Knocking down the community

Submitted by Anon on 20 April, 2005 - 2:16

By Mike Rowley

What the country’s poorest really need is higher house prices. That’s the basic premise of the Government’s Housing Renewal Pathfinder schemes — demolishing 400,000 houses across the north of England to build more expensive homes.

“The aim of this £500 million housing market renewal programme is to turn whole communities around by improving the quality of private, local authority and registered social landlord housing. This will involve clearing poor quality houses… building attractive, good quality new homes, and upgrading existing homes to push up their market value.” (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, February 2004)

They talk of housing market renewal, rather than the renewal or renovation of existing homes, because in the 1980s the Tories brought in laws to put far higher taxes on repairs than new build.

It all makes the construction companies very happy. Well known firms such as Bellway Homes (responsible for many other socially and environmentally “contentious” schemes) are being brought in by the government to build the new private houses. The other main winners are the companies that usually follow regeneration gravy trains — consultants, accountants and “outsourcers”, such as management consultants Capita.

Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) are also in on the act. These are a range of (private) housing associations and companies which are registered with the Housing Corporation and pay no shareholder dividend. Many of them are involved in the Government’s transfers of council housing stock, and they are very happy to be part of the Pathfinder schemes, shuffling out their tenants to make way for the demolitions.

It’s the demolitions that are causing the most concern — with one of the scheme’s founders fearing a “social upheaval” like that which accompanied the 1960–70s slum clearances.

Pathfinder schemes will demolish 400,000 houses, and may involve the eviction of thousands of families, mostly private and RSL tenants, and also home owners. They are suffering now, and the tenants and home buyers of the future will suffer later, due to increased prices and dearth of social housing. The housing charity, Shelter, has estimated that 167,000 currently affordable homes will be demolished.

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