The housing crisis is hitting Battersea hard. Since 1978, Tory Wandsworth Council has disposed of 24,000 council houses. It has failed to replace them and it has not been building the genuinely affordable homes Battersea needs.
There are now nearly 7,000 families on Wandsworth Council’s housing waiting list, 2,000 families in the borough are homeless, rough sleeping is rocketing, and private rents are soaring.
For the great majority, the housing market is broken. But it is working for a small minority.
Many new blocks are being built in Battersea, but these are not homes for local people. They are unaffordable luxury apartment blocks, built for the benefit of developers and investors.
And I fear that Wandsworth Council’s Winstanley and York Road regeneration proposals fit into this pattern.
This is a £1 billion proposed development that will see existing homes replaced and nearly 2,000 new homes built.
There is no doubt that the estate needs investment: It has been neglected by the council for decades.
While it is welcome that existing homes will be replaced, and the proposals include a much-needed leisure and community hub, regeneration provides the opportunity to build new, genuinely affordable housing, meeting the needs of Battersea residents.
But that is not what Wandsworth Council is proposing. Instead, they want to radically change the social make-up of the estate: At present nearly 70% of the estate are social tenants, but when the project is complete, less than 20% will be.
This is because nearly 90% of the additional homes will be unaffordable, private housing, while a mere 3 homes – just 0.15% of the additional homes – will be council houses.
What makes this particularly disappointing is that Wandsworth Council is refusing to apply for the Mayor of London’s affordable housing fund.
For regeneration projects to access this funding, the Mayor rightly insists on a condition that requires councils to carry out a ballot of residents. And this is why the council has not applied for this funding – they say such questions are too “complex” for residents.
I believe this is a big mistake. Battersea is in desperate housing need and we should trust in the knowledge and judgement of residents. Not enough genuinely affordable or social homes are being built. The result is the misery of the housing crisis.
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