Last year, for almost 6 months we tried to appoint a young person based in Hackney as a paid intern to gain experience of housing regeneration and community work. As we love our work, we naïvely thought that this position would attract plenty of school leavers or graduates keen to get some practical skills to add to their CV.
Careers in housing seem to be reached almost entirely by accident, yet the range of skills that can be acquired and the diversity of areas you can work in means that there are very, very few boring jobs in the sector. The sector needs to do more to attract bright compassionate people to want to work in housing and community work.
Eventually we recruited Lydia through word of mouth and it was a successful six month internship on both sides. Lydia enjoyed the wide range of tasks we gave her and the chance to follow her own interests too. We appreciated having an extra pair of hands. She has gone on to be successfully accepted onto a masters degree in Urban Regeneration and follow her dream to work abroad. Read her blog of December 2017 to learn more about how she felt.
This year we are busier than ever and hope to give another enthusiastic graduate or school leaver the chance to find out how fascinating working with a community as they face major changes to their homes and community can be. Our advertisement is on the Graduate Talent Poll website and www.indeed.com. We also will accept CVs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
This week, I have been procrastinating over our response to the Mayor of London’s Draft Homes for Londoners consultation. We love regeneration, not just for its own sake but because done well it can genuinely improve lives. But so many landlords seem to be hungry to realise land values at the expense of carrying local communities along with their plans. That is my major problem with the Guidance – that it stop shorts of giving existing communities a genuine say in the future of their homes and estates. In fact it even shies away from a test of opinion in case some conscientious independent tenants and leaseholders advisor interprets that as a ballot. It’s extremely short-sighted to believe that gentrification can continue at the current rate and surely nobody believes that there is not a price to pay for clearing working class residents from high land value areas.
Affordable homes can be built with the approval of residents, it’s not easy but infinitely doable. What is required is for landlords and their consultants to listen as well as speak. To develop business plans and programmes which protect or enhance the lifestyle of existing residents and place value on protecting affordable low cost renting options in the Capital.
Recently, I have heard planners talk about existing estates not being “dense enough”; landlords contemplating demolition of perfectly good social housing to maximise land use; and architects report that the requirement to make play provision is challenging. No wonder residents are angry. With thousands of families in temporary accommodation, nobody can argue with the need for more housing, indeed I have never heard a council tenant dispute the need for more housing they are the sector’s strongest champions. But turkeys will never vote for Christmas and tenants and leaseholders will never vote for redevelopment unless they can see something in it for them and the next generation.
So landlords must present proposals which protect secure tenancy rights, do not disadvantage leaseholders and create great places for people to live in. There will still be painful choices but surely we can get residents to agree that:
- Some blocks are beyond the end of their useful life (if they are)
- Garages and car-parking are less important than new homes and open space
- Community centres don’t have to be single storey standalone buildings
Certainly a compromise can be reached, and tenants will (and have in Hackney) vote in a ballot for good regeneration.
Failure to provide appropriately priced rented housing for the families of bus drivers (Sadiq Khan please note) or shared ownership options to which teachers can aspire will have a catastrophic on London’s economy and therefore the UK.
Just before Christmas the Mayor of London issued a draft Good Practice Guide for Estate Regeneration (Homes for Londoners). Whilst the guide contained nothing earth shattering, it was an attempt to place residents back at the centre of regeneration.
In a previous blog, I spoke about the long term nature of regeneration programmes meaning that the community changes over time. However, there are a really stalwart group who will soldier on and who are involved from start to finish. They also tend to be the most forgotten and overlooked group.
The residents who want to exercise their right to return can easily be forgotten or become a list of names that ‘have to be consulted’. People, and by people I mean officers, often tend to forget that these are the original residents that are giving up their homes to make way for the bright and shiny new homes for sale and it is they that are helping housing providers meet their new build targets.
Here is a special plea to go with the Guide. These residents should be cherished and treated with the utmost respect. All too often they are the older residents who never wanted to move in the first place, they are more vulnerable and it is them hold the history of an area. These residents are often living in half empty buildings that are no longer being kept up or they have been moved off to a decant property where they know no-one. Those who hold their fate in your hands, because things are being ‘done’ to them, should think about making some simple pledges and checking how well you are working against them:
- Don’t let buildings and communal areas become run down and ensure occupied properties, often in half empty buildings, are in the same state of good repair as you would for any tenant
- Work to support a community who has been dispersed and don’t just check box consult with decanted residents, they are still the residents of the future estate
- Recognise how hard this is for some people who are losing their homes , they will be resistant, they may be curmudgeonly and they are upset. You have no project without them.
Remember, regeneration is first and foremost about people.