Renters Occupy Luxury Tower in Elephant and Castle

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]

We protest

 

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.

Urbanaut

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]

BedParty

 

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.

Strata-spheric

For more information, images and interviews, contact:  southwarktenants@hotmail.com


[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

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18 thoughts on “Renters Occupy Luxury Tower in Elephant and Castle

  1. Adam says:

    I live here, with my partner and pay 1500 a month. You don’t need a combined salary of 75k thats bollocks. We have a combined salary of 45k and still have enough to put aside for savings.

    • Well, it depends what you mean by “need”. Shelter (link in the notes to the piece) treat rent as being affordable if it’s 35% of net household income, so for a couple with a combined salary of £45,000 this would be just under £1,000 (depending slightly on whether you earn the same amount or not). Beyond bare survival, “need” is obviously a question that’s politically contested but it doesn’t strike us as unreasonable to suggest that a situation in which people who are relatively well off are spending over half their take home pay on rent should be opposed.

  2. William Battersby says:

    I got a job and bought my flat myself. If you are too useless or lazy then that’s your affair. But either way stop lying.

    • Bob Socks says:

      William you are probably an investment banker with loads of money but a poor sense the society that surrounds you. Well done you, anyhow. Aren’t you a fine one!

    • We’re not lying (see above). There are plenty of reasons why people might not be able to (or might not want to) buy their own flat, we (and other commentators here, clearly) don’t believe either that people’s right to housing is conditional on earning substantial salaries or that the only way to get secure and affordable housing is to take on huge amounts of debt.

  3. Dale says:

    • Quote: “I got a job and bought my flat myself. If you are too useless or lazy then that’s your affair.” • Meaning: I shall judge those who are weaker and less fortunate than me by sharing with them how independant, useful & wonderful I am. Let the world rejoice.

  4. sajeraj says:

    Reblogged this on The Rent Book.

  5. William says:

    “you are probably an investment banker”. No, that’s completely wrong – I expect you have a lot more relatives in that line of work than I have. I do find it revealing that you yourself are so obsessed with judging people by appearance, and stereotyping them, that that is your immediate response to my comment. It also explains why you went to the trouble of published a photograph of one of you holding up a banner saying: ‘do I look like the wealthier breed of pioneering urbanite?’ Because, of course, that is PRECISELY what you do look like! And frankly, what does it matter if you do? Do you expect me to judge you by your appearance?

    This other comment “I shall judge those who are weaker and less fortunate than me by sharing with them how independent (sic), useful & wonderful I am. Let the world rejoice” I think involves so many wild assumptions and flights of fancy I’ll leave you with them.

    The final point I would make is this. In one picture an Estate Agent is visible who obviously let you into the flat. So you all posed as wealthy urbanites in order to get these pictures of yourselves posing as class warriors. Good luck with all that if it floats your boat. But making out that you are ‘activists’ who ‘moved in’ to a Strata flat when you are actually middle class public school trustfarians taking selfies of each other while an estate agent shows you round you have told him you want to buy is risible. And it’s also a white lie.

    So what you are saying is that you are a bunch of liars who judge other people by appearance. You’re right – not really my sort.

    Bye chaps and chapesses.

    • vornstyle says:

      A few of us got in that way, the other lot blagged in. Rather than embarrassing yourself with a mix of clueless presumption and economic illiteracy perhaps you should be more concerned about the potential impact this security flaw we’ve exposed in the paranoid “secure” home you’ve leveraged your very existence to buy will have on its property value.

    • There seems to have been a bit of a misunderstanding here, the commentators above (except for Vornstyle) aren’t members of Southwark Tenants, though I agree that there’s something pretty unpleasant about the useless and lazy comment.
      What I find interesting about your comments is the leap from “you’re too useless or lazy to get a job to afford a flat”, “to middle class public school trustafarians”. You can’t really have it both ways. More, importantly, the situation with private renting in London is so dire, with such an exploitative relationship between landlord and tenant, that even relatively well-off private renters- Adam, above, for example-, (though perhaps not the fabled trustafarians), are experiencing conditions both in terms of the amount of their income they’re spending on rent and their insecurity of tenure that solidarity with poorer private renters who are exploited even more intensely by the same conditions and forces might be more productive than snobbish, sullen resentment and desperately trying to cut yourself off from the communities you’re living in. Rent Controls and security of tenure would benefit all private tenants. As Vornstyle says, you can’t rely on your ropy security system to protect you.

    • Bob Socks says:

      William, you run a fine line in stereotypes and judging by appearance whilst saying how much you don’t do that. Well done. Bob Socks genealogy contains no investment bankers but we also do not own any whippets. But you are what we would happily call a ‘clueless cunt’ from our experiences of your wonderful commentary. What is your line of work?

  6. jamestholland says:

    the people living in this block are NOT the problem – i suspect they’re more than welcome as long as there is sufficient suitable housing for everyone, the problem is the council/developers who really ONLY want this kind of housing built despite a huge shortage of other types.

  7. Certainly the people living in the block are not a problem in anything like the way Southwark Council, the developer and those who bought properties off-plan with no intention of living there are. We want to help Adam, even though he doesn’t want to help himself.
    The only thing I would say is the demands of Southwark Council’s “better class of people” do impact on the community. The timidity- the sense of fear (often totally unfounded, see this research on the “muggers paradise” of the Heygate: http://www.peoplesrepublicofsouthwark.co.uk/hold-news/news/24-archive/1847-heygate-muggers-paradise-tno-report) of the people living around you- that underscores buildings like this is profoundly sad and creates demands that even more people are cleansed from their communities because you have to leave your building sometime and the security’s not foolproof. But, essentially, you’re right, even this fear is cynically whipped up by an alliance of media, the council and developer.

  8. […] planning and carrying out actions is a useful way of building solidarity within our groups. When we occupied Strata along with Lambeth Renters, people who had never been involved in direct action before came away […]

  9. Howdy! I kno this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could
    find a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one?

    Thanks a lot!

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