Auctions and Sales, Housing Law, OHG, Regeneration, Riverside, Social Cleansing, Tenant & Resident Democracy

Victory for OHG Tenants in Regeneration Battle

One Housing Group (OHG) has been forced into a U-turn by a tenant and resident campaign group after it was referred to the Greater London Authority (GLA) over the proposed ballot of an estate in Camden.

See additional notes for more detail on GLA balloting requirements.

Gilbeys Yard and Juniper Crescent are a community of 200 homes in Camden. Their landlord, OHG, balloted residents in November 2020 asking whether they were in favour of the proposal for redevelopment of Juniper Crescent and Gilbeys Yard. When votes were counted, it was clear that the two estates were overwhelmingly opposed to the plans, voting 91 to 68 against demolition and redevelopment.

Broken Promises

At the time, OHG promised to respect the outcome of the ballot but when the result came in, they began almost immediately to prepare for a second ballot. OHG divided the estates and decided only to ballot Juniper Crescent, attempting to undermine opposition. They cynically moved families off the estate and replaced them with tenants on short term tenancies. OHG believed that these tenants would have no voting rights in any ballot and would be less invested in the future of the estate.

OHG: a track record of broken promises

Local tenants and residents believed differently, and challenged the exclusion of those on less secure tenancies. On August 25th, after nearly six months of dispute, short-term tenants got a letter confirming that they had an unequivocal right to vote in any new ballot.

A tenant said

“This is a major win not only for our community but for all other London estates facing redevelopment ballots. This result was achieved by putting our housing association under great pressure through campaigning, the press, and local councillors.”

Juniper Crescent Tenant

Organised Resistance

After the first ballot, tenants and residents formed the ‘Hands off Our Yard’ campaign group to fight any moves by OHG to re-run the vote having tilted the odds in their own favour. It was the formation of the group that enabled sustained campaigning.

Although one battle has been won, residents are still fighting to ensure that families on intermediate tenancies are not made homeless if the estate is redeveloped.

Prime Location

The reason Juniper Crescent is a target for redevelopment 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 income opportunity for them and their joint venture developing partner Countryside.

OHG’s depiction of Juniper Crescent and Gilbeys Yard gives no hint of the battles its tenants and residents face

Campaigners counter that the redevelopment option would be a terrible waste, not least because it would break up a close and diverse community, destabilising the area. They also point out that it is unnecessary. The estates are only 24 years old and won the Best Design awards for construction in 1996.

Any new development has very little prospect of helping people in urgent need of housing on Camden Council’s list. 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 over the years.

SHAC Support

The residents are being supported in their campaign by SHAC. The OHG-Riverside branch meets regularly and has recently met also with the chief executives Richard Hill (OHG) and Carol Matthews (Riverside), alongside other members of the executive team, to discuss the concerns of tenants and residents.

Register with SHAC to receive invitations to the SHAC@OHG-RHG meetings, or for action in relation to other housing association landlords.


Additional Notes on Greater London Authority Balloting Requirements

The Greater London Authority (GLA) is the devolved regional governance body of Greater London. It incorporates the office of the Mayor of London and the 25-member London Assembly. It has the power to make rulings affecting transport, housing, policing, economic development, and fire and emergency planning. This includes allocating grants under the government’s Affordable Homes Programme; a pot of public money aimed at supporting new housing developments (more).

From 18 July 2018, the GLA introduced new rules which applied to any landlord “seeking GLA funding for estate regeneration projects which involve the demolition of social homes”. The new rules required landlords to demonstrate through a ballot that the regeneration was supported by tenants and residents. The aim of the ruling was “to make sure that GLA funding only supports estate regeneration projects if residents have had a clear say in plans and support them going ahead.” (More)

The requirement applies to projects that involve the demolition of any social homes and the construction of 150 or more homes of any tenure.

To satisfy the GLA’s balloting requirements, the following must be included:

  • Social tenants (including those with secure, assured, flexible or introductory tenancies named as a tenant on a tenancy agreement dated on or before the date the Landlord Offer is published;
  • Resident leaseholders or freeholders who have been living in their properties as their only or principal home for at least one year prior to the date the Landlord Offer is published and are named on the lease or freehold title for their property; and
  • Any resident whose principal home is on the estate and who has been on the local authority’s housing register for at least one year prior to the date the Landlord Offer is published, irrespective of their current tenure.

(More)

7 September 2022


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