo says...

    There up to something the tories dont care about anyones human rights ……..all this has got to stop its too much were do they think people are gonna live …….well they dont care……..have you seen the news deuchebank is on the verge of collapse if it does ……..big trouble….yet the media isnt reporting

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Damo. Yes, everything continues to be very weird, doesn’t it? I agree in general about the Tories and human rights, of curse, but Southwark is a Labour Council, so that might explain it.
    It looks like there’s serious backing for Deutschebank, so maybe that disaster will be averted:
    I haven’t been paying close enough attention, to be honest, to work out what it’s all about, so I need to look into it. It took me by surprise though. I thought the wobbles would be here in the UK, given our suicidal actions in June!

  26. damo says...

    But i thought labour were ment to on the side of the poor …….i would let that bank collapse ……but it would hurt the poorest as usual and all the people who have strived ………the bag lady is going on about brexit……..lets see wot happens

  27. damo says...

    I just think its so wicked whats going on with all of this …london is in the grip of a chronic houseing crisis and its getting worse im glad this has been halted ……..lets see what happens……..its just so vile ….shafting people who have unlike any tories or blaireites worked hard on low wages to buy a council flat to then be fucked over like that or driven out and dissplaced imagine it your a vulnerable person being dissplaced hundreds of miles away were you know nobody and have no support were are the protests from the public weres the outrage at this blatant social cleansing…….we are faceing another wave of cuts to houseing benefits they havent kicked in yet octtober is the start there could be reductions of up to £50 per week if your in the private sector your fucked i went to an open day about benefit cuts at ealing town hall there was reps from durham council newcastle council offering council tennancys ………you know wot andy im tempted

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, we’re living in a strange world like some sort of dystopian fantasy, Damo, where orange people go shopping all the time and watch reality TV shows featuring not every talented members of the public, where supposed intellectuals enthuse about “art” that has deliberately had anything dangerous or political about it removed, and regard all popular success as an indicator of merit, and where no one’s beating on the gates of power with any vigour or in significant numbers.
    As for the housing crisis, you wouldn’t generally know it exists from what’s in the media. I hadn’t heard before about councils from other parts of the country offering council tenancies, but yes, it makes sense, and it also makes sense for people who can no longer regard London as affordable to take them up on these offers. Why not? perhaps a new life is possible elsewhere. Certainly, if I was younger and single, I’d have been thinking about leaving London for Bristol or Sheffield, to name a couple of options.

  29. damo says...

    Obey….consume…dont ask…dont question…obey…consume…wait for instructions….lets go shopping… the relocation by councils seems like a good idea but i bet the reality is quite differant theres not a lot of jobs so those dissplaced from london are parked up there were there are even less options if your young and single yes you can make a go of it id say if you were you and single wot you doin here go see the world but its harder as you become older …i think the only way to not be at this governments mercy is to not be in the system ….which is easier said than done and for a lot of people theres no chouise

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Damo,
    Yes, the sad truth is that there will be fewer job opportunities in most places outside London and the south east, so I wonder what the logic is. A recognition at some level that people unlucky enough not to have jobs still need a roof over their heads, and that it’s important to manage the housing benefit bill? I wonder. Everything the Tories have been doing suggests not – tightening up the ability to claim benefits, not caring how much homelessness is increasing – but it would actually make sense given the reality of the current situation, in which London and the SE are simply becoming unaffordable while other places have a surplus of unwanted housing.
    I agree, however, that getting the hell out of the UK makes sense for the young, able and single. There’s a whole world out there!
    I’d like to know more about these housing reps, though, Damo. Can you recall what the event was called, and when it took place?

  31. damo says...

    It was an event held at ealing town hall basicaly i recieved a letter from ealing council saying i …….could.. be in danger of loseing my home due to the cuts so an open day was put on to help those potentialy affected by the cuts ie houseing…. disability.. legal… there were reps from durham county council there and newcastle tyne and wear councils offering council placements yes if your at the mercy of private landlords like me and the rent is cut…….. booom im out…. my landlord is not a charity hes a bussiness man im homeless and as a middle aged single man on benefits with an elderly dog i have about as much chance of being rehoused as flying to the moon andy this is the reality for not just myself but millions in the sad sack torie country were at the coalface i mean were all in debt not with credit cards but utilitys …council tax ..ect..ect..there seems no end to it the hammering of the poorest……we have paid for the fucking bankers and austerity and hard brexit will only make things ten billion times worse

  32. damo says...

    People are backed into a corner andy theres no room for manouver exept to explode……. hopefully in the tories faces….. but then people will be sent to prison …… becouse you know most tories……. fetishise punnishment ….. becouse as we all know most tories are such chronic inadiquates …… people just wanna get on andy……. but small mercys andy at least were not in aleppo ……. now thats suffering…… were is the world were people care more about kim kardashian being robbed than wots happening all over the world the suffering……. crazy

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, it’s certainly true that we must be grateful that we’re not in Aleppo, Damo, and it’s also permanently depressing that the minutiae of the lives of pointless celebrities like Kim Kardashian are hoovered up by so many people as though any of it matters for even a micro-second, but at the same time, as you so eloquently point out, millions of the poorest people in society are in debt, in the sense that they’re unable to pay bills. I’ve been worried about this ever since the Tories refused to pay the full rent for the unemployed through housing benefit, and also cut council tax benefit. How are people with virtually nothing to live on supposed to pay? And of course an untold number of people who are working are unable to make ends meet. Just a few days ago, a survey announced that more than 16m people in the UK have savings of less than £100:
    I’d really like to know more about these councils offering tenancies up north, as it’s not been reported anywhere at all, and it’s clearly potentially very significant. If the Tories were to back down on punishing the unemployed, and trying, essentially, to make them homeless, it would make sense – it wouldn’t be right, but it would make sense, given the current greed dominating London – to encourage people to move to other parts of the country and to provide them with genuinely affordable housing.

  34. damo says...

    Theres a catch andy the tories dont do anything out of kindness to the poor……here dumping them apparently the word is parking people in economicaly dead areas its cheeper than london i was looking at pictures of durham lovely cathedral lovely univerety hell you can bet no council flats are gonna be anywere near there lol there gonna be on some deprived estate somewere thats antisocial drug addled and economicaly dead out of the frying pan into the fire

  35. damo says...

    Most people on benefits dont even have a spare tenner let alone a hundred quid with the scrapping of council tax bennefits you have to pay 20% that depending on were you live works out at about £46 per mounth and another say £40 per mounth utilitys that £86 out of £290 per mounth this is discounting bedroom tax or rent shortfalls it works out realisticly at about £55 pounds per week to live on even being a master at budgeting you cant do it as tradgic and as pityfull as it sounds by the end of the two week period people are down to there last meal there last scrap of power …….no money……and on top of this we have sanctions takeing away peoples basic basic basic needs to survive

  36. damo says...

    The tories are twisted sick people….lol……who fetishise and love power ……punnishment and dommination they feast on it….like hannibal leckters……….fffffffffffffffff………….lol espesh when it comes to the weak and powerless it just seems like state cruelty to sanction somone with nothing barely surviveing not only are the tories takeing away peoples ability to……eat……there enslaveing them in debts

  37. damo says...

    God imagine if this wasnt an issue ……it would be so much easyer not to care

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    “Parking” – yes, very Newspeak, Damo.
    I’m sure you’re right about properties generally being in very deprived areas, although overall I’d suppose that the biggest problem would be the lack of job opportunities.
    This is interesting, though: an article from last year about empty terraced houses in villages in Co. Durham that no one wanted to buy – “‘It’s like Beirut’: the town where homes are on sale for £1”:

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    So horrible, Damo. You know, years ago (back in 2010) there was a show, ‘Tower Block of Commons’, where MPs stayed with families for a week in council flats, and I recall that one particular MP who had grown up poor, Nadine Dorries, was complaining because the family she was with (single mum and kids, in a tower block) weren’t poor enough – they had a TV, for example – and I remember thinking that it was a premonition of how the Tories were going to trying make sure that poverty meant what it did back in the 60s, the 50s, the 30s. Dorries, of course, is a working class betrayer the poor, who despised Cameron and Osborne and their Etonian ilk, but in the end her attitudes towards the poor weren’t really any different from the disgusting Iain Duncan Smith, who thinks that family dysfunction creates poverty, and not, conveniently, that it has anything to do with the bigger economic picture.

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    Not caring is the problem though, Damo. I watched an extraordinary performance the other day – of Kate Tempest performing her new album live on BBC2: seven stories of seven people awake at 4.18am and all, in some way, suffering. She has empathy, and there are a couple of places in the show where she embarks on the most amazing passionate and eloquent political rants. Do check it out:
    People fortunate enough not to have nothing need to care though, Damo. Ken Loach’s new film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, about the relationship between a 59-year-old joiner in Newcastle and single mother Katie, who, with her two kids, has escaped from a homeless persons’ hostel in London, is just out here in the UK, and needs to be seen widely. Also, on the news last night there was a clip of ‘Cathy Come Home’, which was 50 years ago. That show, as Loach explained, would never get commissioned today, although it caused a scandal at the time, and helped the housing crisis get tackled.
    We very clearly need a new ‘Cathy Come Home’ now, but Ken Loach is right. No one in a position of power and authority in broadcasting cares.
    A couple of articles – ‘In the 50 years since Cathy Come Home things have got much worse’:
    and ‘Legacy of Cathy Come Home should fuel fury over homelessness’:

  41. damo says...

    I looked at the article on durham this is why they want tennants id love a little terrece house like that but they cant give them away there semi derilict theres no community …no jobs..a dead area and the bedroom tax but wot choice do people have its that or homeless ….yes i remember that program most of the mps were horrified how people lived ….she has a tv thats discusting and shoes whatever next ….why hasent the child got rickettes or scurvey at least theres nothing worse than a working class traitor someone who has forgotten there roots and kicks out the rungs of the ladder bennith them examplified by the miserable little plain…..ian smith…. We can all use our middle names to make it sound double barreled and the tragedy about plain little ian smith is the tories mock him becouse hes not one of them i see hes slithered back into the spotlight to squeak on about brexit……..poor little plain ian smith nobody cares

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m glad you remember it too, Damo. It was genuinely shocking to see, and I’m just sorry that my premonition came true – that the Tories were going to make sure that “poverty meant poverty” properly.
    As for Smith, yes, his father was a pilot and his mother a ballerina, but he wasn’t an Etonian. After his brief and feeble stint as Tory Party leader, I’m surprised he made it back into a position of influence again – to wreak so much havoc on the poor. I look forward to the day when he is gone from public life, never to return. He has damaged so many people.

  43. damo says...

    The thing is the tories have no regrette there like the terminator …it dosent feel pity it dosent feel pain or guilt it cant be bargained with and it will not stop comeing after you until you are dead……….thats the tories

  44. Andy Worthington says...

    I fear you’re right, Damo. Unfortunately, as well as being cruel they are also deluded. I can’t even bear to watch Theresa May spinning some Little England fantasy for the Tory conference about how they’re seizing the middle ground, and how Brexit will be the greatest thing that ever happened to us. It’s making me feel sick.

  45. damo says...

    I found myself watching the torie conference on c4 news last night aghast at the specticle oddbods wierdos cranks extreamists …they even had a stall selling torie………tat……..a t shirt for little girls that read………little iron lady……….can you believe it but then the tories have like the rest of the british establishment been seen as the very worst kind of nasty deviants …sexual preditors..freaks and monsters of the highest order

  46. damo says...

    Torie males becouse there such inadaquates have allways been into the most grotesque nastyness

  47. Andy Worthington says...

    “Little Iron Lady” t-shirts for Tory girls, Damo? How horrible. Branding is out of control – has been since the 90s. I think there’s a direct correlation between the success of branding and the decline of civilisation.
    I’m finding myself very worried right now about the direction our unelected Prime Minister Theresa May and her cabinet are taking us. Obviously they’re playing up to the conference crowd, but that crowd has shifted to the right since the referendum, making David Cameron already look like something of a lost liberal – when of course he was no such thing – and the idea that our leaders should think it sensible to accept the referendum’s anti-immigration message and to pander to it is genuinely quite alarming. We need people pointing out how we need immigrant workers, ad how immigrants contribute more to society than they take away. Appeasing the misguided racists and xenophobes is a really really bad idea, and we’re already seeing the danger – with Amber Rudd’s pledge that all foreign workers will need to be listed by their employers.
    Did you see James O’Brien on LBC destroying Rudd? He read an excerpt from Hitlers’ Mein Kampf and pretended it was her: ‘For the state must draw a sharp line of distinction between those who, as members of the nation, are the foundation and support of its existence and greatness, and those who are domiciled in the state, simply as earners of their livelihood there.’

  48. damo says...

    Im starting to think the torie women are worse than the men miserable cows with an axe to grind looking at the front covers of every paper theres a picture of the bag lady it seems theres been some kind of spell cast over the population …a torie toxin ……polluteing peoples minds…….

  49. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s always been disturbing to me the power these axe-faced Tory killer women have over the population as a whole, Damo – not just the boarding school inadequates, but the general population as a whole.
    That said, what’s also going on here is the mainstream media working to rally the population behind the government. I’m not even sure why. People who should know better seem to be regarding Brexit in positive terms. Don’t they know it will be a disaster? Or are they all at the trough cleaning up right now, as the pound drops, damaging ordinary citizens, but the FTSE rises, making big profits for bankers, and – oh yes – Theresa May’s investment fund banker husband.

  50. damo says...

    Its the nanny mc scrotem effect tories love pain these hags are the nannys who must……..thrash…….the nations bot bot lol lol tories are all about pain and punnishment not there own but others most of the bullies ive encountered in my life have allways been inadaquates………..hence the tories

  51. Andy Worthington says...

    Cold parents and boarding schools are the problem, Damo, but no one wants to talk about it. Society focuses instead on dysfunctional poor people – and then Tories like Iain Duncan Smith blame the poverty on their social dysfunction rather than accepting that the poverty is the problem.
    Here’s Alex Renton’s 2014 Guardian article, ‘Abuse in Britain’s boarding schools: why I decided to confront my demons’:
    And a follow-up, ‘The damage boarding schools do’:
    Here’s Boarding School Survivors, set up to raise awareness of the psychological effects of sending children away to boarding school, and to offer therapeutic help:
    And here’s ‘The Making of Them’, a 1993 documentary about 8-year olds going to boarding school:

  52. damo says...

    Eeeew yuk children need loveing warm kind parents no matter who they are ……..the sad thing is the tories never break the cycle so another generation grows up into monsters now i might sound mean but with everything thease over priverliged over indulged spoiled mean miserley class of people are inflicting on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the decimated country ….sorry but i might struggle to find any sympathy for public school boys and girls right now …and maybe im the monster

  53. Andy Worthington says...

    I struggle to have any sympathy for those who don’t recognise how damaged they are, Damo; those who perpetuate the cycles of abuse, and who maintain the Etonian ethos – to win at all costs, whether you are right or wrong. That was Cameron and Osborne’s modus operandi, and then there’s Boris – a self-described “zeppelin of self-confidence.” Oh dear.
    I wish it was more exposed publicly how so many of those who lead us are profoundly damaged by their upbringing, and are not, in fact, fit to lead, but here we are, still stuck in idiocy, with the pacifist Jeremy Corbyn ridiculed for being a pacifist. They might as well put up a huge sign on the Houses of Parliament that reads, “Only psychopaths allowed.”

  54. damo says...

    jeremy corbyn is offering the chance of a world free from war or want…and people seem hell bent on destroying him…i mean an equal world free from war or want………..wots not to like

  55. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head, Damo – it’s the notion of an equal world. That would involve redistribution from the haves to the have nots, and that’s regarded as unfair. Never mind that the growing chasm between rich and poor isn’t making anyone happy except perhaps, in some twisted way, the very rich, the orthodoxy is that anything that stops the unfettered greed of the few will be bad for us all, when I cannot see that there is any truth at all to that belief. But what can we do? The brainwashing over the last 35 years has been very successful.

  56. damo says...

    yeah your right the brainwashing has been very succesfull espesh the last ten years the 90s seem like a golden age for protest now sometimes i think the elites are upto something this frenzied scramble for greed the plundering there like a desperate frenzied junkie they need a money wealth fix ……now….now… there upto something

  57. Andy Worthington says...

    I wonder if it’s just that they’re seduced by the big money, Damo. I remember that Thatcher turned into a fawning disgrace every time a rich foreigner turned up – she was putty in their hands, if you’ll forgive the expression (it sounds a bit like Donald Trump’s assessment of the power of money). Unfortunately, I think, bankers are modern pirates, stealing everything from us from within, but doing it in a way that they’ve arranged, with the politicians, to appear legal.
    And look into our current crop of politicians, and what do we see? Theresa May’s husband is “a senior executive at a $1.4tn investment fund that profits from tax avoiding companies,” and Amber Rudd’s family, a friend told me who knew her at school, was extremely rich. The father, on investigation, turns out also to have been a banker (and was also very publicly criticised for dodgy business dealings).
    May’s husband here:
    Trump’s horrible sexual bragging:
    So here we are, plunged into economic chaos by Brexit, with every discussion of “hard Brexit” by the useless May and her useless Cabinet hitting the pound mercilessly, so that last week – pretty much after May’s conference speech – it dropped to its lowest value against the dollar for 31 years:
    And yet, at the same time, the FTSE is reaching untold new heights, so people are profiting mercilessly off sterling’s weakness – and who would that be? Well, let’s look at the bankers, shall we?
    The entire establishment will sell us down the river for short-term profit. We have no one in a position of power and authority who has a long view of anything. Last week there was so much talk of the wonderful Chinese tourists filling London that I half-expected an official government announcement that we are now an official overseas colony of the People’s Republic of China. Then again, it may be the Gulf countries that also own swathes of the UK who finally play the ownership card: “Sorry, you’ll all have to move out. We own you.”

  58. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s a useful update from Dave Hill in the Guardian, “London housing: improving the theory and practice of densifying estates”:

  59. Andy Worthington says...

    Also worth a read – Dave Hill’s update on the contentious Earls Court development:

  60. Surprise as Tories Judge that Compulsory Purchases for the Regeneration of Southwark’s Aylesbury Estate Breach Leaseholders’ Human Rights | Andy Worthington | globalnewsdotcom says...

  61. The 34 Estates Approved for Destruction By Sadiq Khan Despite Promising No More Demolitions Without Residents’ Ballots | The Land Is Ours says...

    […] particularly resisted by leaseholders facing Compulsory Purchase Orders, who secured a brief but significant success in 2016. Also see ‘The State of London’, and check out the 35 Percent campaign’s detailed […]

  62. Bibliography – Surround Sounds says...

    […] Worthington, A. (2016) Surprise as Tories Judge that Compulsory Purchases for the Regeneration of Southwark’s Aylesbury Estate Breach Leaseholders’ Human Rights. Accessed 27/1/21.… […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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