Hackney residents’ demolition worries

Colville estate residents Emily Mackey and Jenny Hutchinson. Pic: Koos Couvee

Residents on a Hackney Council estate fear they will be forced out of their local area now their homes have been earmarked for demolition in a regeneration bid.

A council master plan for the Colville estate in Hoxton, home to over 400 families, sets out the demolition of the homes, which the council says is necessary to combat overcrowding on the estate and improve the housing stock.

Hackney Council wants to knock down existing social housing on the estate and replace the 400 homes with a high-rise housing development of around 900 flats. The amount of social housing on the estate will be maintained, but 54 per cent of new homes will be sold on the private market.

While councillor Karen Alcock, Deputy Mayor of Hackney Council, has stated that the proposals enjoy widespread support among residents, many leaseholders, who bought their homes through the Right-to-Buy scheme or on the open market, are unhappy about the money offered to them for the loss of their homes.

One leaseholder is being offered £230,000 for her two bedroom flat and an additional 10 per cent in compensation. But the flat has been valued at £285,000 by estate agent Foxtons and an independent surveyor has put its value at £300,000.

Another leaseholder, who lives in a three bedroom flat with a garden with her young daughter, is being offered £245,000 for her home. Prices for three bedroom flats sold on the private market have reached £350,000 in Hackney, so it is unlikely that an equivalent property can be found for the money offered by the council.

Leaseholders have the option to purchase a property on the open market, agree a leasehold on a new property with similar value on the redeveloped estate, or agree a shared equity deal on a new property, provided that their old property is at least worth 75 per cent of the value of the new build flat.

The situation for leaseholders is very similar on the Woodberry Down estate, also in Hackney.

Whilst the new properties are being built, leaseholders are being offered temporary accommodation. They are waiting for Hackney council to release market figures for the new properties.

Emily Mackey, a 32-year-old freelance artist who is a leaseholder on the estate, said: “We’re not being bought out and moved straight into a new flat of the same market value, but we’re being kicked out now and re-housed elsewhere without knowing how much the values of the new flats will be. We are uncertain about our right to return to the estate.”

The area around the Colville estate, located along Regent’s canal, has become a prime spot for real estate in recent years, with relatively small new three bedroom flats at the nearby Hoxton Wharf selling for £450,000.

Tenants also fear losing their homes, with some saying that the council does not have a clear strategy for re-housing them.

Jenny Hutchinson, 65, who has been a tenant on the estate since 1974, said: “I was offered two properties but I turned both of them down as I would much rather stay here. I am not sure the council has a strategy for where they are going to put people and I don’t think they’ve got the spaces.”

She added: “Give it a few years and the average working person will not be able to live in London anymore. We’ll have to move to the outskirts.”

Colville residents opposing the plans have received the backing of Conservative London Assembly member Andrew Boff, who wrote in the Hackney Gazette earlier this month that the council’s use of Compulsory Purchase Orders amounted to “legalised theft of homes.”

Hackney council’s position is that the plans enjoy widespread support on the estate. Councillor Alcock said: “Resident support is key before the Council makes any decisions about housing regeneration. Last year a petition with the names of over 250 tenants and leaseholders in support of the Colville Estate Masterplan was handed into the borough’s planning committee.”

But some residents have questioned the legitimacy of the petition. Hackney councillor Linda Kelly has submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council on behalf of concerned residents asking for all details of the petition, particularly why the council felt it was needed.

A meeting between Colville residents and Hackney Council is due to take place next week.

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