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Friday, 19 September 2014

London RTB tenants 'forced out' of city

An article was recently published on the BBC website describing the plight of Council leaseholders faced with "regeneration schemes".

London Right to Buy tenants 'forced out' of city
By Zack Adesina BBC Inside Out, London 

For developers, businesses and local authorities, regeneration can lead to big profits, but Inside Out London has discovered that for some homeowners, who bought under the Right to Buy scheme, it can lead to the loss of their homes.

All over London, dozens of ageing council estates, past their prime, are being demolished to make way for redevelopments.

It means that leaseholders who bought their homes on these sites under the Right to Buy scheme are being hit with Compulsory Purchase Orders and forced to move out.

Local authorities are legally bound to reimburse these homeowners but Inside Out has uncovered evidence that shows some are being pressured to accept sums that are below market value.

'Fair price'

Ten homeowners on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark say the council has priced their properties at such low rates it will leave them financially ruined and force them out of the capital.

But when the leaseholders hired independent valuers they came up with figures far higher than the council's.

Beverley Robinson, who bought her home on the estate over a decade ago, claims the local authority valued her flat at £117,000 while two independent valuers priced it at about £300,000.

Ms Robinson said if she accepts the council's offer she will have no choice but to move out of the capital. 

"You can't buy a home in London for under £140,000 which means I will have to start again, finding a mortgage, and at my age that's not an option. I will be turned down by the banks," she said.

Agnes Kabuto, who lives on the same estate, said the council had offered her £145,000 for her three-bedroom home while similar-sized properties in the area were going for about £385,000.

She said swapping her rent account for a mortgage was a mistake. 

"I regret buying under Right to Buy. I worked hard to pay for this property. It was meant to be my nest egg for old age but now I feel like the council has robbed me of my home," she said.

But Southwark's Cabinet member for regeneration, Councillor Mark Williams, said leaseholders are being offered a fair price.

Legal action

He said: "We are doing everything we can to work with homeowners who are required to move out.

"They are being offered market values for their properties... plus 10% for the inconvenience of moving."

The council also claims leaseholders who wish to remain on the estate will be able to move into new homes under shared ownership or shared equity.

Several of the affected residents are now considering legal action against Southwark Council.

But Southwark is not the only London borough where a row has erupted over a regeneration estate.

Inside Out has discovered that homeowners in Hackney, Hendon and Lambeth are also challenging the compulsory purchase amounts being offered by their local authority. 

Peeved and disappointed of Chelsea

One of our neighbours recently wrote to the Hornet to express their displeasure at recent events:

Dear Dame, 

In light of recent articles on the Sutton Estate I thought your readers might appreciate an update on the other example of attempted "social engineering" in the heart of Chelsea. 

As your readers are no doubt aware those living in the western-most corner of Chelsea were treated to an "interesting" summer thanks to Council-inspired proposals to build a Crossrail 2 station on the site of the Cremorne estate. Proposals that would have resulted in the estate's demolition and the forced relocation of its residents. The locals - residents and neighbours of the estate alike - did not take particularly kindly to the proposals, on which they had never been properly consulted by the Council. They mobilised quickly and campaigned to generate a massive and unequivocal response to the TfL consultation then underway. Sadly it appears that the Council haven't taken particularly kindly to this turn of events. 

At a recent meeting of the Kings Road Association of Chelsea Residents those who campaigned against the proposals were referred to as "trolls, troublemakers and activists" by the Leader of the Council. You would have hoped such churlish comments would be beneath both the Council and the Leader, but sadly it appears not.

News of the proposals had originally leaked from within Kensington and Chelsea TMO, the company managing the Council's housing. This would not have been appreciated by the Council and the TMO now appears intent on making amends by crippling the estate's Residents Association. The TMO have written to the Association notifying it that all future communication must be made in writing through its complaints department and that any attempts to contact individual members of staff, including the housing officers and technical staff responsible for the estate, will simply be ignored. Members of staff have confirmed an edict from above to that effect: do not communicate with the Cremorne Estate Residents Association, force them to put everything in writing, cause delay, slow everything down, wear the residents out. An interesting stance for a supposedly "resident led" housing management company whose shareholders include many of the estate's residents!

All in all not what one would have hoped from either the Council or the TMO. Some might be inclined to suggest that it would be wiser for them all to sit down, ponder what happened and attempt to re-open the lines of communication but I fear that they have already taken a leaf out of the "Housing Association's Regeneration Handbook" (currently on loan to Affinity Sutton) and consider antagonising the locals further a more appropriate strategy. 

This is not behaviour befitting the Royal Borough. We are all being let down.

Peeved and disappointed of Chelsea

Disengagement

We were not warned of the implications of the TfL consultation. We were not told that we were being consulted on the demolition of our own homes. We were subjected to the worry and uncertainty of displacement having committed no wrong and trusting those who are paid by the public purse to protect our interests. We fought in an honest and honourable way with right on our side. We came together from all political persuasions with one common interest: to save our homes.

We are now being systematically discredited and sidelined by those who should hang their heads in shame. Our most vulnerable residents are losing services as our residents association is targeted. Officers of the TMO have been instructed not to have any direct communication with our residents association. This renders our residents association powerless and unable to serve our community.

All we are guilty of is coming together as a community to fight to save our homes.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Trolls, Troublemakers and Activists

At a recent meeting of the Kings Road Association of Chelsea Residents the leader of the Council proceeded to refer to those who opposed the proposal to build a Crossrail 2 station on the site of the Cremorne Estate as "trolls, troublemakers and activists" out to misrepresent the Council's "good intentions".


We find it interesting that the leader of the Council should see fit to make any comments about those who opposed the Crossrail 2 station given that he has made no effort whatsoever to discuss the issues with us in a meaningful way. How can he know who we are, what we think or what we want when no one from the Council has bothered to try and talk to us, discuss the issues with us or, to be quite frank, engage with us in any meaningful way?

Whether the Council like it or not the truth is quite simple:

The campaign against the Crossrail 2 station was devised, managed and run by local residents - residents of the Cremorne Estate, the World's End Estate, the Lots Road triangle and nearby streets; those whose lives would be affected, possibly blighted, by the construction of the Crossrail 2 station on the site of the Cremorne Estate. The campaign was funded and resourced in its entirety by individual residents, many of whom are now significantly out of pocket as a result.

In other words: the construction of the Crossrail 2 station was opposed by ordinary people who have little or no interest in becoming embroiled in local politics in any way, shape or form. Ordinary people who simply wish to live their lives in peace but who do not take kindly to having their lives disrupted by the Council's schemes and machinations. Not "trolls, troublemakers and activists".

We can appreciate how none of this fits in with the narrative that the Council now appears intent on propagating. It may well be "inconvenient" that we aren't the nasty, quarrelsome, politically motivated opponents they would dearly love us to be, but it is the truth. And it must be frustrating when pigeonholing is rather less straightforward than usual.

BUT: if the Council wants to learn and perhaps begin to understand what happened they only have to ask. If you want to know what we think, believe and want, come and discuss the issues with us. We will willingly discuss what happened, the issues, what you want and what we want. And we will do so in an open and honest manner, with the sole expectation that you will do the same.  

We therefore await an expression of genuine interest and an honest attempt to engage. We hope the Council will choose to proceed constructively rather than simply resort to calling those who disagree silly names.