A BBC1 show called ‘Rooms, Rogues and Renters’ aired on Friday. It featured Lambeth cabinet member for housing, Councillor Matthew Bennett, playing Monopoly as he highlighted the misery of life under rogue landlords in the private rental sector.
The irony of the disrepair he and other characters drew our attention to, surely hasn’t escaped the attention of clever Cllr Bennett?
Cast your mind back a few months to December 2014, when BBC London News was highlighting Lambeth council’s neglect of its own properties on Cressingham, along with another appearance from our Cllr Bennett.
The presenter stated: “Leaking roofs, mouldy walls and no electricity. Residents of an estate in Lambeth claim their houses are being left to rot.”
Explaining itself, Lambeth council told the BBC: “We are looking into how best to fund the urgently needed refurbishment of homes at Cressingham Gardens.”
We now know the chosen funding method to be demolition and redevelopment. Comparing the two televised scenarios, the property conditions are almost identical. But the remedies are proving very different: The disgusting flats shown in ‘Rooms, Rogues and Renters’, won’t have demolition orders slapped on them. Landlords will be expected to refurbish or withdraw from the market.
Meanwhile, Lambeth’s proposed method of dealing with its own property management failings is to bulldoze the lot. Cherished homes on Cressingham, including around 70 per cent that are perfectly decent, will be turned to rubble as a result.
Does Cllr Bennett also fail to realise the Monopoly game he’s playing with people’s lives?
Under his and Lambeth Labour’s watch, some tenants continue to live in damp and mouldy conditions – despite the £1.2m a year income Lambeth receives from them in rent. After expenses are taken into account, a profit of at least £200k remains, which is diverted from Cressingham. This is the epitome of mismanagement.
Unfortunately, it’s the most vulnerable tenants who are the unwitting victims of Lambeth’s strategy of “managed decline”. Cllr Bennett proclaims refurbishment to be “too expensive”, but this is a well-known excuse for demolition.
Meanwhile, the politician enjoys a spoof round of the London property board game with his new pals. As he makes his moves around the board, he reads out his card: “Landlord sells up to cash in on record property prices. You’re evicted!”
Again, the parallels with his proposed ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’ property rental company for Cressingham, are hard to ignore. As if talking about Brixton over recent years, another cast member reads out his game card: “You’re gentrified. Neighbourhood becomes cool and hip. Rents up, 30 per cent.”
A portent of what’s to come at Future Cressingham?