Trust for London: ASH application for funding, June 2019

1. About Your Organisation

Architects for Social Housing (ASH), Community Interest Company, no. 10383452, founded in 2015.

2. Main Aims and Activities

a) Summarise the work of your organisation in no more than 50 words.

ASH was founded in 2015 to offer an architectural response to London’s housing crisis. We produce both design and policy alternatives to London’s programme of estate demolition and redevelopment. Our research demonstrates that ASH’s proposals are the most socially, financially and environmentally sustainable solution to London’s crisis of housing affordability.

b) Describe your organisation’s aims and main activities/projects (indicating how many people benefit from each activity)

ASH’s primary aim is to change London housing policy from its current basis in the marketisation of provision and the financialisation of investment to policy that will build the homes in which Londoners can afford to live, while retaining and refurbishing our diminishing stock of council and social housing.

Through our design and research work, ASH has demonstrated that increasing the housing capacity on existing estates is a more sustainable solution to London’s housing needs than their demolition and redevelopment, enabling, as it does, the continued existence of the communities they house, as well as the construction of the homes we need. ASH is committed to finding socially beneficial, financially viable and environmentally sustainable alternatives to estate demolition that are in the interests of the wider London community.

ASH operates on three levels of activity: Architecture, Community and Dissemination.

  1. We propose, at the invitation of residents, architectural alternatives to estate demolition schemes through designs for infill, roof extensions and refurbishment that increase housing capacity on the estates by at least 50 per cent and, by selling a proportion of the new homes, generate the funds to refurbish the existing council homes, while leaving the communities they currently house intact. (8,000 residents)
  2. We support estate communities in their resistance to the demolition of their homes, providing them with information about estate regeneration and housing policy from a reservoir of knowledge and tactics pooled from campaigns across London. (1,000 residents and campaigners)
  3. We publish our research that corrects unfounded statements and counters negative perceptions about social housing in the minds of the public, and raises awareness of the role of various interest groups in the regeneration process. Using a variety of means, including presentations, reports, case studies, films and exhibitions, we are trying to initiate policy change within UK housing. (150,000 readers and viewers)

c) What is the total number of people who directly benefit from your organisation’s work each year?

In a 2016 report to the Cabinet Office, Savills real estate firm, which is advising the GLA and every London council on its estate regeneration programme, recommended that the homes of 400,000 Londoners should be demolished and redeveloped.

d) Tell us about the difference your organisation has made and any recent achievements.

ASH has produced design alternatives to the demolition of 5 London estates threatened with demolition, all of which are still standing. Our designs helped save half of Knight’s Walk (33 homes); forced the council to reconsider infill and refurbishment options for Central Hill estate (476 homes); are the basis of residents’ Right to Transfer their homes on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates into their ownership (760 homes); and helped save Northwold estate from partial-demolition (580 homes). Our ongoing work with The Drive (20 homes) and the Patmore Co-operative (854 homes) is improving and increasing the housing on these co-ops.

5. About Your Request For Funding

a) Under which programme area are you applying?

Good Homes and Neighbourhoods

b) Summarise the work you are applying for in no more than 50 words.

The funding is for:

  • Mapping estates and calculating the number of homes for social rent lost to London’s estate regeneration programme;
  • Providing preliminary work for feasibility studies and designs alternatives to the demolition of London estates under threat;
  • Developing design, funding and policy strategies for low-cost housing provision in London.

c) Who will be your main beneficiaries?

  • Residents on the 200-plus London estates currently threatened with demolition
  • The 244,000 Londoners on council housing waiting lists
  • The 165,000 Londoners registered as homeless
  • The 30 per cent of London households that have to live on the private rental market
  • The 225,000 Londoners aged under 25 that couch-surfed in 2018

d) What is the need or issue you are seeking to address?

In 2017 ASH produced a map of London’s estate regeneration programme. We identified 237 council or housing association estates that have recently undergone, are currently undergoing, or are threatened with demolition, privatisation or renovation resulting in the mass loss of homes for social rent and the social cleansing of existing residents from their communities. This represents the greatest transfer of public housing into private ownership since Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme. By demolishing the only form of housing that offers an alternative to the private rental market, and by clearing inner-city land for redevelopment as investments for global capital, the estate regeneration programme is the driving mechanism of London’s housing crisis. This programme affects not just the 24 per cent of Londoners who live in social housing but all Londoners, with private rental costs being driven up by competition and house prices being driven up by the financialisation of London housing.

e) Tell us the activities you will undertake to address this need (include numbers of beneficiaries where appropriate).

ASH has put together a team of researchers for a proposed new project to calculate and record the total number of homes for social rent that have been or will be lost to London’s estate regeneration programme. We intend to put these figures, as well as information about what tenure and price of housing is replacing them, on an online map that will be made available to residents and campaigners facing the demolition of their estate. Compiled by ASH members who understand how to research this deliberately withheld and unpublished information, this map will help residents to question and counter the disinformation they are currently receiving from local authorities initiating regeneration schemes. As such, this map will potentially be of benefit to every one of the 780,000 London households that currently live in social housing.

In addition to this new project, ASH will continue its work of helping London estates under threat of demolition. Part of this help involves sustaining our research, including the production of book-length reports on such topics as the causes of the Grenfell Tower fire and the financial, social and environmental costs of estate regeneration, which we have made available as films for resident communities, as well as our design alternatives for the Central Hill and West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, which are available on our website.

However, although we offer such research and advice for free, for ASH to produce the feasibility studies that have helped save 5 London estates from demolition will require additional funding that estate communities are often unable to raise. ASH is currently advising a number of London communities whose estates are threatened with demolition, including the Ebury Bridge, Alton West, Carpenters, Silchester and Bader Park estates. But without the funding to do so, we are unable to produce the design alternatives to demolition that residents have requested.

We will also continue our work with the Patmore Co-operative to design a masterplan for the refurbishment and improvement of their estate. We will be publishing this masterplan as a model for the refurbishment of other estates across London. Funding will help us to turn this into a more generally applicable practical manual for residents that addresses the range of issues faced by London estates, including the physical deterioration of their homes, the possibility of refurbishment and infill, models of financing, the environmental and social benefits of refurbishment versus demolition, and the various management structures best suited for doing so.

Finally, ASH will continue to explore the possibilities of building low-cost, community-led housing with London co-operatives, as we did last year with the Brixton Housing Co-op on our (unfortunately unsuccessful) bid to build 27 homes for social rent on Transport for London land in Streatham. Our proposal included forming a new ownership structure that combined co-operative housing management with a community land trust. London’s housing co-operatives have considerable capital reserves to invest in new homes, and with sufficient funding ASH will explore this model of low-cost housing provision.

f) Why do you think this approach will work?

Our design alternatives to demolition have saved half of Knights Walk, all the Northwold estate, and revealed the financial unviability of the Central Hill and West Kensington and Gibbs Green schemes, with the result that both landlords are now reconsidering infill and refurbishment options.

Following our meeting with Len Duvall, the Leader of the Labour Party in the London Assembly, during which we presented our arguments for 5 policy changes on estate regeneration, the London Mayor will be making funding available to residents voting on the regeneration of their estate to commission expert guidance from groups like ASH on the proposals.

g) What skills does your organisation have to undertake this work?

For four years ASH has organised working collectives with a broad range of skills, experience and knowledge. Through building these contacts we are able to draw on a pool of individuals with the relevant skills for each new project. These include both qualified and student architects, engineers and quantity surveyors, academic researchers and writers, as well as professional filmmakers and photographers who help turn our research into more accessible formats. Much of this work has been done pro bono; but if we are able to pay our collaborators we will be able to greatly expand its extent and reach.

h) How will the proposed work directly involve the people affected by this issue? If not, please explain why.

ASH’s project to record the losses from Londons estate regeneration programme will be compiled by researchers who are directly affected by London’s housing crisis, and will provide resident communities with the data they need on the social, financial and environmental consequences of redevelopment schemes.

ASH’s feasibility studies on the design alternatives to demolition are the basis of residents Right to Transfer their estates into their own management or ownership. ASH’s proposals of design alternatives are always co-produced with residents. This slows the regeneration process down, empowers residents, and helps them to raise support, publicity and funding for their campaign.

i) What are the opportunities to influence policy and/or practice from this proposed work?

Over the past 4 years ASH has delivered over 40 presentations to political, academic and cultural institutions. Our report on the Grenfell Tower fire was submitted by Justice4Grenfell to the Public Inquiry. We have appeared as expert commentators on news outlets, including RT UK News, Channel 4 News, Channel 5, ABC News and LBC Radio. Since 2015 we have published over 200 articles, reports and case studies on the ASH website, which has been visited over 230,000 times by 127,000 people from 179 countries. ASH’s work features in the film documentaries Concrete Soldiers and Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle. ASH has presented its findings to local authorities and government bodies, including the Haringey Housing Scrutiny Committee, the GLA and GovDesign. ASH is a contributor to the LSE’s Housing Plus Academy think-tank. ASH is regularly quoted in journalism and academic texts, with over 50 articles and 7 books referencing our work.

j) What difference do you hope to make (your outcomes)? Please list up to four outcomes.

  • To change UK housing policy away from its current reliance on overseas investment and cross subsidisation and towards policies that will meet UK housing needs.
  • To make refurbishment and, where appropriate, infill housing the default option for any local authority or housing association undertaking an estate regeneration scheme.
  • To develop and promote models of low-cost housing provision that are socially beneficial to Londoners, financially viable for landlords and environmentally sustainable for everyone.
  • To give estate residents and homeless households affected by the housing crisis information and tools to support their demands for housing that meets their needs.

k) How will you collect evidence to show how you have done?

Once ASH’s project to map London’s estate regeneration programme is published online, residents and campaigners will be able to update figures and other information on individual schemes as they develop. In this way the ASH map will measure both the losses to the programme as well as the success or otherwise of ASH’s attempts to change the legislation, policy and practice of estate regeneration.

In addition, ASH will continue to read and write reports on Government legislation and GLA policy relating to housing and estate regeneration, and be active in promoting our policy proposals in our publications and presentations. In this way we will be able to track whether our proposals have influenced policy – as they did, for example, on the London Mayor adopting our proposal for new funding for residents voting on an estate regeneration scheme.

Both through our existing design proposals and the new ones we hope to be able to develop with adequate funding, we will be able to keep track of how and where London council and housing association practice on estate regeneration is changing – as it has on the 5 estates for which we have proposed design alternatives to demolition.

l) Do you know of anyone else doing similar activities?

No

m) Where will your proposed activities take place? (If the proposed activities take place in more than four boroughs tick London Wide.)

London-wide and National

n) Who is currently funding this work?

Our work for West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates was funded by the community’s funders. Our work for the Patmore estate is funded by the co-operative, as is our work for the Drive co-operative. In addition, we have received donations to ASH so far totalling around £3,000. This July we will receive funding for our residency at the 221A Gallery in Vancouver, where we will undertake research towards a book titled For a Socialist ArchitectureAnd we occasionally receive fees for our lecture work at academic and cultural institutions.

However, the majority of ASH’s research work, and all of our ongoing outreach work to residents and campaign groups, is unfunded, and cross-subsidised from our professional work as architects and academics.

Other relevant documents

If there are other documents you’d like to attach which you think would be relevant such as an evaluation of your work or your business plan, please attach them.

Architects for Social Housing

Further to your recent application for funding to the Trust. The grants team has now met to discuss all the proposals submitted to the Main Grants – June 2019 funding round, and after careful consideration, I am sorry to inform you that your application has not been shortlisted to the next stage. 

We discussed ASHs approach in some detail, recognising the value of your work in supporting communities who are challenging regeneration and creating alternative, community-led visions for their neighbourhoods. We felt this was the strongest aspect of your proposal. As you know there are discussions happening about how best to support residents facing a regeneration ballot, and if there is potentially a hub being pulled together (as we at the Trust have called for), it may be that ASH could contribute to that.

The remaining aspects of the proposal were not as strong; in particular we would have wanted to see the same partnership approach and commitment to working with others on plans for mapping and policy. This ended up being important, as this was a really competitive funding round, where only the strongest proposals made it through to the next stage. 

I am sorry to send you this disappointing response – it has been genuinely interesting finding out more about your work and it might be we could work together in future. In the mean time we wish you every success with your project.

Please note that unsuccessful applicants should wait twelve months before applying again to the Trust. 

Best wishes,

Susie Dye
Grants Manager
Trust for London

On the afternoon we received this rejection of our application, we also received this e-mail from Anne Power, Head of LSE Housing and Communities and Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics:

Dear Geraldine

I hope you are well. I had an email from a tenant on St Mary’s Path Estate in Islington, where demolition of one of the blocks is proposed. It seems like there is a very firm case for opposing it. I have written to Georgia and suggested she gets in touch with ASH, I hope this is OK. Let me know what you think about the proposed demolition.

Best wishes,

Anne Power
Head of LSE Housing and Communities and Professor of Social Policy
London School of Economics

This was written in response to an e-mail Professor Power had received on 25 June from the Tenants and Residents Association of the St. Marys Path estate:

Dear Professor Power,

I am writing from a tenants and residents association in Islington, London.

We have been fighting potential demolition of our housing association-owned social housing estate for the last two years. As residents we are very worried about possible demolition for many reasons, including the environmental impact of this compared to refurbishment.

We have been  trying to find out some information about this online, when I came across some of your work. I was wondering if you are still working on these issues? If so, are you able to point us in the direction of any further current information that might be useful for our campaign to stop any demolition on our estate, or put us in touch with anyone else who might be able to help us?

 If you need more information about who we are and what is happening with our housing first, there are some articles in our local press this week, here is an article in the Islington Tribune. And this letter from our TRA in the same paper. 

We are really sorry to bother you as we know you must be very busy, but we would be so grateful for any advice, information, or thoughts you may have.

Kind regards

Georgia Christian
On behalf of St. Marys Path estate Tenants and Residents Association

ASH receives e-mails like this on a weekly basis. But after more than four years of mostly pro-bono work, and with our applications for public funding repeatedly rejected, our continued ability to advise communities and residents abandoned by the state and civil society alike is under threat. Numerous individuals who have worked with us or know about our work have expressed their stupefaction that ASH is not in receipt of public funding; but for us it is clear why organisations like Trust for London – which funds Neo-liberal organisations like Create Streets, which in 2013 recommended demolishing 360,000 homes in Londons council estates, and inoffensive protest groups like Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth – will not fund ASH. Its the same reason our funding was withdrawn from ASH’s mapping project by the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the same project for which Trust for London has refused us funding; the same reason the Serpentine Galleries tried to censor us; the same reason astro-turfers for the Labour Party like the Radical Housing Network advises estate residents facing the demolition of their homes by Labour councils not to work with ASH, but instead to put their faith in painting banners and voting for Jeremy Corbyn. In Trust for Londons willingness to see in four years of ASH’s community work with dozens of estates and thousands of residents what they call a lack of ‘commitment to working with others’, we hear – loud and clear  their opposition to ASHs willingness to expose and oppose the policies and practices of the municipal and local authorities implementing Londons estate regeneration programme.

Last month, Trust for London announced that it is working with the Mayor of London to establish the London Housing Panel, which from summer 2019 will bring together 15 community organisations with an interest in London housing. This panel, which includes Trust for London-funded advocates for leaseholders, tenants, renters, housing co-operatives, the homeless, rough sleepers, vulnerable people, women who are victims of male violence, older LGBT people, the disabled, youth, children, gypsies and travellers, ludicrously doesnt include a single architectural practice. But in response to their decision not to fund ASH, we wrote back to Trust for London, informing them of the e-mail we received from Professor Power, and asking whom they suggest the residents of the St. Marys Path estate contact in the absence of any other organisation offering the service and advice ASH does. Its unclear – at least to us – what the advocates of identity politics and special interest groups composing the London Housing Panel can do to help them and the hundreds of other estates in their situation.

Drawing on our extensive experience of working with residents to successfully oppose estate demolitions across London, ASH has identified the numerous failings in the Mayor’s policy on resident ballots in which Trust for London places such faith. If their Grant Manager had read this, she would understand that these ballots have been designed to manufacture resident consent, not save London’s estates from demolition, or build the homes in which Londoners can afford to live. Not that the residents of St. Mary’s Path estate would even qualify for such a ballot under the policy requirement that the new development must provide at least 150 new properties in order for residents to have a vote on the demolition of their homes.

We look forward to hearing the Grant Manager’s suggestion, which we will pass on to the St. Mary’s Path TRA. And ASH will, of course, continue to provide what help and advice we can within the limitations imposed on us by our ongoing lack of public funding.

Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (CIC). Although we 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 financially, please make a donation through PayPal:

2 thoughts on “Trust for London: ASH application for funding, June 2019

  1. I shall make a small monthly contribution of £20 as a standing order, toward ASH’s work in the interest for the Campaign for Workers Housing and for the benefit of ordinary people suffering under the blows of capitalist housing.

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