The image of the drone as a sinister, intimidating, invading force has a new incarnation in the East End. A reputedly ‘social’ landlord, East End Homes (EEH), wants to demolish the 383-home Holland Estate in Spitalfields and replace it with the familiar spiked-cocktail of high-rise blocks where only a fraction of the new homes will be affordable to the people who currently live there. EEH is concocting a range of spurious justifications for this course of action, but it can be boiled down to one word – GREED.
The City of London’s glass towers of Mammon loom menacingly over a working class community living in homes of the type that are some of the best built public housing in the world – inter-war LCC ‘walk up’ blocks. The Holland estate is rock solid, unlike the edifices of global capitalism on its doorstep. But EEH wants to cash-in on the estate’s proximity to one of the most lucrative property markets on earth and is prepared to displace an entire community to do it.
There’s a horrible history here. EEH was set up as a ‘new social landlord’ in the early 2000s as part of the de facto privatisation of 200,000 council homes a year under New Labour. One-time council officers (I used to work with some of them) set up EEH with the intention of taking over the estates they used to administer, but on a much bigger salary! To achieve this they needed to persuade council tenants to vote ‘yes’ in transfer ballots. In essence, the ‘offer’ made to residents on the Holland and other estates was ‘vote yes for large-scale investment – vote no for deteriorating housing and services’.
I was involved in the campaign against ‘stock transfer’ a decade ago, but not surprisingly many tenants voted ‘yes’, including those on the Holland estate. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. As a Holland estate resident put it to me today
‘I feel like I’ve been tricked. I believed everything they said and now they want to pull my home down. I love my home. There’s nothing wrong with it. They just want a place where rich people can live, so East End Homes can make more money.’
Holland residents are determined to resist the demolition of their homes and I’m going to support them in any way I can. Readers of this blog may not be aware that, as of yesterday, I’m a candidate in the general election. I’m standing in Bethnal Green and Bow (where I live) for a self-explanatory alliance: ‘Left Unity – Trade Union and Socialist Coalition’. I’m making housing my number one campaign issue with saving the Holland Estate at the forefront. Watch this space.