Leading regeneration developer Stanhope is facing a political row over a groundbreaking deal that it is about to sign to redevelop a swath of London council estates.
The plan will see hundreds and possibly thousands of council houses in Hammersmith & Fulham, west London, demolished and replaced with properties for sale.
Conservative-dominated Hammersmith & Fulham Council, which is widely seen as pioneering in its approach to housing policy, is set to approve the 15-year joint venture early next month. But the area’s Labour MP has written to the company warning that the deal risks its corporate reputation.
Andrew Slaughter, MP, called the joint venture “the clearest example yet of social engineering in a borough that is now notorious for such schemes”. He warned Stanhope chief executive David Camp that such plans would face “huge public opposition” during the forthcoming local elections in May.
Hammersmith & Fulham has sold off 209 empty council houses in the past four years, raising £88.5m cash, according to data disclosed to Mr Slaughter under the Freedom Of Information Act. The council said that it would spend the proceeds on the development of new homes.
Mr Slaughter said: “Using the sale of vital affordable homes to enable the demolition of others and building unaffordable developments in their place is not regeneration, it is social engineering, and no respectable developer should associate themselves with such pernicious, politically-motivated activity.”
Council cabinet member for housing Andrew Johnson argued that local people needed better access to home ownership, rather than below-market rents. House prices in the borough have more than doubled in the past decade.
Nearly 6,000 households have expressed an interest in buying a home through Hammersmith & Fulham’s low-cost home buying programme, according to council figures.
Mr Johnson said: “We are proactively developing our own land assets to meet with demand with a target of 40 per cent affordable [ownership]. The schemes are crossed-funded by the sale of market housing, meaning much-needed affordable housing grant can used by other parts of London who do not benefit from such high land prices.”
More than 30 other councils have shown an interest in replicating the arrangement, according to Hammersmith & Fulham.
The council will put two initial sites of 150 existing social rented homes into the joint venture, replacing them with 300 homes for sale, of which 40 per cent will be sold at a discount to their market price.
All the current homes on both sites are empty. Some have been unoccupied for several years. Mr Slaughter said that some former residents, his constituents, complained they had been “tricked into moving out of their homes to allow improvements works then not permitted to return”.
The council has promised that any residents who have to move as a result of redevelopment will be given an equivalent home and their existing tenancy will continue.
Mr Johnson accused Mr Slaughter of “pathetic posturing”, adding: “Any talk of social tenants is nonsense. Any secure council tenant who may be decanted in future schemes will remain a secure council tenant.”
Late last year Stanhope also won full planning permission from Hammersmith & Fulham Council for the redevelopment of the BBC TV Centre site, including the creation of 1,000 new homes.
A spokesman for Stanhope refused to comment.
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