To mark the eighth anniversary of London hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games, The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO) has launched a film that highlights the broken promises around the London’s Olympic housing legacy and calls on policymakers to honour the pledges they made and work with TELCO for a New Deal on the Olympic Park. Staff and pupils from St Antony’s Primary School, Newham, St Bonaventure’s School, Forest Gate and St Stephen’s Manor Park are among those taking part in the documentary, which captures two worlds: luxury/exclusive housing being built on the park and housing misery for those in the legacy boroughs.
Andy Lewis, Deputy Headteacher at St Bonaventure’s School, said in the film: “There are very few families, certainly from our school and the local community that have moved onto that legacy site. A lot of new people have moved into Newham, but a lot of those would be young professionals who are perhaps working up in the City because realistically they are the only people who can afford most of that housing.”
Jane Williams, CEO of the Magpie Project which supports mothers of the 2,000 homeless under-fives in Newham, attests to the housing misery experienced by many local people. “The problems we see are around temporary and emergency accommodation and very poor-quality accommodation. So they (families) can’t put down roots, they don’t know whether to change their child’s school from the borough which they have come from, because they literally don’t know whether they are going to move tomorrow or in three years’ time.”
Paul Amuzie, a Young Ambassador in 2004 on the Newham Young Mayors Team, was involved at the time: “As a young man of 16, it was a real possibility that I would be able to buy a home… Fifteen years later…I look at the flats that are being built and it is not possible, because the agreements that we set have not been adhered too. In four years, when Paris hosts the next Olympic games, we hope that there’s a better story to tell about the London Olympic housing legacy.”
Those 2005 commitments included 50% affordable housing and at least 100 Community Land Trust Homes. But the promises have been broken, says Dr Penny Bernstock, Co-Chair Olympic Strategy Committee – TELCO:
- There are no CLT homes on the Olympic Park and just 20 in the pipeline.
- Affordable housing commitments have been cut. Much of what is described as affordable tracks market prices rather than local incomes. For example, at East Village (former athletes’ village) a two-bedroom unit described as intermediate affordable rent requires an income of £48k. Shared ownership affordable units at Chobham Manor (the first neighbourhood on the park) require incomes ranging from £58k to £80k. Median Household incomes range from £23k – £29k above the legacy boroughs.
- If a genuine affordability test is applied to new products on the park, levels of affordable housing range from 0 – 24%, well below the 50% promised.
- Between 2012 and 2017, 5,163 new housing units were approved at the LLDC Planning Committee and only 19% were affordable. Again, a genuine affordability test sees that figure drop to 11%.
- The key beneficiaries of the new housing are wealthier professional groups.
- A combination of rising house prices, welfare reform and a lack of affordable housing are resulting in low-income families having to leave the area or experience increasing housing insecurity.
- Our film captures two worlds, luxury/exclusive housing being built on the park and housing misery for those in the legacy boroughs, e.g. Newham and Tower Hamlets have the first and third highest number of households living in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions in England.
What TELCO is asking for:
TELCO is willing to work with the Mayor of London, Legacy Boroughs, and the LLDC on a new deal for a housing legacy. There are three elements to this new deal, says Dr Bernstock:
- Genuinely affordable – We want to increase affordable housing to 50% across the Olympic Park. At least 60% of that should be for social rent in recognition of the urgent need for this. We want a genuine affordable housing test on all affordable housing products measured against local incomes.
- Community led – Community Land Trusts and community-based housing offer a way of generating high-quality housing and we want to pilot this across the Olympic Park, starting at Stratford Waterfront, to ensure genuine community involvement and ownership as a central part of the affordable housing policy on the Olympic Park.
- Inclusive – Data from Triathlon has indicated that Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Groups are massively under-represented in intermediate affordable housing on the Olympic Park. We want the Park to become a model for social inclusion, and to ensure that it reflects the diversity of East London.