Notes on a new project "House"

The following are some notes outlining a new project I am starting to formulate.

"House" seeks to understand how the place we call home excerpts influence over our actions. It specifically investigates this in relation to properties being 'regenerated' by local councils in the UK. Simply having a postal address enables businesses, government institution and individuals to connect a person with a specific location. Physical connection and contractual agreements link water, sewage, electricity, landline telephone and internet provision. Records of land ownership, repairs and maintenance, tenancy, leasehold, freehold and insurance agreements all exert influence over our actions and sets of social relations. Planning laws, regeneration plans, decent home standards, public and private developments serve to create sites of overt political tension. While the micro-political interactions of wind, water, rain, plants and earth and buildings invite systems of repair and maintenance - or not as the case may be.

Through creative exploration this project asks: How can the people engage with these intensely bureaucratic processes before and while they are affected by UK regeneration projects? In what way do these complex sets of relations construct the conditions for a regeneration project, moving beyond simple 'evil developer' explanations? How can the public critically and creatively engage and influence these complex technological, economic, environmental, material and bureaucratic systems?

These ideas reflect on the notion and structuring of lived logics - how modes of power in this context are mediated through the logical machines of computation and administration and how our participation in those systems offers them gravity. Critically deconstructing how power is encoded in the process's to validate regeneration of an area, looking for the holes, hypocrisies and ways to create turbulence in such a system.

Context

I have lived at Cressingham Gardens Estate in Tulse Hill for the past seven years, it is green, leafy estate that looks over Brockewell park so is highly desirable 'development' land. Out of 296 dwellings on the estate 208 are council tenants, 72 are leasehold, eight are freehold and six are void. My wife and myself are Leaseholders. A little time before Christmas we discovered that the Estate had been earmarked for 'regeneration'. This was a direct result of the governments "decent homes standard" which specified that all council housing stock across the country needed to be brought up to a minimum standard.

Lambeth Council received £450-£500 million pounds for improvements across the whole of their housing stock. To decide how that money should be spent, they analysed their expenditure (Lambeth Living's Database) on upkeep and repairs of all Estates across the borough and earmarked a number of estates that were deemed too expensive to repair. Cressingham Gardens was one of those. Lambeth Council says it cannot afford to put right all the problems without at least partly demolishing and rebuilding the estate. This would most likely be funded by a private developer through the private sale of extra new flats on the site. A regeneration of this kind would force leaseholders to sell their properties, making it very difficult to get new mortgages at a similar rate and tenants would loose their long term assured tenancies and be moved into smaller properties.

We have discovered that 3.4 million pounds is available for the regeneration of the estate so are starting to pull together alternative options (a low carbon approach to development) for the development and improvement of the estate that do not involve pulling it down or selling it off to private developers. As a first stage, we have formed a new Tenants and Residents association through which we can represent all current residents of the Estate. We are now canvasing all residents to get a clear picture of repairs and structural issues on the estate and have discovered years of neglect and negligent and potentially corrupt management by Lambeth council. We are also about to put together a repairs database to attempt to illuminate how repairs have been managed and what the key issues are, the aim is to build towards a full survey of the estate so we can determine exact costings for all repairs, structural or otherwise, while also ensuring current repairs are adequately undertaken so the estate is not simply left to rot while decision is made.

It seems the reason the Estate may be knocked down (or partially re-developed) is due to administrative system that does not recognise or value the social, human attachments residents have to the location. Put simply, the complex systems of administration involving databases of repairs, insurance documents, land registry & contractor agreements (the list goes on), each in their own way, support a case for
demolishment. The council say "its an expensive estate to repair". To my mind our most fruitful line of defence against these structures is to bend them to our own means and understand how they are being employed to influence residents in a negative way, which in our case, is 'by any means possible' (which includes getting outside help), to build an argument that exposes the holes in the councils proposals.

Related Groups

www.spinwatch.org
www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch
http://southwarknotes.wordpress.com
(Gentrification and regeneration in Southwark, South London)
http://social-life.co
("Our mission is to reconnect placemaking with people’s everyday experience and the way that communities work.")
Do comment if you know of more links.

Michael Edwards, an economist and senior lecturer at University College London UCL: http://bit.ly/12e8fMQ

Reading

2011 "Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929" Markus Krajewski, Translated Peter Krapp. MIT Press
2007 "World City" Doreen Massey, Polity press. (Looks at Londons Docklands).
2002 "Reimagining the Urban" Nigel Thrift, Polity Press.
2006 "Spaces of Global Capitalism" David Harvey, Verso.
Do comment if you know of soem good books or papers.

General Links

www.lambethfirst.org.uk/information_sharing_protocols

Comments

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