In the latest of London's troubled regeneration schemes, Tower Hamlets Labour Group has called for the immediate suspension of one of the borough's preferred housing association partners, One Housing Group (OHG).
Cllr Dave Chesterton said OHG has failed to deliver on its promises over the management of four estates on the Isle of Dogs, and is "not fit" to continue. The group has called on mayor John Biggs to write to the regulator, Homes & Communities Agency, to demand investigation into the company. Cllr Chesterton said:
“Something has gone seriously wrong with the leadership of One Housing Group, its residents say they have no trust or confidence in the organisation. This is hardly surprising given they propose to demolish 2,027 homes, yet are not prepared to be honest about their plans. One Housing seems more interested in the development opportunity on the Island than providing decent services to their residents. They are not fit to run these Island estates and will be reported to the regulator, the HCA.”
One Housing Group currently manages 2,027 homes across the Samuda, St Johns, Barkantine and Kingsbridge estates, but proposals under Project Stone will see the demolition of all four and their replacement with 8,906 new homes.
If Project Stone goes ahead, just 30% of the redeveloped properties will be available for affordable housing. Of those, 17% would be shared ownership and 13% would be rented. So that's 70% of an estimated 9,000 homes which would be sold off to private investors in one of London's poorest boroughs.
It's a depressingly familiar story, and one which many Londoners are worried about — as older social housing stock is replaced by supposedly mixed social and private accommodation, how trustworthy are the developers?
The four estates originally belonged to Tower Hamlets Council as part of its housing stock, but were taken over by Toynbee Island Homes in 2005. Two years later, a merger with Community Housing Association led to the creation of One Housing Group. Residents say the estates have been allowed to fall into disrepair, and OHG has not fulfilled its obligations over maintenance leading to speculation that it's a deliberate attempt to reduce property values ahead of issuing compulsory purchase orders. Mayor John Biggs said:
“Residents brought forward a petition to the council meeting and it was made very clear, both from their contribution and from my conversations with residents and councillors, that there are very strong concerns with regard to One Housing Group. It was absolutely right that this motion was brought to the council meeting and I will be working with officers, councillors and residents to look at what can be done to provide tenants with the support they deserve.”
The capital's seemingly unstoppable property market recently saw 200 apartments worth a total of around £140m sold within five hours at Canary Wharf's Maine Tower development, just a few minutes from the four estates.
Update: A spokesperson for One Housing Group has said in a statement to Londonist:
"We are aware of the council’s concerns and are keen to address some apparent misunderstandings about both our work in the borough and our future development plans locally. We are currently seeking an urgent meeting with the mayor as a first step towards what we hope will be a positive resolution. We are also contacting the HCA directly to alert it to the council’s concerns. We are confident that we have not breached any regulatory tenant standards in Tower Hamlets.”