The start of work on One the Elephant was marked with some ceremony this week by developers Lend Lease, including a visit by the mayor of London Boris Johnson. However it was a bit unfortunate for both him and Southwark Council that the symbolically important development has no affordable housing.
The event was covered by ITV and the BBC: <iframe width="350" height="197" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/c0tgOPOI1IE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
The TV reports emphasised the lack of affordable housing. Mayor Johnson and Councillor Colley responded with the well-rehearsed defence that One the Elephant was providing a leisure centre instead, and that 1600 ‘affordable’ housing units will be provided elsewhere in the regeneration.
However, as was revealed at the recent CPO inquiry1 that only a small fraction of these 1600 so-called ‘affordable’ homes will be social rented and Southwark’s changing definitions have seen this term now include ‘affordable rent’ - i.e. up to 80% market rent. The affordable housing also includes part-buy/part-rent and over 200 units at the new iniquitous ‘affordable rent’ at 50% market rent. Neither of these are options that are really affordable for the vast majority of people who need housing in Southwark. As this blog has repeatedly emphasised - social rent is the kind of affordable housing that Southwark needs most, yet it is precisely the kind that the Elephant regeneration is destroying.
In the ITV interview, Councillor Colley also referred to Southwark Council’s recent pledge to build 10,000 council houses over the next 30 years. This pledge is very welcome and we hope to see it fulfilled, but affordable housing was to be one of the key benefits of the Elephant & Castle regeneration, and these are homes that should be being built now.
Profit in Leisure
The leisure centre in lieu of affordable housing will cost around £20m2. Lend Lease’s contribution to this is £3.5m3. Has the sale of the land to Lend Lease generated the £17m shortfall? In any event Lend Lease got a good deal - the required 35% affordable housing contribution would have been around 100 units, and at £300k each4 this would have cost Lend Lease £30m.
Overseas and Off-Plan
The BBC report also focused on the amount of free-market housing that Lend Lease is selling off-plan overseas for buy-to-let investment. Neither Boris Johnson nor Fiona Colley could say how much this would be, but if One the Elephant follows the trend of 75% going overseas then there will only be 70 units for British-based buyers who are wealthy enough to afford them.
Another recent BBC report also addresses the overseas buyer issue and local MP Simon Hughes initiated an adjournment debate in the House of Commons where he gave his own ideas about how to solve the problem.
Those who have had to leave us
In an Evening Standard article respected journalist Mira Bar-Hillel focuses on those who have had to leave the Elephant to make way for the regeneration.
We covered this briefly in our recent blog post. The Standard article puts some faces to the statistics and shows what the regeneration has really been about for these former local people.