Saturday 31st January saw the grand opening of the show homes on Dollis Valley Estate: Brook Valley Gardens, to which I received an ‘exclusive invitation’ by virtue of the fact that I had registered my interest online on behalf of my friend.
My friend (with her husband and 2 young children) is currently trapped privately renting. She pays in excess of £1k per month for the privilege of living in sub-standard accommodation which is large enough for her family, and has limited security of tenure.
Her options are limited.
She recently viewed an (the only) “affordable” shared ownership property available locally. In order to be eligible for this – your household income needs to be below a threshold of £60k. In order to meet the affordability criteria, your household income needs to be in excess of £58,800.
When registering my interest with countryside properties, I had to declare the basis of my interest from a drop down list of options; first on the list being “Investor”.
Despite viewing all the shiny brochures which had been exhibited in Chipping Barnet Library regarding the regeneration of Dollis Valley, what is actually happening down there still seems to be shrouded in mystery.
We took a couple of visits down there to try to find out. Apparently, the regeneration on this estate will result in the net loss of c.200 council homes and the corresponding displacement of 200 residents on non-secure tenancies. The c. 200 secure tenants are to be “decanted” in “phases”.
Aside from losing Barnet Hill School, they are also set to lose their nursery imminently. The Valley Pre-School is scheduled for closure on the 30th March (now closed earlier: on Friday 13th February).
The Mayor of Barnet recently (31/01/2015) tweeted of his excitement about 4 new council homes being built.
In April 2014, 3 new council properties were unveiled with much fanfare, prompting a visit from the Mayor of London. On regeneration Estates in Barnet, we are losing hundreds and hundreds of Council Homes, yet the Mayors remain quiet on this front.
Barnet Council seem determined to disingenuously mislead its residents and the wider public. The Leader of the Council’s comments on the BBC London News (22/01/2015) about the West Hendon Estate: ‘Why wouldn’t these people want new houses? The ones they have are grotty’. Theirs aren’t grotty, and if they are its only because Barnet Council has neglected its maintenance duties for so many years. Regardless, many hundreds of existing residents ARE NOT getting new homes.
In a Barnet where many of my peers (and friends and family) have moved to populate towns along the A1, I fear for the future, that it’ll just be me left behind, surrounded by rich strangers, or empty properties (deposit boxes for overseas owners) or worse still paying through my taxes for the Housing Benefit which continues unrelentlessly to flow into the pockets of already rich landlords; just like our Mayor of Barnet (who it is understood owns 19 properties, claims full London Housing Allowance in addition to Council Letting incentive payments).
We attended the opening of the show homes, joining with residents to express our anger at unsatisfactory, unfair and unjust outcomes of this regeneration project, notably:
It is not right that:
1. Our Nursery, the Valley Pre-School will be closing on the 30th March 2015 (now closed 13th Feb)
2. The Brook Valley Gardens development will result in the loss of 200 Council Homes
3. Approximately 200 families will be displaced
4. The new properties are being actively marketed to “Investors” – when people need homes that they can afford to live in
We were asked to leave Hera Avenue by the Marketing Manager and Regenerations Manager who stated we were on “private land”. Private land?! Private land which not so long ago was the main pedestrian route in and out of the Estate.
Following our small demo, we attended (with approx. 5,000 others) the March for Homes.
In terms of the solutions to the Housing Crisis, the unending escalation of property values needs to be squashed via the imposition of rent caps / controls and property investment needs to be disintivised via prohibitive taxation – the sooner the better.
We will be holding events during in the Valley Pre-School during the w/c 20th Feb to rally support to fight against the loss of this Nursery and for the reduction in the number of Council Homes.
We believe a Council Estate regeneration should result in MORE, not LESS Council Homes – and no-one should be Socially Cleansed from Barnet – or anywhere else for that matter.