Regeneration, Tenant & Resident Democracy

OHG: Respect the Ballot!

Gilbeys Yard and Juniper Crescent are a community of 200 homes adjoining a Morrisons supermarket in Camden. The community’s landlord, One Housing Group (OHG) balloted residents in November 2020 asking: “Are you in favour of the proposal for redevelopment of Juniper Crescent and Gilbeys Yard?”.

When the ballot result was published, it was clear that the two estates were unequivocal in their response, voting by a majority of 91 to 68 against demolition and redevelopment.

During the consultation, OHG had promised to respect the outcome of the ballot. When the result came in however, it was clearly not the outcome they wanted. They began quietly moving families out and replacing them with tenants on short term agreements of three months. These tenants have no voting rights.

It seems obvious to tenants and residents opposed to redevelopment that OHG has no intention of fulfilling its promise and respecting the outcome of the democratic ballot. They have now formed the ‘Hands off Our Yard’ (HOOY) campaign group to fight any moves to re-run it.

The reason the estates are being targeted is clear: the homes are built on prime real estate, and OHG wants to follow many others in social cleansing so that they can rent out expensive apartments on full market rents. This is a huge moneymaking opportunity for them and their joint venture developing partner Countryside, so they won’t let that go without a fight.

Campaigners believe that OHG strategy’s is to wait for the demolition of Morrisons to begin, which will be very disturbing for Gilbeys Yard residents as most of the homes overlook Morrisons. With that and the gerrymandering of the voters, they will then hope to win another ballot after going through the whole process again.

A Terrible Waste

The redevelopment option would be a terrible waste, not least because it would break up a close and diverse community, destabilising the area. Campaigners say:

“We have a good community, with the majority of residents having lived here for over 20 years. Some have raised families and formed deep bonds with the people and the area.“

It is also unncessary. The estates are only 24 years old and won the Best Design awards when they were first built in 1996.

Any new development has very little prospect of meeting the needs of people in urgent need on Camden Council’s waiting list. The new homes will be expensive to build so will be let out at higher rents. Instead of investing in new unaffordable housing, campaigners want the money to be spent on refurbishment. Gilbey’s Yard and Juniper Crescent homes need the repairs and maintenance that OHG has seriously neglected

Organising a Fightback

Campaigners are organising to fight back against gentrification and social cleansing with SHAC’s support, and are determined not to be beaten.

The group is also aiming to put pressure on OHG to give secure or assured tenancies which incorporate full voting rights to those on short-term contracts. Campaigners say “it’s unfair on the short term tenants who have no stability and it’s unfair on the community”. Unfortunately, such gerrymandering is common tactic on estates targeted for regeneration and social cleansing.

Elsewhere across the country, similar anti-gentrification and anti-social cleansing battles have been fought, some meeting with considerable success. Amongst the most well-known has been the campaign opposing the regeneration plans of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) covered in our earlier post The Stop HDV Campaign: A Grassroots Victory. On that occasion, the local community scored an impressive victory and held the council to account for their actions.

One Housing Group’s declining corporate performance recently led to a downgrade by the Regulator of Social Housing (see One Housing Group Passes the Buck for Financial Failings). A campaign highlighting the executive’s disregard for its promises to tenants and residents could well find thems meeting the same fate as those responsible for the HDV.

Campaign Launch Protest Pictures

Photographs by Christina Jansen – @Christina Jansen

21 March 2021

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