Social Housing: Demolitions, Privatisations & Social Cleansing

Last month, to accompany its exhibition at the RIBA, Karakusevic Carson Architects published a book titled Social Housing: Definitions & Design Exemplars, which contains 24 case studies of new developments across Europe and the UK, many of them estate regenerations in London. These include the Colville, Kings Crescent and Nightingale estates in Hackney and the Bacton Low Rise estate in Camden, all four of which have been designed by Karakusuevic Carson; the Agar Grove estate in Camden, designed by Hawkins/Brown and Mae; as well as Tower Court in Hackney, designed by Adam Khan Architects and the Silchester estate in Kensington & Chelsea, designed by Haworth Tompkins. Oliver Wainwright, the architecture and design critic at the Guardian, called the book ‘A fascinating overview of social housing today. Complete with the essential nitty gritty details of plans, sections, budgets and timeframes, it’s both a practical manual and optimistic manifesto for what its possible to achieve, against all the odds.’

Such case studies have become endemic to the rash of publications over the past two years setting out the legislation, business models and design principals of estate regeneration in the UK. In February 2015 Urban Design London published its Estate Regeneration Sourcebook, which contains 14 case studies of regenerated estates, again including the Colville and King’s Crescent estates. In March 2016 four architectural practices not in the Karakusuevic Carson book – HTA Design, Levitt Bernstein, Pollard Thomas Edwards, and PRP – published Altered Estates: How to reconcile competing interests in estate regeneration, which contains 12 case studies of  estates regenerated by these practices, including the South Acton, Aylesbury, Packington and Crossways estates. Last December the Conservative government published its Estate Regeneration National Strategy, which contains 16 case studies of regenerated estates, including the demolished Ferrier and Myatts Field North estates, now redeveloped as Kidbrooke Village and Oval Quarter. The same month the Greater London Authority published Homes for Londoners: Draft Good Practice Guide to Estate Regenerationwhich contains 8 case studies of anonymised estates. And in April of this year the Labour Party published Local Housing Innovations: The Best of Labour in Power, which contains 44 case studies of new housing in Labour boroughs, many of which are engaged in council-led estate regeneration programmes.

All these publications and case studies have one thing in common: they all depict estate regeneration as the solution to the UK’s housing shortage, the new developments as unqualified improvements on the demolished estates, and the communities of residents as willing and satisfied customers in the regeneration of their homes. What was uniformly missing from all these publications is the ‘nitty gritty details’ – to use Oliver Wainwrights phrase – of how many homes for social rent were lost to these demolition schemes, how much public land was privatised by the redevelopment, and how many residents were socially cleansed from their estate as a result – everything, in fact, that would allow the reader to make a judgement about whether these ‘exemplars’ of estate regeneration are solving the housing crisis – as they claim to be – or exacerbating it.

To rectify these omissions – which are the first and most important criteria by which any estate regeneration should be judged – Architects for Social Housing is publishing this e-book of 17 case studies that we have written over the past few years, accompanied by 11 articles that look at the function of estate regeneration in London’s housing crisis. The reality of estate regeneration revealed in these studies is totally at odds with that presented in the publications by the Conservative government, the Labour opposition, the Greater London Authority, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the think tanks set up by the London councils demolishing the estates and the architectural practices contracted to design the new developments. We will leave it to the reader to judge which is the more accurate representation of a national strategy that will affect the homes and lives of millions of people in the UK.

Case Studies in Estate Regeneration 

  1. Colville Estate, Hackney
  2. Kings Crescent estate, Hackney
  3. Woodberry Down estate, Hackney
  4. Northwold estate, Hackney
  5. Carpenters Estate, Newham
  6. Loughborough Park estate, Southwark
  7. Heygate estate, Southwark
  8. Aylesbury estate, Southwark
  9. Central Hill estate, Lambeth
  10. Macintosh Court sheltered housing estate, Lambeth
  11. Knight’s Walk, Lambeth
  12. West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates, Hammersmith and Fulham
  13. Montague Road estate, Waltham Forest
  14. Excalibur estate, Lewisham
  15. Reginald House, Lewisham
  16. Ferrier estate, Greenwich
  17. Park Hill estate, Sheffield City

Estate Regeneration and the Housing Crisis

  1. The Costs of Estate Regeneration
  2. London’s Empty Housing
  3. The Ideology of GLA Housing Policy and the New Policy we need on Estate Regeneration
  4. Mapping London’s Estate Regeneration Programme
  5. 11 Myths about Londons Housing Crisis
  6. 15 Truths About London’s Housing Crisis
  7. Ethics of Estate Regeneration
  8. The Housing and Planning Act
  9. Mapping London’s Housing Crisis
  10. Sink Estates and Starter Homes
  11. The London Clearances


‘Twaddle as usual.’

– Philip Glanville, Labour Mayor of Hackney

‘Hard left nonsense. The article isn’t just shrill, it’s factually inaccurate and spreads misinformation about estate regeneration.’

– Theo Blackwell, Cabinet Member for finance, technology and growth, Camden Labour council

‘You just lie, and lie, and lie to people.’

– Tom Copley, Labour Deputy Chair for Housing, London Assembly

‘The so-called “Architects for Social Housing”.’

– Matthew Bennett, former Cabinet Member for Housing, Lambeth Labour council

‘Ego-tripping self publicist.’

– Joan Twelves, Lambeth Momentum and former Leader of Lambeth Labour Council

‘Shows how much you know about anything. I had thought you were a force for good, this completely changes my opinion.’

– Candida Ronald, Labour councillor for Blackwall and Cubitt Town, Tower Hamlets council

‘Cretinous sectarian drivel that if listened to would ensure the mass demolition of our council houses.’

– Keith Dunn, Haringey Momentum

‘Disingenuous propaganda that undermines fellow professionals.’

– Alex Ely, founder of Mae Architects

‘A noble idea but not really practical.’

– Brendan Kilpatrick, Managing Director of PRP Architects

‘Not everyone believes that public money should be used to subsidise families to live in areas they could not otherwise afford to.’

– Ben Derbyshire, Chair of HTA Design and President elect of the RIBA

‘There are so many inaccuracies in this report it borders on the disgraceful. Sorry, it is disgraceful. I am not going to bother to list these . . .’

– Geoff Bell, Chair of Woodberry Down Community Organisation

‘ASH: Saviours of our social housing? Or Oxbridge establishment set up to profit from estate regeneration?’

– Rab Harling, Poplar Harca-funded artist in residence at Balfron Tower

‘Architects for Social Housing AND for establishment values!’

– Stephen Pritchard, PhD student in search of an academic post

‘Behold the Trumpo-Ukip “Left”.’

– Dave Hill, sacked housing commentator for the Guardian

‘Too shouty.’

– Oliver Wainwright, architecture and design critic for the Guardian

‘Architects have a key role in our society’s responsibility to initiate change, and the evolving discourse of ASH and its members are an essential and much needed reflection of this.’

– Tomasz Romaniewicz, Coffey Architects

‘If you want a thorough grounding in what’s causing the ongoing housing crisis and what needs to be done to provide a solution that’s dictated by our agenda, this is essential reading.’

– South Essex Heckler

‘A very good piece which deserves a wide audience.’

– Anna Minton, Reader in Architecture at the University of East London and author of Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First Century City

‘First time I’ve heard a genuinely powerful proposal for how to combat this, and such a comprehensive and concise view on the whole thing.’

– Olga Winterbottom

‘So much information and analysis here on the issue of social housing, starter homes, right-to-buy sell-offs and estate regeneration.’

– Andree Frieze, freelance journalist and Green Party candidate, Ham & Petersham

‘I strongly applaud the work ASH have undertaken, on a number of levels, these last few months. Their actions and very successful message-delivery have reached a wide audience, and I, for one, find the manifesto an excellent hook upon which to hang my own beliefs, emboldened in the knowledge that there is a growing movement standing against the complicity of the architecture profession in exploiting homes and the built environment as mere financial commodities. Due to this movement, I feel able to say that I will never work for clients whose aim is to use architecture as a vehicle for producing money. Architecture is there to support life; a creative, diverse and complex life. This must remain its priority. Thank you ASH for clarifying this objective, and strengthening my resolve to achieve it.’

– Sam Causer, Director of Studio Sam Causer

‘This is probably the finest writing on the subject of this administration’s policies on social housing I have come across.’

– Joseph Asghar, photographer

‘Wonderful blog post. I hope to view a great deal more by you.’

– Robert Marie

‘Thank you ASH for a superb critique. This kind of analysis is a great complement to the on-the-ground work you have been doing at West Kensington & Gibbs Green, Central Hill and so on.’

– Michael Edwards, Teaching Fellow at the Bartlett School of Planning and author of The Housing Crisis and London

‘Excellent analysis. I’m so glad you’re doing this work, even if it must feel sometimes like writing the eulogy for council housing UK.’ 

– Single Aspect

‘Well done ASH for putting all these pieces together.’

– Jerry Flynn, 35% Campaign

‘Your Blog is superb. I look forward to reading it and, in particular, your most recent posts have been extremely powerful and pertinent to everyone in the country. I’ve shared them widely.’

– Briony Sloan, Chair of Rawdon Greenbelt Action Group

‘I feel as if I have just had a warm, relaxing bath reading this article. Such a relief to hear about happenings from such dedicated, informed, effective and, to top it off, even dryly humorous group. Thanks very much for posting.’

– Orenda E, former leaseholder on the Heygate estate

‘Well done guys, keep it up.’

– Peter Barber, Director of Peter Barber Architects

‘So happy you are saying all the things many of us believe but wouldn’t dare to say.’

– Fenna Haakma Wagenaar, architect

‘A judgment has to be made, not just on the quality of a building, but whether it contributes to the Common Weal, or its opposite. ASH have demonstrated that there are other ways to practice architecture and maintain professional integrity.’

– Kate Macintosh, architect of Dawson’s Heights and Macintosh Court

‘This important challenge to academics relating to architecture and housing, and to the Labour party, needs to be published and widely distributed. Its great we have people like ASH on the job of uncovering the iniquities of the forces of oppression that hide in the thickets of local and other bureaucracies.

– Stefan Szczelkun, author of The Conspiracy of Good Taste

‘Brilliant article. Fabulous research. It’s the kind of investigative journalism “proper” journalists don’t seem to do any more. I wonder why . . .’

– Steve Tiller, Hackney Momentum Steering Group

‘A long read but well worth the effort, as it goes into forensic detail about what happens when a council estate in London is “regenerated” and what happens to the former residents.’

– On Uncertain Ground

‘ASH helps residents have a voice and a vision.’

– Patmore Cooperative

‘Nice to see a link to ASH, who have been a relentless opposing voice against the orchestrated theft of social housing by developers and their stooges in local government. The many essays on their site amount to an eloquent and damning corpus of work, critiqueing policy failures, corruption and avarice almost everywhere you care to look.’

– Anonymous comment in The Guardian

‘Its rare to read such a succinct presentation and such powerful few words about the housing crisis. I have followed the disaster that is the British housing system for years and cannot believe the ignorance and complete disregard for facts which has surrounded the issue. Your work is inspiring and deserves a much broader reach.’

– Roger Barton

‘Long live ASH!’

– Aysen Dennis, tenant on the Aylesbury estate

Since we launched it in September 2015 the ASH Blog has published over 150 articles that have been visited 167,000 times by over 93,000 people in 177 countries.

Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (no. 10383452). Although we do occasionally receive minimal fees for our design work, the majority of what we do is unpaid and we have no source of public funding. If you would like to support our work, you can make a donation through PayPal:

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