Protestors, including organisations from Hackney and Tower Hamlets, briefly shut down the controversial MIPIM-UK property conference today, with police confirming that they made an arrest outside the venue.
MIPIM is the world’s largest property conference and is taking place in London for the first time. The event gives domestic and foreign investors, local authorities and developers a forum to network and discuss the UK’s real estate market.
Unite the Union called for Labour councillors to boycott the event at the beginning of October, citing concerns that the Mayor “is aiding and abetting property developers in the capital to the detriment of those seeking a home”.
Three ELL boroughs, Hackney, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, were absent from the conference. Alan Smith Deputy Mayor of Lewisham, said the council will not “be spending £500 [sic] of our local taxpayer money going to an event to meet people I can meet in other places for free”.
Phillip Glanville, Hackney’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “We’re not attending this event, because as a council we’re building our own homes for social renting and shared ownership, paid for by private sale properties, as our contribution to help tackle the housing crisis, as well as creating our own lettings agency for private renters on low incomes and in housing need.”
Hackney Digs and Tower Hamlets Renters gathered outside Kensington Olympia to voice their disapproval of what Pauline Bader, a protestor from Shadwell, described as “the privatization of public land”.
Other protestors condemned the absence of rent capping in London and the selling of houses for investment purposes.
Though East London Lines cannot verify, one Twitter user observed conflict between protestors and exhibitors.
— Oscar Webb (@owebb) October 15, 2014
As protests grew outside Boris Johnson provided the keynote speech on the future of the industry, saying: “The solution is not blaming London for its success – it’s building hundreds of thousands of new affordable homes.”
Darren Johnson, Member of the London Assembly for the Green Party, told ELL: “The Mayor is speaking at MIPIM-UK for one reason: to encourage big developers and rich investors to buy up London’s land and homes.”
He noted that “opportunity areas” have become out of the reach of the average household. A home in the former council estate of Woodberry Down, Hackney, now costs 10 times the median salary, and Saffron Square in Croydon requires buyers to raise 6 times their average salary – an affordable home should cost no more than 4.5 times the median salary.
Labour-led Croydon Council attended the event alongside Develop Croydon. The council has committed to building 9,500 houses in the next five years with 30% of homes outside the metropolitan centre expected to be affordable. Croydon Council did not provide a response on their decision to attend the event.
The conference continues until 17 October with discussions on topics such as ‘Greater London, Grand Paris: L’Entente Cordiale’ and ‘Great British High Street: RIP or Revitalisation’.
James Benge and Alexandra Sims