Naomi Newstead works in the housing and development industry, is a former GLA candidate and is PPC for Camberwell and Peckham.
Tony Blair made his first speech as Prime Minister in Harriet Harman’s constituency, which I am contesting for the Conservatives. In his visit to the Aylesbury Estate Blair promised to stand up for the ‘forgotten’ in our society, but what is happening here now is a practical demonstration of how Labour politicians are failing people living on that estate.
Since that visit people have been getting on with their lives, some have made a more important commitment to the estate than Tony Blair ever could, by choosing to purchase their homes. They worked hard to pay their mortgages, raised families, chose the local schools, invested in their homes and now the Labour council is trying to assemble the site to facilitate a new housing development. It is demanding the homes back from the homeowners for a fraction of the current market value. If they were offered the current market value they could remain in the area. These are individuals and families who own an asset at the lower end of the property spectrum, who can least afford to sell at less than market value.
Thatcher’s key legacy, allowing a greater number of people to share the wealth of the nation, by allowing tenants to purchase their own homes, will be reversed by what is happening here. With London’s house prices rising to historic highs, it is a perverse injustice that homeowners on council estates are being forced to sell at significantly below the market rate.
Taxpayers are contributing to the construction costs of the new homes on the estate, thereby reducing risk to the developer. Notting Hill Housing was the recent recipient of grant of £59.3 million to build the new homes here and elsewhere in London. In contrast the leaseholders are facing all the risk and none of the reward of home ownership. Taking on vested interests remains the mantra of Labour, but in reality families and individuals that have lived on the estate for decades are being prevented from sharing the wealth and opportunity that will be created here.
I am fighting for a better deal for the leaseholders because this torturous process is unfair but also completely unnecessary. Instead of awarding all the grant finance to the developer, thereby reducing its risk, why don’t we reward the leaseholders and more vulnerable for taking a risk? Why don’t we use that money to help the council give the leaseholders the true market value? This would be a far more effective way of assembling the site.
Here in Labour’s heartland, our work on the estate is getting noticed across the entire constituency. The support is widespread, because what the Labour Party has done in this case is an affront to the basic principles of fairness. We are all ‘forgotten’ if those with the lowest value homes are treated as if they are not homeowners at all.