The Costs of Estate Regeneration: A Film for Everyone

The report on which this film is based can be read in the pdf titled The Costs of Estate Regeneration. I first gave this presentation at a conference held by the Socialist Workers Alliance back in June; then again at a meeting of the Revolutionary Communist Group in July at the launch of their pamphlet Whose Land is it Anyway? Housing, Capitalism and the Working Class; then at the inaugural Festival of Maintenance held at University College London in September; then later that month to People Before Profit, at a meeting to organise against the demolition and redevelopment of Reginald House and the Old Tidesmill Garden in Lewisham; then at a public meeting in October of the Focus E15 Campaign in Newham to discuss bringing the half-empty Carpenter’s estate back into use as housing; then that same month at a meeting of the Tulse Hill branch of the Labour Party to discuss the possibilities of refurbishing rather than demolishing the Cressingham Gardens estate; then again in October to a GovDesign meeting on Repair, Renovation and Maintenance; then at the end of the month to the Montreal Square Residents Association in Cambridge, whose homes are threatened with demolition by the Cambridge Housing Society. Next week we are due to discuss the findings of the report with Len Duvall, the Greater London Authority Member for Greenwich and Lewisham; and in the new year I will be presenting it to the Government’s Planning Advisory Service forum on Planning, Housing and Affordable Homes, which will be attended by council leaders from Brent, Havering and Merton in London, Milton Keynes, South Cambridgeshire, Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Southampton, West Dorset and other local authorities. Finally, we’re in the middle of negotiations to meet with Newham council in the New Year to see if the newly-elected Mayor means what she says about the future of the Carpenter’s estate. After that, I’m handing presentation duties over to this film.

As can be seen from this list of audiences with little in common, there’s been interest in this report – which as of writing has been visited over a thousand times on our blog – from a wide range of organisations, including from those which until now have been dismissive of the work of ASH. We hope this indicates that the abject failure of current policy on estate regeneration – the evidence of which is all around us and growing every day – is finally becoming apparent to those with the power and political will to change it.

It’s taken considerable research and practical work to produce the figures in this film. The reason for this is that, even though it’s the justification for the demolition of hundreds of London estates and tens of thousands of homes, all this information is withheld by councils under the catch-all of ‘commercial sensitivity’. If you watch this film, you’ll understand exactly why councils won’t let this information out: not to Freedom of Information requests by residents opposing the demolition of their estate; not to Architects for Social Housing when we’ve proposed design alternatives to their demolition; not even to the quantity surveyor representing Aylesbury estate leaseholders at the public inquiry into Southwark council’s compulsory purchase orders on their homes. What this film shows is that the difference between the financial costs of emptying, demolishing and redeveloping estates and the costs of their refurbishment and infill is so enormous that the one or two million pounds our estimates might be out by makes no difference to our arguments for the social, financial and environmental benefits of the latter. We hope that this report will put to bed, once and for all, the widely held but unfounded belief that councils cannot afford to refurbish the estates under their management; that these estates can’t be refurbished sufficiently to redress their managed decline; or that infill development on existing London estates can’t provide the housing we need. As this film demonstrates in considerable detail, all these arguments are fundamentally flawed.

In design alternatives to the proposed demolition of six London estates, Architects for Social Housing has shown that refurbishment and – where appropriate and with the collaboration of residents – infill development is the most socially beneficial, environmentally sustainable and financially viable option to address the crisis of housing affordability in the capital. Demolishing and redeveloping estates is not a financial necessity but a political choice, and one that does nothing to address the housing needs of Londoners both present and future. On the contrary, as the figures in this film show, by demolishing our council estates and replacing homes for social rent with so-called ‘affordable’ housing and properties for market sale at upwards of half a million pounds, the estate demolition programme in its current form is expanding the housing crisis at the cost of the increased housing poverty and homelessness of its citizens.

One can only imagine what what would happen if this film were broadcast on our national television in place of the poverty porn and stigmatisation of council estates that fill our programme schedules; but in the absence of interest from the British Broadcasting Corporation or anyone else in our Brexit-obsessed media, it’s up to followers and readers of the ASH blog to share this film as widely as possible. At 72 minutes it’s a little longer than intended, but when it comes to information about estate regeneration the devil is always in the detail, and this film contains the minimum of detail necessary to understand the financial and social costs of this programme and the possibilities and benefits of the alternatives developed by ASH. Please feel free to screen this film to your fellow residents, campaign group, party branch, union members, ward councillor, Member of Parliament, GLA Member, housing association, property developer, regeneration officer, resident engagement panel, steering group, tenants and residents association, community consultancy, architectural practice or anyone else interested in the costs of estate regeneration.

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing

Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (no. 10383452). Although we have received 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 financially, please make a donation through PayPal:

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