Response to Guardian article "The truth about gentrification: regeneration or con trick?"

On 18 and 19 May, the Guardian published an article online and in its newspaper headed "The truth about gentrification: regeneration or con trick?", which contained some inaccuracies. Here is our response:

The Council, Berkeley Homes and partners leading the regeneration of Woodberry Down do not agree with the assertion that the regeneration of the estate is ‘not for’ local residents. Faced by unprecedented budget cuts, there are few options available to councils seeking to replace ageing, unfit for purpose homes on housing estates.

The revised masterplan for the regeneration was consulted on with residents for more than 18 months, with 71% in favour and 16% neutral, and fully supported by the elected resident representative group, Woodberry Down Community Organisation. The new masterplan, which increases green space by 30% compared to its predecessor, received planning permission in February this year.

Promoting mixed communities in well-designed neighbourhoods, where people can access high quality affordable housing, has been one of the Council’s top strategic priorities for many years, as published in its Sustainable Community Strategy.

Every tenant has a legal Right to Return to a new home on the estate, which has been planned into the building programme, though the law does not provide leaseholders on regeneration estates with the same right after their home has been demolished and rebuilt. However, Hackney Council gives leaseholders the opportunity of staying at Woodberry Down through offers of shared equity and shared ownership in newly-built homes on the estate, and the Council will enable leaseholders taking up an offer to live rent-free until a newly-built home is ready if one is not immediately available.

The Council pays home loss compensation of 10% of the agreed market value of a resident leaseholder’s home, and 7.5% for a non-resident, and also pays moving costs. The share of the market value of a current home and future home is fixed when the leaseholder agrees to take a shared equity or shared ownership home, eg with a current home worth £200,000 and future home worth £300,000, a leaseholder will continue to own 66% of a future home even if value increases to, eg, £350,000 while waiting for it to be built.

The regeneration is providing local people with jobs: a fifth of Berkeley Homes’ workforce is from Hackney, 90 people in total, and they have also 19 apprentices from the borough working on site. Genesis Housing Association has assisted businesses run by Woodberry Down residents to get off the ground, and employ them to carry out functions such as catering and security.

Hackney Council and housing association partners are also building 3,000 new homes, half for rent and shared ownership, in the coming years, with 600 developed directly by the Council, as part of its commitment to tackle the housing crisis.

There is no need for anyone to feel they are being forced out of Woodberry Down, and all residents, whether leaseholders or tenants, deserve high quality new homes.