“Hello Auntie”; the residents, the students, and the neo-liberal games

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Later this week, the BBC is due to take occupation of its broadcasting headquarters for the Olympic, which will be in the upper five storeys of two tower blocks, Lund Point and Dennison Point, on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. Where, you might ask, will all the residents go? The answer, as traced by “Richard B” in the current issue of Mute Magazine, is that the blocks concerned were condemned as unfit for human habitation in 2004, and have since been run down by Newham council, which has reached a deal with University College London (UCL) to site a new campus on their remains. The residents, in other words, are being displaced.

Dave Sewell, writing about this same story in Socialist Worker, notes that Newham has a council house waiting list of 28,000 people and just 600 unoccupied homes for the former Lund inhabitants (and anyone else in the borough) to move into, and quotes Warren a local resident, “it’s just social cleasing. There are empty properties on the estate – why can’t people live here instead of being sent to Stoke?”

While the Olympics speeds up the displacing of the residents by students; a second population transfer is simultaneously taking place. The BBC’s competitors among the global media businesses reporting the games are going to be housed in UCL’s own student quarter in Bloomsbury (i.e around Russell Square). In both these moves, the wealthier are displacing the poorer, and the geographically mobile displace those who would prefer to stay.

The Carpenters Estate comprises some low-rise properties and three large concrete (22-storey) blocks, finished in (of all years) 1968. The blocks were marked down for closure eight years ago, but are still occupied, thanks not least to the Carpenters Against Regeneration Plans (CARP) campaign.

Richard B describes Newham’s efforts to mobilise against the dissenters: holding sham public meetings with security guards to keep out the Carpenters residents; offering remaining tenants alternative accommodation in a housing association block (ie with diminished security of tenure), promising loans (not grants) to anyone quitting the Carpenters in order to buy their own home.

UCL students – disheartened by the activities of their own institution – have voted to back the residents; while UCL management is no doubt hoping the occupiers will simply leave with the minimum of fuss.

Yet again, the Olympics is being used as an excuse to remove London’s poor. You might almost think that this was a pattern.

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