Category Archives: Housing Asses

Knightstone Housing Association and other ‘social’ landlords

Ashley Road roof protest enters third week

Protesters have been camped out on the roof of 87 Ashley Road for two weeks today.

An open public meeting about the situation has been called for this Thursday, at 6.30pm at the St. Paul’s Learning Centre (or, erm, library).

Here’s the text of a leaflet as posted on Bristol IndyMedia:

On Thursday 27th of November an open public meeting is being held in The St Pauls Learning Centre at 6.30pm to discuss this situation. Supporters of the rooftop protesters will be in attendance to answer questions, respond to local concerns and open a dialogue with PfP.

Places for People are publicly invited to state and openly discuss what their intentions for 87 Ashley Road are. This will help assure everyone that they are in fact going to rehouse people on the housing waiting list.

We hope you can attend.
For further information contact:
Email: 87AshleyRoad@gmail.com
Phone:07722 786 379

Background:

On November 12th 2008 Places for People (PfP) executed an eviction order on 87 Ashley Road, a squatted building occupied by 20 people who have been made homeless by this action. This building was unused by PfP for four years and left empty until May 2008 when squatters working to house as many people as possible moved in.
PfP have refused all attempts to negotiate a mutually benifical agreement, repeatedly submitted incorrect possession claims to Bristol Magistrates courts and threatened illegal eviction. At one stage the sitting magistrate called PfPs representation “a right dog’s breakfast.”

As bailiff’s and builders working on behalf of Places for People entered the property several squatters moved onto the roof to resist eviction and have been there ever since.
As far as the courts are concerned the eviction has been served despite protesters being on the roof.

This press release is being written on the 14th day of continual rooftop occupation and is being sent to community groups and individuals in the St. Pauls area, and Places for People.

Builders have boarded up all normal exit points from the roof, leaving the roof protesters no safe, immediate access. PfP have instructed builders to render the property uninhabitable by removing ALL fixtures and fittings.

There are no planning applications currently under consideration by Bristol City Council for 87 Ashley Road. PfP have been vague about their intentions for the property, however they have mentioned plans that would not benefit anyone on the housing list.

The protest is part of a continuing concern over Places for People’s treatment of empty properties and it’s selling off of rental stock on the open market. PfP are selling properties via the “shared ownership” scheme while not replacing rental properties for those most in need. This will lead to an eventual return to the unaffordable rental market and a worse deal for low-income families seeking decent accomodation.

Resisting yuppification on Ashley Road

Ashley Road resister fists 'Places For People'

I popped up the road earlier to see how things were going at the 87 Ashley Road squat eviction resistance (hmmm, bit of a mouthful there, sorry).

To rewind a little: until yesterday, there was a squat on 87 Ashley Road, but it was evicted in the morning. Former squatters of the Places For People-owned building (and possibly others) then managed to evade security, bailiffs and police, and gained access to the roof. They have been there ever since.

According to people on the ground supporting them, they have ample wet- and warm-weather gear, food, supplies and other such useful materials up there.

The reasons for the resistance are outlined in a leaflet:

Dear Neighbours

At 10.am this morning (12/11/08) police and bailiffs smashed their way into 87 Ashley Road evicting some of the occupants. Several people are on the roof, while contractors and bailiffs rip up the inside to make the house uninhabitable.

We are resisting this eviction because…

  1. We need somewhere to live.
  2. Taking your housing needs into your own hands is a positive thing, especially when social housing has such long waiting lists.
  3. This building has been left empty for at least 4 years, during this time both Places for People (P4P) and Bristol Churches (previous owners) have made no attempt to renovate or convert it into social housing. That’s 8 potential flats that have been left to rot. And for the past 6 months no.87 has housed more than 30 people.
  4. P4P have no planning permission to use or renovate this building. This morning a P4P representative said that the only active planning application they have is for April 2009, where 87 will contain a ‘site office’ for the ‘development’ of 16 other ‘shared ownership’ properties in the St. Pauls Area.
  5. St. Pauls UnLtd have opposed P4P’s plans because they did not provide enough social housing or affordable housing.
  6. Existing P4P tenants complain about the standard of service of maintenance in their existing properties.
  7. Everyone has a right to a home: Squatting is legal, necessary, and provides an alternative to the stranglehold of debt that underpins the current financial crisis.
  8. Tying people into 30+years of mortgage debt is an illusion of housing security, in the light recent repossessions.
  9. We are part of this community and against all privatizations, repossessions and evictions.

P4P are more concerned with money than housing those in need they are the biggest UK housing association and have the highest paid chief executives in the housing sector (Director salary: £258k in 2007). Housing associations were set up to fill the gap left by Thatcher’s destruction of social housing provision. They cannot legally make profits, but make up for this with fat bonus checks for the fat cats. That’s taxpayer’s money going to fund extravagant lifestyles

For more information and sources about P4P please check indymedia

http://bristol.indymedia.org

‘Direct action is better than any waiting list’ Squatters handbook. (Or mortgage!)

87 Ashley Road eviction resistanceI used to squat, because I was too poor (despite a full-time – but minimum wage – job) to rent privately, and locked out of the housing list. The property I squatted had long been emptied by its owner, a housing association. Despite assurances to its previous tenants that it would be repaired to an acceptable standard and that they would be permitted to return to it, it was not, and they weren’t. I and my fellow squatters were able to quietly live there for nearly six months before the housing association even realised we were there. We negotiated a situation with the housing association whereby they would not institute eviction proceedings against us, and in return we would vacate the premises (with fair notice) when they were ready to make good the building for the return of its tenants. In its life as a squat, this building helped house around twenty people, and helped seven or eight get onto the housing list, where they might secure decent long-term accommodation.

After I left, there was some kind of breakdown in relations between the squat and the housing association (I’m not sure of the details), and I believe an eviction was carried out. The building was then left to rot until the housing association was able to discharge its obligations under law, and then to sell it on the open market to a private developer. The tenants did not return. The building is now in the private sector, another piece of prime inner city real estate lost from the social housing sector.

Therein lies the rub – just because an empty property’s owner is a ‘social landlord’, it does not necessarily follow that the landlord wishes to use the property to house poorer people who want to rent. Often the landlord will look to the market, and decide that ‘shared ownership’ or open market sales would be more desirable – desirable to the landlord, not to those it is meant to be housing.

From what I understand of the situation at 87 Ashley Road, the building was not cleared of squatters so tenants from the housing list might be rented a home there, but instead to sell off. This is not about ‘places for people’, this is about profits.

The roof resisters seem like they might be there for a while. I’m sure they would welcome support on the ground, even if only for a few minutes.

1520 Sedgwick updates

Entrance of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, with bannersSome more on the campaign to save 1520 Sedgwick Avenue from property speculators:

Says president of the 1520 tenants’ group, Gloria Robinson:

We never want to fear our houses being bought again.

Says Senator Chuck Schumer:

No one is saying the landlord should not make a profit. All we’re saying is that he doesn’t have to maximize on that profit and throw people out.

Says Kool Herc:

We’re asking all those guys you see in Forbes magazine that are living hip hop to recognize this building.

To recycle plastic & cardboard or not to recycle cardboard and plastic, that is the question

I’ve just had a note from my housing association (Knightstone) pushed through the letterbox:

Knightstone note about no plastics/cardboard recycling on-site

Hmmm, most interesting… Doesn’t mention what these “problems with recycling” are. Something of a companion piece to the whole farrago last September (as outlined in the comments section on The Bristol Blogger) when Resource Futures – they whom apparently manage Bristol’s ‘waste strategy’ – leafletted us to tell us that contrary to the fact that our estate has (well – had, I guess) cardboard and plastic facilities, we should lug it all down to the Malcolm X.

In that instance, after a bit of prodding I managed to convince RF that I wasn’t making it up, they admitted their mistake, and, well, ran up another printjob to tell us residents what we already knew – that *ahem* we could recycle our cardboard and plastics at our estate waste point!

So… Is this some kind of indicator that penny-pinching and number-shuffling is afoot at either the council, RF or at KHA?

PS After a scoot around the interweb, I discover that my estate is involved with a Resource Futures scheme called ‘RIFE‘, which, apparently,

encourages Bristol’s 27,000 residents of flats who are not served by the kerbside collection scheme to recycle more. There are over 190 mini recycling centres (MRCs) across the city, where they can recycle their paper, cans and glass. The RIFE project provides support, advice and encouragement to residents of flats to use their MRCs – many of which currently produce less than 85 kilos per household in a year (equivalent to a wine bottle, a food can and one newspaper per week).

Can’t say RIFE is a name I’ve ever noticed around my estate, and the only indication of any RF involvement around here I ever noticed was their glossy leaflet telling us we couldn’t recycle things we did in fact have facilities for.

Indeed, looking at the RF webpage outlining all the ‘technical consultancy’ services they provide to local authorities and organisations maintaining ‘multi-occupancy dwellings’ (so that would be blocks of flats, then), there’s very little at all that I would recognise. The pointless little bag, for instance.

But hey ho. I’m sure their heart is in the right place. Close to the wallet, I should imagine. Our wallet.

Help save the home of hip hop!

Kool Herc’s 11/8/73 1520 Sedgwick House rec room party flyer

On August 11, 1973, in the first floor recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, hip hop was born. It was on that day that DJ Kool Herc, known as the founder of hip hop, and his sister threw the first hip hop house party. Scholars, musicians, and the media widely recognize 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, aka General Sedgwick House, in the Bronx borough of New York City, as the birthplace of hip hop, a uniquely American musical genre and culture that has taken over the world.

In recognition of its important place in American history, in July of 2007, 1520 Sedgwick was declared eligible to be listed as a state and federal landmark. Congressman Serrano of the Bronx honored Sedgwick and Kool Herc in the Congressional record.

General Sedgwick House is currently part of the Mitchell-Lama scheme, under which, in the words of the New York Times, “private landlords receive tax breaks and subsidized mortgages and, in turn, agree to limit their return on equity and rent to people who meet modest income limits. The landlords are allowed to leave their contracts after 20 years, and the rate of those choosing to do so has accelerated since 2001.” And it seems that 1520’s owners, BSR Management, want out of the scheme. Cue property bandit Mark Karasick, who’s brokered deals for ‘skyline trophy’ buildings like the Bank Of America Center in San Francisco, and Chicago’s 311 South Wacker Drive, and who has been showing an interest in the home of hip hop – but not for musicological reasons. Karasick, it seems, has a record of buying up social housing in the Bronx and then opting out of affordability programmes and selling on at market prices, at a tasty profit for his good self, naturally.

Kool Herc tells it like it isNow, after negotiations between the tenants, the owners and Karasick, it appears that BSR Management are prepared to drop the Karasick deal and sell to the tenants… For $14 million, or more than $8 million over the value of the building through controlled rents, according to the tenants!

Ahhh, the sweet smell of rackrenting, gentrification and good old American corporate greed!

But the tenants aren’t giving up without a fight – they’re working with organisations like the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board and Tenants & Neighbors to strike a deal with the owners that will “convert 1520 Sedgwick into a permanently affordable, limited-equity cooperative [and] save 1520 Sedgwick as affordable for the next generations of New Yorkers”. And this morning, to signal their willingness to fight for their building, they held a press conference with Kool Herc in their historic rec room to publicise details of their buy-back plan.

You can find out more about the campaign – and donate to it – at the Save 1520 website. And check the Save 1520 MySpace for updates 🙂

More coverage:

Whudat, AllHipHop, Soundslam, more NY Times (2007 background story),

Another year, another Post exclusive…

Dove Lane development option C

Well, hello all and welcome to 2008 – fingers crossed it isn’t as unutterably shit as 07 was. However, looking over the Evening Post website, it seems local news journalism is as good as it’s ever been, judging by the paper’s story on the proposed Dove Lane development here in sunny St. Paul’s:

A futuristic four-storey primary school with a rooftop play area could be built in St Paul’s.

The city council would like to see a £10.5 million facility, including a children’s centre and a new family doctors’ surgery, open in less than three years.

It would help meet the demands on facilities being caused by the rapid increase in population in that part of Bristol’s inner city.

The new school would form part of the £300 million development of homes, shops and employment opportunities planned for the end of the M32 – which is known as onedovelane.

It’s not till the fifth paragraph that you get to anything approaching an actual current affairs angle, when the story mentions that there’s an upcoming council cabinet meeting to discuss the proposals. Well, actually the way it’s put is:

The city council’s cabinet will next week be urged to back the idea and authorise council officers to work with the consortium behind the Dove Lane scheme and with the Bristol Local Education Partnership to develop designs and firm up costs.

Oh yes, it’s that wonder of no-news news journalism, the vague passive! Who exactly will be urging the council to ‘back the idea’? Well, certainly ‘the consortium’ – the capitally-challenged onedovelane, which consists of Bristol-based developers PG Enterprises/PG Group and ‘regeneration group’ Places For People – is likely to be represented. But what about local people? Even the rather mild local community quango St. Paul’s Unlimited has expressed pretty scathing criticism of the way initial ‘public consultation’ was undertaken on behalf of the consortium, especially the loading of the options (reminsiscent of the Castle Park farrago):

St. Paul’s Unlimited sent a detailed reply to the consultation – in a nutshell we were unhappy with the consultation process. We felt the ‘options’ presented to us led people to option 3. For example, only option three offered us a market area, park and play area. Whereas option 1 only offered a combined park and play area.

We felt unhappy that the presentation of the options automatically led to option 3. We are already going to get as newly refurbished St. Paul’s Park anyway without the developers. This is about to happen and will include a new play area for the children. (The National Lottery money awarded to St. Paul’s will mean there is also a new play area in St. Agnes Park). There has been a plan for a long time to have an arts market in Portland Square – this is in the Neighbourhood Plan. So we would have the things the developers are offering anyway without the Dove Lane development happening. Similarly, there will be a new Children’s Centre in St. Paul’s with or without the developer.


SPUnC Partnership
chair Maryanne Kampf in the December/January edition of the St. Paul’s Newsletter (pdf of Dove Lane article, 1.3mb)

Maryanne also gets stuck into the imprecision with which onedovelane attempts to sell itself:

The real questions that need to be answered are not about play parks or green space – they are about:

How many flats, how much & what kind of employment? What kind of employment does the area need, the kind that a hotel would offer? Do we want workshops can develop or both? If you choose more green space this means the only way is up? Do you like the idea of a very high rise building and more green space?

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Basically, onedovelane claims that it expects to provide about a thousand jobs, 700 homes, twenty shops, a one hundred room hotel, public spaces and community facilities across all three options. The first option would leave 3% public space, with the tallest building at ten storeys; the second option gives 10% public space and a 14 storey building; and the favoured third option would give 30% public space, but at the cost of a building which would tower up to 40 storeys over St. Paul’s.

The initial proposals do not address exactly what sustainable employment would be developed (as opposed to, say, construction and allied jobs connected with the actual development of the site itself), nor do they address what the effect of 700 new homes in the already rather densely populated area might have on the existing job market. And the issue of what proportion of housing will be affordable is not covered at all either.

So, back to the point of the Post story – the new school. Well, again, this is an issue covered in the St. Paul’s Newsletter last year, and again it is an issue over which the SPUnC Partnership expressed polite scepticism:

It’s not often you get the chance to have a new school and we have that chance which is great. However, at the moment it seems we either have a multi-storey, multi-functional building with roof terraces on the Dove Lane site or we have nothing.

Indeed – shit sprinkled with sugar tastes sweeter, but it’s still shit.

As the Post has it, the “proposed new school would have a maximum 420 places, making it twice the size of the current Cabot primary.” So, these 700 new homes, what effect are they likely to have on the 200-odd ‘new’ primary places being made available? And how will this extra provision – plus the proposed extension to Sefton Park school, with its own extra 210 primary places – be paid for, not just in capital costs, but in running costs?

I’m sure the good burghers of the city shall deliberate most earnestly over these and other important questions, and not permit themselves to be blinded by big numbers and glossy PR fluff and empty rhetoric, but it is a little worrisome that even at this early stage such important questions are so blithely being ignored. Especially when the council’s Simon Caplan can be heard expounding such meaningless nonsense as this in the Post story (no doubt a BCC press release reprinted near-verbatim): “Current thinking is that the complex could be a four-storey building utilising the latest architectural solutions being successfully delivered in London and other leading European cities where multi-use complexes have been created on relatively small building sites.” So many words, oh so little substance… Extras marks for combining the use of the hyperoptimistic gerund (‘current thinking’) with the vague passive (‘could be’), the bovine crapive (‘London and other leading European cities’) and multiple pointless expansives (‘the latest architectural solutions’, ‘multi-use complexes’) though – well done, Si!

Bloody hell, I’m one to talk, proper rambling all the way through this, must apologise, been half-watching Robin Of Sherwood whilst typing.

Aaaanyway – an interesting topic and one to follow, I reckon.

Some earlier Dove Lane development-related articles from the Beeb:
Plan ‘could see £300m worth of investment’ (14 February 2007)
Tower could spearhead development (16 May 2007)
Inner city revamp plan launched (13 July 2007)

Welcome to Bristol: City of Culture 2008 😉

What are they looking for?

Police looking around Backfields Industrial Estate

A handful of police were noseying around the Backfields Industrial Estate in St. Paul’s this afternoon.

The site, which is being redeveloped into flats and commercial premises by Knightstone Housing Association, has been seeing more and more activity from contractors and surveyors in recent days, so just what is it that the boys in blue were looking for?

PS There are now five police officers with sticks prodding around the car park and communal garden of Wilder Court, the housing estate which backs onto Backfields Industrial Estate.

Given that it’s pissing down with rain, one presumes that it must be fairly important… Could this be connected to the suggestion that one or more tenants there are either related to Mohamoud Muse Hassan, the Somali man stabbed to death in the Criterion early on Sunday morning, or to one of the three people thus far arrested in connection with the murder?

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