Housing campaigners today ‘moved in’ to a luxury flat in the Strata Tower in Elephant and Castle, South London to protest against the participation of Boris Johnson and a number of local authorities in the MIPIM real estate fair this week in Cannes. Developers and local government representatives have been there to discuss property deals which will drive up housing costs and contribute to social cleansing in London. [i]
Last year’s MIPIM was attended by Peter John, leader of Southwark council and Southwark’s Chief Executive Eleanor Kelly, both of whose €1600 entry fees, travel costs and expenses were paid for by Lend Lease, the developer of the Heygate site in Elephant and Castle.[ii] Lend Lease have attended again this year.
The Heygate estate was home to 1,200 families, most of whom were council tenants. Since 2007 all of these families have been evicted from their homes and neighbourhoods, as Southwark council demanded a “better class of people” live in the area. [iii] The site has been sold at a loss to Lend Lease[iv], which will be building just 71 social rented homes on the new site.
It was claimed that the Strata would offer homes for a number of former Heyagte residents allowing them to stay in their neighbourhood. However, ultimately only five former Heygate leaseholders have moved in to tower, with the architect stressing, ‘Southwark council were keen Strata was not for families.’[v] The developer has boasted that ‘Strata’s ideal resident is an altogether wealthier breed of pioneering urbanaut.’[vi] Instead of providing homes for local residents, 75% of the Strata flats were sold off-plan (before they were even built) to investors who had no intention of living in them.[vii]
Rents for a one bedroom flat in the Strata begin at over £1,500 a month[viii], meaning that they would only be affordable to a couple with a combined income of nearly £70,000 a year. [ix] The average household income in Southwark is around £17,000.
Raymond Ambler from Southwark Tenants said, “Southwark doesn’t need more luxury developments which we could never dream of affording. It needs more public housing like the public housing which used to be on the Heygate. If our public housing continues to be sold off so developers and investors can make a quick buck and nothing is done about spiralling rents, living in shipping containers like those currently on the Heygate site is likely to be one of the few housing options left for many people in London.” [x]
Anne Mason from Lambeth Renters said, “the Strata tower was the beginning of the social cleansing of Elephant with long-term residents driven out of London to make room for Southwark council’s ‘better class of people’ and allow investors who will never even see the homes they’ve bought to make huge profits while we struggle to find anywhere to live.’
The activists from Southwark Tenants and Lambeth Renters are calling for more genuinely affordable housing and controls to tackle spiralling rents.
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[i] Held annually in Cannes, MIPIM brings local politicians together with investors, bankers and property developers to sell off public land and approve “regeneration” plans for hotels, offices, luxury property development and shopping centres.
[viii] Information from rightmove.co.uk
[ix] Shelter’s http://england.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/425708/London_Rent_Watch.pdf studies are based on rents being affordable if they take up no more than 35 per cent of net income.
[x] Shipping countainers are already being used to house the homeless in Brighton: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2521879/Shipping-containers-open-temporary-accommodation-homeless-Brighton.html