Solidarity spoke to Tony Osborne, Vice Chair of Aspland and Marcon Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, Hackney about their campaign.
An inquiry organised by the House of Commons Council Housing group of MPs met at Parliament on 8 March. I attended. The group is an MPs’ campaign, running alongside the Defend Council Housing campaign, which aims to get the Government to endorse a so-called fourth option for council tenants — that is, that council tenants should be allowed to stay with councils, rather than been transferred to Housing Associations or managed by other organisations, with councils being allowed to use money gained from “right to buy” receipts to improve their housing stock.
The campaign has sponsored an Early Day Motion which has been signed by 280 MPs.
From the meeting, I get the impression the campaign is building and the Government will eventually back down, but it has been a long road.
More and more councils are now declaring for “stock retention”. According to press reports on 16 January the government has privately accepted that it will not meet its manifesto target of improving council homes to a decent standard in all areas by 2010. It won’t be possible in areas that resist the hiving-off council housing to new management.
Our estate [see report, Solidarity 3/64] has been designated a “Priority Review Estate” in Hackney. After 25 years of no work being done on the estate we are now been treated to architects’ proposals and the like.
The residents have been given four options, three refurbishment options and an option called “demolition and rebuild”. This is the one the council clearly want. 87 homes in Marcon Court would be demolished and replaced by 124 flats, only 30 of which would be council flats.
The existing leaseholders will not be able to afford to buy the new flats. There will not be enough council flats for the existing tenants. All our green space will be built on. What’s going on? The council wants to use the land where we live to build flats for other, better-off people, commuting into work, using the good rail links close to the estate. It’s the Westminster Option. The council has promised us a ballot, but I’m not holding my breath.
We are campaigning hard on this. We want our houses refurbished, we want to stay with the council, and we want to keep all our rights as tenants.