Are Barnet council ‘social cleansing?
A Conservative council has been accused of “social cleansing” and manipulating the boundaries so as to favour one party or class - in an attempt to force families to sell their homes for less than half the price of planned replacement apartments.
A public enquiry is now underway, with the residents of the West Hendon estate challenging The London borough of Barnet’s use of compulsory purchase powers to buy flats as part of the £520m regeneration of the area. The residents claim that the Conservative authority’s actions mean wealthy people will replace working class and alter makeup of electorate.
In a spate of compulsory purchase orders, Barratt’s are offering £115,000 for a one-bedroom flat and £175,000 for a two-bedroom flat. In comparison, a two-bed flat in the refurbished building is expected to sell for upward of £415,000; meaning that many that have lived in the area all of their lives will not be able to afford the cost of a new apartment in the place that they call home.
Several hundreds council tenants are also facing being rehoused several miles away from their community because only 12.5% of the 2,000 new homes that will replace the 679 residences being demolished will be classed as “affordable.”
Leading the leaseholder group (aptly coined People Power West Hendon) in the public enquiry, Kalim Khalick says “we are being forced out of our homes, our housing torn down, our presence eradicated, in order to make way for luxury developments, from which we are excluded. What can you call that, other than social cleansing?”
Khalick, whose family has lived on the estate for 40 years, accused Barnet of “subject(sic) us to years of distress, trapped in worthless properties, or living year to year in unsecured tenancies, unable to get on with our lives”. He claimed that Barnet are currently implementing a systematic destruction of a Labour-voting community and replacing them with more affluent residents and voters. Kalim feels this is inevitably going to give political advantage to the Conservatives who run the council.
Labour councillor for West Hendon, Adam Langleben seconds this opinion, stating that “the offer is laughable… It is not an accurate market valuation.”
The leader of Barnet council, Richard Cornelius defends the plans for regeneration, saying that “the regeneration project will transform the estate and will provide high quality and attractive new homes at a time when public finances are incredibly tight. We believe that this is very much in the public interest.”
He added that council tenants on secured agreements would be rehoused in homes with the same number of bedrooms on the site, while those on unsecured tenancies would be offered alternative homes. Residents disparage this statement, highlighting the fact that those who have already been rehoused had to move an average of three miles away from the area – one former resident is now living in Luton.