Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)

SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle)

The SPV is a bike trailer that records audio, and video footage of Cressingham Gardens Estate as myself and others audit repairs data. The served to open conversations with Cressingham residents about repairs in their homes. I attached a camera to an extensible pole so I could film upper walkways from the lower level − I found the pole near a rubbish area on the estate. In a later version of the SPV I built a shelf so I could easily work on my laptop while out and about. The title of this artefact is a humorous play on words as an SPV is a private company structure employed by Local authorities to finance regeneration projects outside of typical legislative constraints.

Smiling kids in a wooden bike trailer Smiling kids in a prototype wooden bike trailer

The SPV performed the physical labour of ‘databasing’ where myself and other residents systematically interrogated Lambeth’s data-sets by inspecting repairs and speaking with residents. Through this work we gained an understanding of how data entities in Lambeth (e.g. Job ID’s, descriptions, costs) had come into being. Crucially, we came to understand how these entities are stripped of resident knowledge and experience that residents were now attempting to reclaim and then re-insert into government processes.

Us council estate residents must deal with regeneration in our spare time while managing family and work commitments. Whereas Lambeth workers are in full-time work and contracted corporations and companies are paid (comparably) vast sums to perform their work. The SPV attempted to address this power imbalance by providing a space to look after and amuse my kids while inspecting repairs. In doing so I drew attention to the hidden labour of contesting data, the incompatibility of this work with family life, and issues of a participatory democracy that exudes those without time to engage. The additional time that I gained helped myself and other residents overwhelm Lambeth with our own data which temporarily slowed them down in their aspirations to demolish our homes.

The best time to film was at the weekends which is when residents tended to be around. The trailer provided an extra pair of hands so I could look after my children while also filming. The novelty of the trailer provided an entry point to conversations. The trailer also provided an excuse to spend time in parts of the estate I was less familiar with.

SPV also stands for Special Purpose Vehicle. Local authority urban regeneration schemes employ Special Purpose financial Vehicles as a means to develop housing. Lambeth Council’s (henceforth Lambeth) SPV is called Homes For Lambeth (HFL) which is an an umbrella organisation for multiple subsidiary companies tasked. Homes for Lambeth is tasked with the demolition of thousands of homes in Lambeth and is managing a £1b+ capital budget.

HFL is part of a juggernaut of urban regeneration that rides roughshod over residents concerns. For residents of Cressingham HFL is part of Lambeth avoiding democratic accountability by commissioning companies such as Savills − a global real estate company − to structure HFL so it aligns government aspirations for social housing with global markets. Other companies such as Thornton Communications, involved in £b property deals in the UK, are advising and accelerating HFL in the submission of planning proposals to demolish Cressingham.

As these economic vultures circulate Cressingham residents attempt to ensure their estate is maintained. This is difficult because, ahead of any demolition, Lambeth aims to spend the minimum as part of a managed decline. Resisting this decline involves reporting and following the progress of repairs and frequently complaining about poor quality results − if they have been undertaken at all.