Regeneration not Gentrification

My name is Margaret Mullane and I am a Councillor in Village Ward Dagenham. I am going to talk today about the importance of Regeneration of flatted Estates, as opposed to selling public land to Property Developers.

Amongst the many crises which face our country under this government, one stands out as the most pressing. The evidence can be found in those sleeping on the streets or young children crammed into temporary accommodation. I believe the biggest crisis we face, without a shadow of a doubt, is the lack of affordable housing. What do we consider affordable in these times of ideologically driven cuts? What do we consider affordable when people are choosing between heating or eating?  It seems we have an elephant in the room, a case that too many are wary of making and that is the crying need for Council housing.

I have seen the devastation that Tory Austerity has caused, so for me it’s an ideological case that needs to be fought by the left. Cash strapped Councils look to their land in their Boroughs, and with rising property prices see an answer to their problems. Sell the land to Property developers; they might be able to extract some so called affordable housing if the Developers are feeling generous. But often these are properties that are not affordable to buy or rent. The land is then gone, and if that isn’t tragic enough, the communities that live in the area cannot afford to live there.

I am going to say something  potentially unpopular now… elected Councillors need to be braver, bolder, and stand up to elected Council Officers, Chief Executives, and Regeneration Departments. These people have not been elected by the local communities; Councillors have and they are best placed to represent them. It is in fact their duty to do so – their duty.

In the ward I represent, an Estate was to be regenerated. Now at that time, had we sold the Land it would have gone for at least a million but we would have lost the Council properties we are now building and our local community would have disappeared, replaced by those able to privately rent at a sky high prices. That land now, at a conservative guess, is worth five million but Phase One of the homes for local people will be ready this year. We could have filled the Estate a thousand times over. Make no mistake about it.

We have had to fight to get council properties there. Without casting aspersions some officers have a Conservative outlook, and see nothing wrong in replacing Council properties with private properties, part-buy part-rent, they have no ideological objection but here’s the difference; we should and we do. People over profit every time. The people who voted for us

We must not make an offer to working class communities of regeneration, that doesn’t include them. People often ask why many people don’t vote any-more? Why are people considering UKIP? There is an obvious connection here… If a flat to rent costs £1300.00 to rent what part of that is affordable? There is genuine alienation occurring. As parents walk to schools and community leisure facilities, they see new estates being built but know they or their family will never live there. And yet we wonder why they feel alienated.

Elected Councillors must recognise this and when Council officers or a Chief Executive proposes an idea that will alienate a community and is frankly reducing equality and social mobility, the councillors must stand up and be counted. Don’t fall in love with slogans and language that’s covering up what the offer is…

Profits before people. Estate renewal often uses language such as “growth opportunity”,right vision” or “major transformation”. My rule is to ask in all cases… for whom?  NOT for the people I am elected to serve and I will always put those people before profits.

Regeneration not Gentrification.

Contact your elected Councillors and tell them we want Council Housing.

This is a speech given by Councillor Margaret Mullane at a recent Unite training event.

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