There was a very good piece by Dave Hill in the Observer yesterday on the “regeneration” of a local authority housing estate in LB Haringey.
The north London borough of Haringey’s is planning to form a joint venture company with an international property developer (Lendlease – who also did the Heygate Estate), and commit tens of millions of pounds’ worth of its land and buildings – including a housing estate close to Tottenham Hotspur football club, and its own civic centre – to a massive transformation programme… At its heart lie basic conflicts about the role of private finance, the use of public land, the functions of local government and the principles that should guide the spatial development of urban areas all over the country. It has become a microcosm of a debate that rages across the country, drawing in beleaguered councils, property developers, social housing tenants, lower middle classes anxious to remain in gentrified neighbourhoods, and the growing army of homeless. And it is also about Jeremy Corbyn.
Although all existing residents are guaranteed a ‘right to return’ on the same terms as they currently have, there is a lot of resistance.
These types of projects have been common in London for the last decade – albeit the scale is usually much smaller. At the heart of it seem to be some fundamental issues about the ‘model’ for replacing/upgrading existing and providing additional housing in local authority estates. Most would agree that the existing stock needs substantial refurbishment or replacement. I suspect that there would be a consensus that there is an opportunity to increase densities on former council estates to create additional supply. The key question seems to be supply of what? In essence, the debate seems to be about how much market housing should be provided relative to social housing.
I also suspect that partnering with companies like Lendlease sends a bad signal. Personally I’ve got nothing against Lendlease – but I think that things would be much less controversial if the council had partnered with a large housing association instead. Housing associations are in expansion mode and are becoming increasingly focussed on market housing – whether they should be is another question? Would a large association have the capacity and capability to undertake such a large project?