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St Mary’s Path estate homes with such fine views are not just for well-off

20 July, 2018

• MY disabled friend from St Mary’s Path estate in Islington went last Monday night to a meeting held in St Mary’s Church about redevelopment of the estate – a meeting from which the press were banned, which suggests that the organisers had something to hide.

At the same time as the meeting, I was home watching a Channel 4 Dispatches programme about how many housing associations seem to have lost sight of their purpose.

The documentary asserted that many now seem to see increasing profits and owning as many properties as possible as their main function.

In many cases they tear down estates, finance the work by building for sale and to let on “affordable” rents, pay huge salaries to their chief executives – sometimes as much as three times that of the prime minister – and we end up with fewer “social rent” homes than we had before, and with a steadily growing housing crisis.

Bear in mind that “affordable” rents are defined as 80 per cent of market rents and are out of reach of a substantial proportion of working families.

After Margaret Thatcher’s government encouraged the sale of council houses, housing associations began to provide housing at “social rents”.

The Blair government forced up housing association rents, and set a “target rent” for each home, based on the value of the property (I was one of those at a meeting with the then housing minister, Lord Falconer, when he agreed to cap the amount a rent could rise at any one time, ensuring the continued rise annually of social rents, including mine, for 15 years as they moved towards Labour’s “target rents”).

It seems to me that Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA) wants to maximise profit from the St Mary’s Path estate in just the way Channel 4’s Dispatches condemned.

One has only to stand in St Mary’s churchyard and see the fine, calm view overlooked by so many flats to realise that those with enough cash would pay for that aspect.

Do we feel that those with less money matter less, or do not deserve the view since they have a lower income? Are we now turning even the environment and the view into a saleable asset?

One suspects that ISHA knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. After the Dispatches programme I wonder how much the chief executive of ISHA is paid.

We need to build more social housing, to protect the social assets we already have and, in this particular case, I would like Islington Council, as planning authority, to clearly state that it will not give planning permission for any development scheme offering fewer socially rented homes than now on offer.

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