Tories to demolish 100 council estates

DAVID Cameron last week revealed his plans for a “blitz” on poverty that will see around 100 council estates demolished and the land given over to the private sector to build better homes.

In an article for the Sunday Times Cameron wrote: “Within these so-called sink estates, behind front doors, families build warm and welcoming homes. But step outside in the worst estates and you’re confronted by concrete slabs dropped from on high, brutal high-rise towers and dark alleyways that are a gift to criminals and drug dealers.

“Decades of neglect have led to gangs and antisocial behaviour. Poverty has become entrenched, because those who could afford to move have understandably done so.”

He claimed that these estates “trap people in poverty” — but it is not the housing that traps people it is low wages and benefit cuts.

The estates have been neglected because previous Tory governments ordained that no money should be spent on their care and maintenance. Some have become squalid and run-down but nevertheless still provide a home for people who could never afford to rent or buy in the private sector.

The whole plan represents another big shift of publicly owned land into the private sector — another wave of the enclosure movement.

The new homes that will be built will be way beyond the pocket of those who will be turned out of the council estates as their homes are demolished.

Those who have young children, or are pensioners or deemed vulnerable because of disability, will be rehoused — but many miles outside London “up north somewhere” where homes are cheaper, but where there are no employment opportunities and a long way from their friends and community. They will still be trapped in poverty with no prospect of improvement.

Those who are not deemed vulnerable will not be eligible for rehousing and may well end up on the streets, which will make it very difficult for those who have jobs to keep them.

Cameron’s new redevelopment programme is to be overseen by Michael Heseltine, who helped to transform the Liverpool and London docks in the 1980s. His estate regeneration advisory panel has been told to produce a full blueprint by the time of the Chancellor’s autumn statement.

private sector

Laying out the proposals on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, Cameron said: “I think it is time, with Government money, but with massive private sector and perhaps pension sector help, to demolish the worst of these, and actually rebuild houses that people feel they can have a real future in.”

Challenged by Marr over whether this could lead to a decrease in social housing at affordable rent, Cameron said: “We will be building more. The key thing for people in those properties is we’re giving them the chance to buy them.”

He said that under an amendment to the Housing Bill: “For every one of these high-cost social houses that we sell, we are going to build at least two new rental houses.”

“Council houses become vacant worth £500,000, £600,000, £800,000. As they become vacant what we are saying is let’s sell those houses and use that money, sometimes up to a million pounds or more, use that money to build new homes for rent, and yes, of course, some that are affordable for people to buy,” said Cameron.

He also said, in the Sunday Times, that three out of four rioters in 2011 came from sink estates: “The riots of 2011 didn’t emerge from within terraced streets or lowrise apartment buildings. The rioters came overwhelmingly from these post-war estates. That’s not a coincidence.”

Shadow housing minister John Healey said: “Any extra to help councils build new homes is welcome but Conservative ministers have halved housing investment since 2010 and are doing too little to deal with the country’s housing pressures.”

Brian Robson, policy and research manager for housing at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity, said it was true that poor housing and run down estates could trap people in poverty. But he said he worried the Government was relying too much on private investment, which risked “pushing people out of the places where they have roots”.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the charity Shelter, said: “It is essential for the Government to consult with the people who live in and around these developments as they develop their plans, and, even more importantly, replace every home which is re-developed like for like.”