In summer 2005, residents of Newham and other Olympic host boroughs expressed euphoria and jubilation at London winning its bid for the 2012 Games. The major point in securing the bid was of course the promise of socio-economic rejuvenation in east London - clearly important for a borough where one in four households live on less than £15,000 a year.
Most important to me as an Newham Council tenant and community activist was the initial promise that half of the Athletes’ Village accommodation would be ‘affordable’ after the games. Around 1,500 of these homes were to be social-rented, going a long way to reducing Newham’s 28,000-long housing waiting list.
But as time goes on, I increasingly worry that ‘rejuvenation’ will benefit wealthier residents moving into Newham, rather than our existing, much poorer communities.
For example, the new Stratford City Westfield shopping complex, close to the Olympic stadium and a key to the regeneration plans, has its economic advantages. But it already looks like homes within a two-mile radius of the Olympic site will become prime property with astronomical prices way beyond the financial reach of existing residents.
Meanwhile, on a recent tour of the Olympic site organised for Newham’s black and minority ethnic residents we were told that the share of affordable homes was now reduced to around 35 per cent of 11,000 homes.
London Tenants Federation analysis of the capital’s social housing delivery from 2007 to 2010 shows delivery of new and additional social homes in east London (as a percentage of all homes delivered there) was lower than the city’s average, which is anyway at less than a third of evidenced need. Since east London is where the biggest share of new homes is planned in the capital, this impact is across London.
In other ‘regeneration’ schemes in Newham, such as at Custom House and Canning Town, we have seen existing homes demolished and residents displaced. It seems the vast majority of the new social homes (if we ever get them) will simply replace those demolished.
Over the next four years we have the prospect of the majority of new so-called ‘affordable’ homes planned for the borough being let at up to
80 per cent market rents. This simply won’t be affordable to the vast majority on the housing waiting lists in Newham or elsewhere. And Newham’s mayor is already saying that those with jobs will have priority for the new housing.
I fear that what we are already witnessing in Newham is the migration of social tenants, or would-be social tenants, to outer London areas like Barking and Dagenham, Ilford, even as far as Brentwood in Essex, and the disintegration of families through gradual ‘gentrification’. Is this really the legacy that was promised?
Victor Adegbuyi, council tenant and London Tenants Federation representative from Newham Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations