Regeneration project to cut social housing

The Burdett Estate will be demolished and replaced with private housing. Pic: Alli Shultes

The Burdett Estate will be demolished and replaced with private housing. Pic: Alli Shultes

The amount of social housing in Burdett Estate, Mile End will decrease after a new regeneration project was approved by Tower Hamlets council.

Tower Hamlets council issued the social housing agency Poplar HARCA a compulsory purchase order to acquire land that will become a new mixed-use building with a ground-floor primary school and residential housing on the upper floors.

The proposal will lead to the demolition of the existing flats in Printon and Linton Houses, already owned by Poplar HARCA.

However, according to the Council report, of the flats being built only 12 are being reserved for social housing- 23 fewer than the Printon and Linton houses currently allocate.

Glenn McMahon, Tower Hamlets Renters said: “Councils, housing associations and developers are all quick to tell you how much new housing they’re building, but not so quick to tell you what’s being lost in the process.”

“We’re consistently seeing social housing demolished and replaced by a smaller number of so-called affordable homes, where rents are significantly higher than social ones, and a huge number of private homes for sale.”

The plan adds an additional 55 homes to the Burdett Estates. It also provide St. Paul’s Way Trust School with an additional 450 places for primary and secondary school children.

Alongside the twelve social housing properties are fourteen units for intermediate rent. Intermediate and affordable rents can be set as high as 80 per cent of the market rate for a property. An analysis by The Guardian last week showed that the average weekly rent for affordable homes in London is £60 more than social-let homes.

Poplar HARCA’s spokesperson Paul Gold said: “Actually we’re increasing the amount of habitable rooms for affordable rent overall.”

However, the council report shows a decrease in affordable housing under the new plan: “the number of new affordable homes to be built within the scheme will be less than the number of homes to be demolished.”

According to Gold, Poplar HARCA has worked to increase the number of social homes in the borough over the past year, completing 227 projects since 2014. Additionally, the organization works to ease the issue of overcrowding, which he describes as “a major issue in Poplar due to large family size.”

On the Burdett Estate, “the vast majority” of lost units will be one and two bedroom, whereas the new development will have “more three and four bed properties for social rent.”

At the time of the decision to issue the compulsory purchase order, seven resident leaseholders and four non-resident leaseholders still had not agreed to decant.

A council spokesperson said: “Those who have already left received support for moving costs and statutory home loss payments, while property owners are being bought out at full value and also get statutory and other compensation to help them relocate.”

According to McMahon buy-outs mean that “people on lower incomes are increasingly forced from the area or, if they’re allowed to return to one of the so-called affordable homes, see a drop in their disposable income.”

The housing association has provoked the anger of residents over other regeneration projects that plan to eliminate social housing units.

Residents of Poplar HARCA’s Brownfields Estate have criticised the organisation for “social cleansing” and the privatisation of social housing since it began decanting residents from Balfron Towers in 2012. Over 3,000 people have signed a petition to save the 99 social housing units threatened in Balfron Towers since it was launched in October.

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