Mayor Khan’s “Balloting Promise” Fails to Meet Demands of Threatened Ethnic Communities, Public Housing Tenants…And Here’s What Must Be Done
By Thomas L Blair 05 January 2018 ©
Mayor Sadiq Khan has come out for resident ballots – yes or no — for estate regeneration. Under the scheme, ballots for residents on demolition projects will be a condition for City Hall funding.
Many like-minded citizens see this as a brave rebuff to profit-driven forces. However, the initiative fails to respond to deep fightback issues raised by Black and minority ethnic residents and communities. They are by all accounts most hard hit by the poverty of planning – the ill-effects of demolition and forced displacement.
What aggrieved communities and residents want…and why they want it?
We welcome Mayor Khan’s humanity to a savage process that forces people not just from their homes, but from their communities. But is the decision enough?
Aroused Londoners are fighting back against regeneration plans that always lead to people removal.
- Their housing habitats and treasured community assets are at risk.
- Local libraries, parks, youth centres, clubs, pubs, independent shops are endangered.
- The smiting blows of councils and developers bulldozers are relentless.
Therefore, increasingly articulate – and angry — communities are fighting back against life-disrupting policies. Beyond initial pleas for help, their favoured tactics are petitions and direct action. They launch massive community campaigns when their cries for political and legal intervention are unheard,
Petitions against “unjust” housing practices
Brent is one incubator of resident and community action. Here “institutional indifference” triggers an angry response. Impassioned crowds gathered outside the Civic Centre in Wembley protesting against “barely adequate public housing services”.
Protestors link the tenants’ plight to faulty Brent Council policies. Petitions blame “absurd and unjust” housing practices.
Organisers for Gaashaan, a non-profit body, target Brent’s housing authority. It is “responsible for the continued suffering of our communities and our families.”
Sit-ins and direct action
Residents in multi-racial and minority ethnic Aylesbury Estate, South East London, have added sit-ins to their fight back armoury. They occupied empty flats in protest against gentrification of the area.
This is significant because Aylesbury houses almost 8000 residents in one of the biggest housing estates in Britain and Europe. Significant, too, because renting tenants and owning leaseholders joined protests. Both have lobbied against a 1.5-billion-pound, two-decade scheme to flatten and rebuild the valuable property.
“We heard from leaseholders still living behind the prison-like fences of the phase one demolition area. We heard from tenants in the phase two demolition area who are confused about if and how they are supposed to find other places to go”.
Fair deal for our communities and traders
Latin London communities, a newly recognised ethnic/cultural group, have won some victories. Brazilians, Columbians and Argentinians are in the forefront. In Tottenham, North London, they have rallied to save their Seven Sisters indoor market “a popular, buzzing little hub of Latin shops”.
Moreover, in Elephant and Castle they defeated the “regeneration” of the existing shopping centre and surrounding areas. They want to keep their communities alive and well.
“We don’t oppose development, we oppose THIS development because it does not offer a fair deal for our communities”, said scholar, community activist and Latin Urban Studies expert, Dr Patria Roman-Velazquez.
Indeed, United Nations human rights experts support their plea. Victory could boost the cause of beleaguered communities across the UK and world.
“We belong here, we settled here, we want to stay here and reap the benefits of regeneration”.
New mayoral initiatives must respond to this challenge. Indeed, last summer’s Grenfell Tower fire revealed the fight back issues in hideously stark relief.
Mr Khan, to his credit, says he wants to make sure those living on social housing estates “are at the heart of any decisions”. However, the proof requires action far beyond yes or no balloting.
Fight back issues are the real measures of all City Hall public housing initiatives and regeneration schemes.
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