Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Derker Community Action Group (AH 17)

  1.  As far as those of us who are being subjected to the HMR scheme can ascertain the pathfinders are not creating home ownership. In Oldham current homeowners are actively being knocked off the property ladder by this scheme. We see no benefit for current homeowners.

  1.1  If there are any benefits to be gained then it is only for the RSLs as once owner occupiers have been divested of there home by this scheme, the only options available to the majority who wish to remain home owners is to accept part ownership with a RSL partner in action or rent.

  1.2  Therefore we can only conclude from our experience of this scheme so far that the beneficiaries of these public funds are the RSLs and property developers.

  2.  The way the pathfinders are currently operating does not tackle social and economic inequalities and poverty, it increases those instances of these problems that already exist and creates new ones.

  2.1  They are coming into neighbourhoods said to be suffering from high levels of deprivation, social exclusion and poverty. They purchase homes at knock down prices and leave them empty thus exacerbating social problems such as youth nuisance and homelessness.

  2.2  This is how the ghettoisation of the pathfinder area begins bear in mind that Derker has never suffered from low demand and abandonment.

  3.  The situation that now exists in Derker is as a direct result of Pathfinder's intervention in the area. People living in deprived communities cannot afford the new build homes that are on market for in excess of £140,000.

  3.1  We find it ludicrous that no one stopped to consider this fact. We feel that the pathfinder is social engineering at its most ludicrous and unjust. No new homes have been built in Derker the existing community is being re-housed in other areas.

  3.2  The majority wish to remain in Derker but the HMR in their new bid for funding state that they will not measure their success by the crude numbers of people attending meetings or the amount of questionnaires returned, but the attempts made to get people to relocate.

  3.3  To change the social demographic of an area by coercion and manipulating economic factors such as house prices does not tackle social problems and poverty. Moving social problems from one area to another and widening inequalities leaves us wondering if we will become the nomadic disenfranchised tribe of Derker, shoved from pillar to post to enable Oldham council to claim more pathfinder monies to inflict the devastation the pathfinder brings upon other communities in the town.

  4.  The realities are that many bought terraced houses in preference to new build, as the terrace is far superior in building design to most new build homes. The terrace homes have stood for nearly 100 years and more in some cases and will easily stand another 100 or more years.

  4.1  We are told that the new build has a life expectancy of 40 years and we believe it after watching them erecting the new build in Werneth. In short the aspirations our local Council and HMR team have publicised so widely are not our dreams. This is hardly surprising, as the Community of Derker have never been consulted.

  4.2  To demolish housing that is affordable in order to create large swathes of land for property developers, to build houses clearly not affordable to the existing community is not a recipe for tackling social and economic problems or reducing poverty.

  5.  Social groups and pensioners: Our pensioners are being forced out of the homes they own outright by the HMR scheme. Having spent their working life paying for the homes they own to secure for themselves some security and quality of life in their old age, they now face enforced removal from their homes and community and as there is no chance of them obtaining a mortgage, the only future HMR intervention will secure for them is one where they are forced in to rented accommodation where their future will be one of subsistence.

  5.1  As they will have the money from their enforced dispossession in the bank, they will not be entitled to income support or other benefits such as housing and council tax. As in many cases the state pension will just about cover their rent, all other necessities of life will have to be met by subsisting off the money from their homes. As one elderly lady informed us, "one way or another the council will take everything I have worked all my life for, my home and then any money realised on it they will claw back in rent and council-tax".

  5.2  Young families who have got a foot on the property ladder and live within their meagre means while purchasing their current home will be knocked off the property ladder. They will have to settle their current mortgage upon dispossession and bearing in mind the status of this area is deprived and suffering high levels of poverty, they are unable to afford the expensive new build homes. Many are not interested in new builds as they compare unfavourably with the homes they have now. People who currently own or have the prospect of owning 100%, of their home now, do not widely find the prospect of shared ownership under the equity share attractive. The have a higher mortgage and pay rent too deal is not desirable. The equity share on offer from the council is means tested and full of codicils that enable them to force you to sell the property for a number of reasons, many undisclosed and we are unable to get a copy of the agreement.

  5.3  With the way the council, the HMR team and their partners have rode roughshod over this community we have no faith or trust left in any of them and no one wants to put their future in unscrupulous hands.

  5.4  Forcing homeowners into rented accommodation, creating a situation where home ownership becomes a privilege beyond the means of ordinary working people does not tackle social and economic inequalities it creates them. Turning homeowners into tenants does not reduce poverty it increases it.

  5.5  The pathfinders see only equity; the community see their homes. The economic and social impact of current house prices means that when deprived communities are targeted by a scheme that is only about the value of land and property and not people social problems are increased.

  5.6  The problem with the scale of the Government's plan to boost housing supply is that in places like Oldham that seems to have been singled out for aggressive social engineering under the HMR scheme. People who are being subjected to this scheme feel they have no choice but to stand and fight as the prospect of being subjected to this scheme again and again over its fifteen year lifetime is intolerable.

  6.  In closing it seems ludicrous to demolish perfectly good housing and destroy well-established and cohesive communities while claiming that that is what the HMR scheme is trying to create.

  6.1  How can you sustain a community by destroying it? How do you tackle social and economic inequalities by creating them? The idealists can dream and spin, but their claims of the benefits the pathfinder is supposed to bring bears no resemblance to the realities of the scheme on the lives of those it most affects. The pathfinder scheme creates winners and losers that means it creates inequalities.

  6.2  While the focus of this scheme is wealth creation for RSLs and property developers the needs, aspirations and inequalities that exist in our communities, and are being further complicated by this scheme have not been and will not be addressed.

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