Mayor mulls ballots for estate regeneration

February 2, 2018 / Isla MacFarlane
Mayor mulls ballots for estate regeneration

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has published the first-ever City Hall guide to estate regeneration in London, setting out how he will protect social housing. He proposes mandatory ballots of residents for schemes where any demolition is planned as a strict condition of his funding.

The ‘Better Homes for Local People’ good practice guide is the first time any Mayor has set out strong guidelines on estate regeneration for the capital and follows an extensive and comprehensive consultation process.

While the Mayor has limited sway when it comes to estate regeneration, Khan is apparently determined to use his funding and planning powers to their fullest extent to protect social housing and give its residents a voice in the capital.

It forms a key part of the Mayor’s broader calls for social housing residents to have a bigger say in the future of their estates following last year’s horrific fire at Grenfell Tower.

“My guide sets out how I will use my investment powers in a way they have never been used before, by requiring resident support through a ballot for new plans involving demolition where City Hall funding is involved,” Khan said.

“I want to make sure people living on social housing estates, who have the greatest interest in their future, are at the heart of any decisions from the outsets,” he added.

Sadiq first highlighted the important role that ballots play in his draft good practice guide published in December 2016 and has, over the last year, developed plans to make positive ballots a condition of and future City Hall funding for new estate regeneration projects. His detailed proposals for ballots will be separately consulted on for two months to become a condition of funding for new schemes in the capital.

There are estimated to be around 25 estate regeneration schemes underway at any one time in London involving funding from City Hall, and under the Mayor’s plans all such schemes would, in future, require a successful ballot outcome before their funding could be approved.

The Mayor’s guide explains what he believes Londoners living on social housing estates should expect from their landlords when regeneration is proposed – with full consultation and involvement from the outset being crucial. Where demolition is proposed, the Mayor wants to see councils and housing associations follow his ‘Better Homes for Local People’ principles by providing:

  • an increase in affordable homes – and as a minimum, no loss of social housing;
  • full rights to remain or return for tenants;
  • a fair deal for leaseholders and freeholders.

The Mayor will use his draft new London Plan to ensure no net loss of social housing and an increase in affordable homes “wherever possible”.

He will help make sure there is clear resident support for major schemes that involve any demolition through his proposed condition that Mayoral funding in future will be dependent on a positive resident ballot on landlords’ plans.

During its formal consultation last year, the draft version of the Mayor’s guide received more than 2,000 responses from Londoners, which showed strong support for his commitment to ensuring no loss of social housing in any estate regeneration programme, and looking to increase the amount of affordable housing whenever possible.

Lord Bob Kerslake said, “As a key milestone within a broader consultation process, ballots have the potential to build trust between residents of an estate and their landlord, and where they back regeneration plans, they can give everyone involved the certainty they need to get on with building more and better social housing for local people.”

Sarah Holtam, co-chair of Citizens UK Council, added, “We are encouraged that the Mayor of London is trying to give power back to local people when it comes to estate regeneration. For too long members of London Citizens and those living on estates across London facing regeneration have been forced to be observers to painful changes to their communities, without the voice they deserve.”

A mandatory ballot of residents being a condition of GLA funding would be a big step in the right direction and we will be responding to the consultation to try and make sure the final policy is fit for purpose.”

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said, “Regeneration must put local people first, not property speculators. Too often these large projects have led to social cleansing, jacking up of rents and communities broken apart.

“Sadiq is showing what Labour can do in office, by putting people first and giving residents real control through a ballot before redevelopments can go ahead. Labour is committed to giving residents the right to a ballot across the country so that when we’re in government we can deliver real regeneration for the many not the few.”

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