Once it had been decided that the Heygate and Aylesbury estates should be demolished, the council embarked upon a rachmanist game of sit-and-wait with leaseholders on the estates. Instead of valuing their homes according to set criteria, it decided to produce arbitrary valuations based solely on trying to get away with paying us as little for our homes as possible. Elderly leaseholders or those with language difficulties came off particularly bad, and the council was able to convince some to accept offers as low as £32,000 for a 1-bed flat and £66,500 for a 3-bed maisonette. (See the full list of valuations from this FOI request)
Those leaseholders like myself who were a bit more savvy as to the real value of their homes were offered more, but still nothing near the true market value. The Council was aware that rehousing the tenants on the estates would take a number of years, and until such time as they were ready to board-up the estate completely, it knew it could just sit on the low valuations and wait until leaseholders became so weary of the deteriorating conditions that they had no choice but to accept and move out.
Leaseholders were left to watch as their neighbours were moved out one-by-one, leaving them all alone in blocks infested with vermin. Vacated properties were not cleared before being sealed up, lifts were turned off, the district heating & hot-water system was turned off, estate lighting was turned off, cleaning services and rubbish collections reduced and postal services dropped.
Some leaseholders, especially those with children had little choice when it came to security risks, lack of heating and vermin problems. These homeowners were faced with the choice of either settling early or holding out and risking their family’s health and well-being in a waiting game with the council that still today has no end in sight. 10 years have now passed and the council has still not applied for a compulsory purchase order(CPO), and will not say when it plans to do so. The CPO would bring the council under certain legal obligations and give leaseholders the security of their homes being valued by an independent body. It would bring closure to the situation: we would be guaranteed to receive true market value for our homes so that we could buy a different home in the area and get on with our lives. As it stands the vast majority of Heygate leaseholders who have been forced to settle so far have been forced to move out of the borough, to areas in London where property prices are lower and some have been squeezed out of London altogether. There are just 8 properties still occupied on the Heygate estate, 7 of which are Leaseholders. The estate is costing the council £22,000 per year just for estate lighting and £445,000 per year just to secure the estate.
Applying for a CPO is very costly and it would be much more cost-effective for the council to pay us market value and board the estate up. Instead it choose to continue its game of sit and wait until every last leaseholder surrenders their home. For us the stakes are high; we are fighting for our homes and our existence. For council officers we are just figures, sums on a spreadsheet that they can boast about during budget & finance meetings or add to their professional record of achievements. The battle is unfairly weighted, council officers sit in their comfortable plush new offices on Tooley St. earning 3-figure salaries, while we sit in our homes huddled around a portable electric fan-heater with mould and damp running down the walls.
Mr. Hilmi below, is the owner of a 1 bedroom maisonette on the Aylesbury estate. He purchased the 500 sq.ft., 1st floor flat from the council in 1990 for £55,000. If we run the council’s own valuation of £55,000 through the Nationwide House Price Index calculator for Greater London the flat should now be worth £179,246. This means that house prices in Greater London have risen by 225% since he purchased the property, but does not take into account regional differences within Greater London. According to Land Registry figures, house prices in Southwark have risen on average 50% above the Greater London index since 1990. Applying this extra increment to the council’s original valuation of £55,000 in 1990, we arrive at a figure of today’s value at £206,250. However, the council is offering him just £67,000!
This is just over a quarter of what his home should be worth according to the council’s own valuation when he bought the property from the council back in 1990. The council’s paltry offer for his home works out at a measly £134 per sq.ft., which is just over a quarter of the current average price per sq.ft. for residential property in Southwark – £434!
The council is claiming that there is a significant difference between the value of properties on the Heygate & Aylesbury than those in the surrounding area. We disagree; the council’s arguments about mortgagability and construction issues are nonsensical and unfounded. Our homes are light & spacious and the buildings have been declared structurally sound.
Even if the council were right in saying that there is some difference in value between our homes and those in the surrounding area, then this is a result of its sustained neglect of our estates over the years, and its smear campaign in the press and letting them be used for a long series of crass gangster movies. The next question should logically then be one of ‘who should make up this difference?’ Why should we have to make up that difference? Why should we be forced into taking out another mortgage or going into shared owhership in order to remain living in the area. We have lived here happily for most of our lives. We don’t want to go through the struggle again of grappling to get back onto the property ladder after being forcibly kicked off it. We enjoy living here and have built up a community over many many years. The majority of us are too old to obtain mortgages and we do not want to move, especially not to make way for profiteering developers who stand to make millions from the prime real estate upon which our homes are built.
The price some of us have been forced to accept for our homes is barely more than what Southwark Council’s Regeneration Boss – Annie Shepherd – takes home in her monthly pay packet, and significantly less than what the Heygate site Developers – Lend Lease – earn every hour of the day.