Tomorrow the plight of tenants forced out of their council homes in south London will be highlighted in a film based on one estate, but emblematic of a wider problem in the capital and further afield: how to house those of modest means when the government is withdrawing all support for affordable housing. Now its sole aim is to subsidise home ownership, no matter the consequences for the millions unable to get on what David Cameron calls the ladder of opportunity.

Now, according to property consultants Knight Frank, it has become the leading city internationally for the “global wealthy” – ahead of New York for the time being – with new developments largely geared to this high-end market, such as the replacement for Heygate, renamed Elephant Park.

The stock of social and affordable housing in London – and in the rest of the country – is falling fast. It will shrink further as not-for-profit housing associations are pressured by the government to sell-off homes to tenants. Assuredly, many will be subsequently resold to bring a windfall for a privileged few at the expense of the many denied a home.

At the Elephant and Castle, film-makers David Reeve and Patrick Steel document the final days in Heygate,which was finally demolished last November. They feature Larry and Janet Colfer, who raised a family of five on the estate. The film, Larry and Janet Move Out, is thus a moving account of one couple’s plight, a social commentary for our times. “It was a lovely community”, laments Janet. “It’s sad we’ve all been scattered.”

For the London borough of Southwark, struggling to maintain the largest council housing stock in London, redevelopment of the Heygate in partnership with developer Lend Lease has to be balanced with its ambitions to build more homes for rent – in the face of the government abandoning social housing.

With residents rehoused, and the estate demolished, precious few had the chance to return. On the rebranded development, one-bedroom flats are being sold off-plan for £500,000. “We wanted to make a film about the human cost of big regeneration projects and the decline of social housing,” explains co-director Patrick Steel. But he insists it has a wider resonance. “Larry and Janet’s experience is shared by council tenants in other parts of London and across the country.”

In fact, Cameron’s vaunted “national crusade” to boost home ownership will only appeal to a privileged few. His “starter homes” will be available at a discount of 20% from the open market value. Prices will be capped at £450,000 in London and at £250,000 in the rest of England. But the housing charity Shelter has calculated that most people entering the mortgage market in the capital will need to earn £77,000 annually and more than £50,000 elsewhere to qualify for these so-called cut-price homes. Only those with either a substantial deposit, or lucky enough to have parents willing to provide one, will be in the frame.

Where the rest are expected to live is anyone’s guess. But as this parliament progresses, and the scale of our housing crisis becomes clearer, slick soundbites will come back to haunt this prime minister.

Source – The Guardian