A place to live, work and stay?

6 Jul


The Carpenters Estate, on the fringes of the Olympic Park in Stratford, is going to be demolished to make way for a new east London campus for University College London. The residents are, understandably, not happy about this and I have a great deal of sympathy for their position.

It seems perverse at a time when there is a desperate need for affordable housing in London that an estate of perfectly serviceable homes is to be bulldozed and replaced by a university campus.

The borough’s motto is ‘a place to live, work and stay.’ How are people supposed to stay if you knock their homes down?

It is all very well Sir Robin banging on about building resilient communities, but how can communities develop resilience if they are scattered to the four corners of the borough – or indeed beyond – because their homes are demolished and they can’t afford anything else? How many of the flats in the shiny new blocks springing up in Stratford are truly ‘affordable’ to Newham people?

The mayor says, “you can’t do things for people, they’ve got to do it for themselves. All we can do is help. They have to build personal capacity, and that means being able to deal with the things that life throws at you. Grit, determination, aspiration, you have to build it in to communities.”

This language of ‘resilience’ is basically about blaming the poor for their own condition. Too poor to afford some where to rent or buy? Don’t know how to negotiate the bureaucracy to get yourself re-housed? Confused by complex forms and processes? The services you use and rely on no longer exist because of budget cuts? Tough. Not our problem. Go away. 

Sir Robin claims to be ambitious for Newham, but he seems not to have much empathy for the people who actually live here.

[a version of this was posted on the Newham Issues e-democracy forum]

Image from The Cheese Grater


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