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Don't sell off Peabody homes!
PROTESTERS REPRESENTING thousands of tenants from Peabody Trust estates demonstrated on 21 September outside Peabody's HQ in Southwark at Peabody management's plans to sell off its housing.
Niall Mulholland, Peabody tenant, Southwark Street
Peabody was set up in the 19th century to "provide subsidised housing to the working class." But there is now a privatisation "conveyor belt" where Peabody buys large amounts of council stock, then sells off its housing.
If this New Labour-backed policy continues, housing campaigner Piers Corbyn warned, social housing will disappear in London.
Next day, there was a protest outside a Kensington auction house where Peabody managers sold off individual flats. Arthur Daley-type private landlords snapped up Peabody housing at below market value, to rent out at extortionate rates.
Peabody Trust have sold 200 homes already, supposedly to raise money so their properties meet the 'Decent Homes Standard'. Others are earmarked for sale, including 'E' block on Southwark Street estate, near the Tate Modern.
This 'Bankside' area has seen huge development. Millions are poured into new buildings and tourist attractions, but Peabody management lets our estate fester. Most tenants think Peabody want to sell off the entire estate to greedy property developers.
Southwark Street Tenants' Association organiser Lois Austin told the socialist: "We want all our homes improved. But we totally oppose selling much-needed social housing to pay for improvements. One reason for Peabody's financial crisis is that they bought up council estates from local authorities ('stock transfers'), rather than spending money on Peabody estates and homes."
Under pressure, Steve Howlett, Peabody Trust's Chief Executive met protesters.
He defended sell-offs, claiming the government forced Peabody to carry out Decent Homes Standards repairs, which cost £150 million. Tenants' reps asked: "How come Peabody borrowed huge sums from the banks to buy council estates, but won't do the same to invest in Peabody properties?"
The Deputy Prime Minister's office brought in Howlett precisely to see through sell-offs and market 'solutions', using 'Standards' changes as an excuse to erode social housing. Prescott's office should pay the £150 million - a small figure for a government that wastes billions on war in Iraq.
In front of an 80 year old blind tenant, a manager complained about elderly tenants not letting Decent Homes Standards improvements into their homes because they only wanted to "hold onto their Belfast sinks".
Peabody pensioners want to keep their working fittings, as well as have 100-year-old windows replaced and other desperately needed improvements. These overpaid, unelected managers can't understand that.
At the end of the meeting Lois Austin called on Peabody to stop selling off housing. "If your privatisation plans continue, we'll step up our campaign and demand that government money is provided for social housing."
Tenants were astounded by the managers' arrogance but determined to fight to save social housing.
In The Socialist 29 September 2005: