Just how do you get social housing in Tower Hamlets in just 5 months? We asked Apsana Begum MP.

A secure tenancy on a £330,000 riverside flat in Tower Hamlets in east London, at social rent? That sounds too good to be true! Tell us how?

We asked Poplar & Limehouse’s newest occupant of their secure Labour parliamentary seat in Tower Hamlets for an answer. Ms Begum, formerley married to a currently serving Tower Hamlets councillor, seems to have bagged herself a secure tenancy on a £330,000 property in the Isle of Dogs region of the Borough.

Balfron Social Club asked her how she did it?

Ms Begum seems to like Twitter, but she must just keep missing our tweets. I’ll ask again.

We still haven’t received an answer.

“The housing crisis remains at the top of the political agenda, its scale laid bare by the Covid-19 epidemic . But despite the media spotlight, the stories of those affected by the  chronic shortage of social housing in the United Kingdom, including in Tower Hamlets, have often been left out of debates on housing.”

https://poplarandlimehouselabour.org.uk/index.php/events/

We agree!

The housing crisis in Tower Hamlets is catastrophic for local communities, after years of corruption at the very top, with a mayor who used to be a lobbyist for property developers; billions of pounds of public assets have been passed into the hands of their friends and associates, which are then quickly passed into the hands of property developers, redeveloped and sold with the most minimal of public housing provision; typically 0% in direct comparison with traditional social tenancies.

Instead, properties, which still meet the criteria to be classified as “affordable” housing, require a £90,000 income in order to buy a 25% share of a tiny new-build property; a property built on the graveyard of social housing and the communities that once lived there.

But Poplar & Limehouse has a brand new MP- young, female and ambitious, what’s the problem?

The problem is that Apsana Begum jumped over 18,000 places on the official Tower Hamlets social housing register. This register recently had tens of thousands of names removed from it, and many more people, including myself, have simply been refused permission to add our names to the list.

So, if there are 18,000 people officially on the list, how many people are there that Tower Hamlets have deemed un-listworthy?

Including myself, I estimate there to be at least that number again; sofa-surfing, sleeping on floors, in vehicles, in overcrowded or unsafe homes, garages, sheds, doorways, squats etc.

So, how did Apsana Begum MP get a secure social tenancy on a £330,000 riverside flat on the Isle of Dogs, next to the now near-abandoned Canary Wharf international banking sector?

We have asked, repeatedly, but we have still not received a reply.

To be fair, I am not the only person asking, and I don’t think anybody has received a reply. Corruption and social cleansing seem to come as standard equipment in Tower Hamlets, under Mayor John Biggs, with a number of entire buildings mysteriously changing hands or being sold to friends for just £1, and dozens of entire estates facing “regeneration” as our social housing is asset-stripped and replaced by business models that suits banks and property developers, not buyers and certainly not the local community.

Housing policy in Tower Hamlets is overt social cleansing.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10390219/labour-candidate-probe-council-flat/

Tower Hamlets Social Housing Case Studies

As official figures provided by crooked politicians on social housing simply cannot be trusted, and their PR closely resembles the genre of fantasy fiction, I thought I would share a few stories about people who weren’t lucky enough to be given a secure tenancy, at social rent, in a riverside property, in only 5 months.

Classic Move

Having been hand-picked to stand for election, in 2019, in the secure seat of Poplar & Limehouse in Tower Hamlets, east London- a borough renowned for corruption, Ms Begum seems to have decided that it would be a good idea to spin herself into position as a saviour of social housing.

Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle

Watch Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle for yourself, the Balfron Tower excerpt, co-produced and even featuring a guest appearance by myself, is available to watch below or on YouTube, free of charge.

You can watch the full documentary here.

Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle. Dir: Paul Sng 2017.

A tradition of corruption

In a Borough as corrupt as Tower Hamlets, you would think that a “model” Labour council would be more careful about corruption, especially housing fraud, given the scarcity and price of such a limited resource.

This is not the first time a Labour politician in the area has been caught, accused and convicted of housing fraud.

Mohammed Haran, was convicted of housing fraud and sent to jail, shortly after being elected as Councillor for Lansbury, site of the hotly contested Chrisp Street Market regeneration proposals, which were unanimously approved by crooked Labour councillors in the pockets of property developers.

https://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/muhammad-harun-admits-housing-fraud-1-6305345

Stop the corruption! Stop the social cleansing!

The people of Tower Hamlets have had enough. We have had enough of the fraud and corruption and the Sino-Soviet style entitlement to public assets by politicians in Tower Hamlets.

Another event providing a platform for Apsana Begum to spin her way out of corruption allegations.

Drop the act, Ms Begum. You jumped the housing queue, trampling over 18,000 people to receive housing that you are not entitled to. That is fraud, and you should go to jail for blatantly stealing social housing from people in need.

Dear reader, if you were really looking for an answer to the opening question then we apologise, as we are still a little unclear as to how we can get social housing in just 5 months as well.

Why not ask Apsana Begum directly, maybe she will be able to help you.

UPDATE:

On 14th September 2020, Apsana Begum MP blocked Balfron Social Club on Twitter. No answer has ever been provided as to how she skipped over 18,000 places on the social housing register to receive social housing in just five months.

Despite being blocked, we will keep asking.

Representation by UK Labour Poplar & Limehouse MP Apsana Begum

Balfron Social Club

Poplar

26th August 2020

Guinness Homes are killing nurses & bus drivers by building Imperial-by-Lea.

We will not forget selfish company directors that consider their developments more important than the lives of our friends & neighbours.

Balfron Social Club recently wrote about the Guinness Homes construction site Imperial-by-Lea in Bromley-by-Bow in Tower Hamlets which has remained open during the #Covid19 lockdown, which is still open on 14th April, weeks after everybody else has been forced to close down their businesses and stop going to work.

Weeks have now passed and many construction sites such as Imperial-by-Lea by Guinness Homes at Bromley by Bow in Tower Hamlets remain open.

Published by Balfron Social Club on 2nd April 2020.

Construction workers need to travel to and from work, and whilst NHS staff and bus drivers are dying in droves, the directors and board of Guinness Homes seem to think that their profits are more important than the lives of key workers- workers risking their lives on the front line of a global pandemic, to try and keep us safe.

Timelapse of construction at Imperial by Lea still operating weeks after covid19 lockdown

Construction companies may have issued guidelines for workers to keep 2 metres apart, but it is very clear that this is not possible for many of their insecure, poorly-paid construction workers, and it is evident in photographs that this is routinely not happening.

As I write, over 11,000 people in the UK have been officially confirmed dead due to covid19, and this figure excludes many thousands of people who have died at home or in care homes.

An incompetent government, spineless politicians and company directors who don’t care who dies have rapidly made the UK one of the worst affected countries in Europe from the Covid19 pandemic.

Keeping 2 metres apart at Imperial by Lea is not possible for construction workers.

Whilst our friends, family and neighbours including NHS staff and bus drivers are dying in droves, there is no doubt that the Directors and Board of Guinness Homes will be firmly locked down and isolating in their homes, or second homes, because it has become very clear that there is one rule for us, and another for them.

Whilst they Zoom, we die.

I do not believe that the privilege of these people should allow them to go unpunished for what is tantamount to the murder of critically important key workers, people risking their own lives to save the lives of our friends and neighbours in the fight against the Covid19 pandemic.

Guinness Homes building shite (sic) at Imperial-by-Lea, Bromley by Bow in Tower Hamlets

I have therefore compiled a list of the directors and board of Guinness Homes and am publishing it below, along with their details.

These people made purposeful choices that their profits are more important than the lives of key workers.

Enough is enough, it’s time to shut the sites.

Social distancing does not work on building sites

Each of the following people has the blood of NHS staff, bus drivers & key workers on their hands for keeping their construction sites open during #covid19 lockdown.

We will not forget their selfishness which has led to the deaths of key workers.

The following are Directors of @GuinnessHomes.

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We will not forget selfish company directors that consider their developments more important than the lives of our friends & neighbours. 

The following Directors of @GuinnessHomes feel they are more important than the lives of NHS staff & bus drivers (repeated here in text so that their names are picked up by search engines and their actions are never forgotten).

Angela Maria Drum.

Philip Michael Day.

Ian Joynson.

Jonathon Milburn.

Catriona Ruth Simons.

Peter Hedderly.

Trafford Wilson.

Paul Watson MBE.

The following are board members of @GuinnessHomes.

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Neil Braithwaite.

Mike Petter.

Amanda Calvert.

Phil Morgan.

Samantha Pitt.

Chris Wilson.

Chris Stevens.

Linda Sanders.

The following Twitter poll is live. Please click to vote.

It’s one rule for us, and another for them. If they were building homes that our local community could afford, we might have more sympathy for them.

But, they’re not. Whatever they tell you “affordable” housing is not affordable for our community. It’s a scam designed to fool you.

Does the image below look representative of the community of Bromley by Bow? Does it look representative of Tower Hamlets?

Do the Directors of Guinness Homes look like your neighbours? Or of our community?

Developers hoarding at Imperial by Lea, looks nothing like Tower Hamlets residents to me. Its clear who they’re building for.
https://twitter.com/RabHarling/status/1249970324319371266

Once again, the capitalists have clearly shown us that their profits are far more important than the lives of our friends and neighbours.

The directors of construction companies like Guinness Homes need to be held to account for the deaths of our friends and neighbours, for the deaths of people across London as people die in huge numbers, and they did nothing to help flatten the curve.

They need to be held to account for showing us how much contempt they hold for us.

Social distancing does not work on construction sites.

But where are our politicians, you may ask?

We know exactly where they are.

They are in the pockets of the developers.

Former lobbyist for property developers Mayor John Biggs fits nicely into the pockets of luxury property developers.

Mayor Sadiq Khan was sponsored into office by property developers and proudly splashes his brand all over construction site hoardings, like this one at Chobham Manor, in Newham.

Mayor John Biggs, in Tower Hamlets, who used to be a lobbyist for property developers, does nothing unless he is filming it for his PR.

Tower Hamlets has financial reserves of over £500,000,000.

Shut the sites. Protect our communities.

I reiterate my call that all of these sites should be requistioned and converted into 100% social housing. We have had enough of politicians and developers lying to us, telling us they are building “affordable” housing when the reality is anything but.

We will not forget.

Balfron Social Club (in lockdown)

Poplar

14th April 2020

Big Issue issues an award for corruption & social cleansing

Homelessness charity The Big Issue gives working-class communities in London’s east end a slap in the face, as it rewards Katharine Hibbert & Dot Dot Dot for helping property developers to dismantle social housing.

From the Telegraph 3rd March 2015:

If only Balfron Tower could talk, if only we could see

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Balfron Tower (pic: @balfronsocial)

 

If only Balfron Tower could talk, if only we could see

A Balfron Social Club guest blog post by Stephen Pritchard

 

Time lapses.  Remembrances.  Lives once fixed, now in transit.  Different places.  Other spaces.

If only Balfron Tower could talk.

Each wall, window, walkway.  Every conduit, fixture, fitting, lock.  The underground garages.  The lifts.  The noticeboards.  Dispossessed.

The views.  People’s views.  Displaced.

If only we could see.

No filming.  No photography.

Fixed perspectives.  Fixed outlooks.

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No filming, no photography (pic: @etiennelefleur)

All the while, the City creeps nearer.  Beacons.  Warning signs.  Shiny neoliberal lights.  Precursors of forthcoming “redevelopment”.  Glass fronted.  Flimsy giants.  Harbingers of impending gentrification.  They are coming.  They will come.  They will erase generations, feast on the past, wipe clean past lives, past happiness, past hardships.  Brutal.

Call in the artists, the property guardians, dark soundtracks, bleak CGI mock ups trumpeting “We’re coming home, baby!”

Not yet.  Just Sitex doors.  Left possessions tipped in skips.  Locks.  For now.

Business suits, fluorescent-clad workers, white-shirted private security guards. Builders or destroyers?

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A Sitex door bars access to the former home of an elderly Balfron Tower leaseholder, bullied from his home through the courts with threats of a Compulsory Purchase Order (pic: @balfronsocial)

Balfron Tower was a refuge for its many social housing tenants.  Soon it will be another vacuous space filled with neoliberal lifestyle choice, as empty of lives, real lives, as the empty promises made by the local “housing regeneration and community association” and the luxury residential property developers.  A haven for thieving City bankers.  Left-empty overseas billionaire investments. Hedge fund safe bets.  Tax evasion.  Buy-to-leave.

And now the last resident has gone, decanted to God knows where, they have wiped the soul from Balfron Tower.  It will never return.  They will make sure of it.  They have replaced people with assets for private investors, homes with a “new world” bereft of communities – another dead world of capital investment. A global world of shadowy deals and care-free exploitation.  Their world.

Cinema.  Launderette.  Play Room.  Garden Room.  Cocktail bar.  Goldfinger Archive.  Trunk Store. Treehouse.  What?  Social housing transformed into 1960s “design icon”, how lovely.  How incredibly ironic.  How to “unlock the potential for an unprecedented cast of stakeholders”.

So wrong.  So, so wrong.

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Up for the Yoga Room, down for the Music Room, design proposals for the Balfron Tower regeneration (Source: unknown)

And yet, Balfron Tower remembers its proud past.  Its residents will never forget.  Their ups and downs are cast in screed.  Their births and deaths, breakups and marriages haunt stairwells and walkways.  Lifts murmur songs from decades of everyday living.  Everyday hymns to everyone and no one.

Balfron Tower, like its past residents, remembers.  Together, they remember things heard and overheard; seen, unseen and overseen; touched and untouched.  Spoken, now muted, conversations.  Different people, living together high above London, through good and bad. Sharing.  Learning from one another.  Partying.  Playing.  Fighting.  Living.  Always living.

Inversion / Reflection shares little bits of some of these stories.  Resident’s lives. Balfron Tower’s life.  The film is not a crass product of socially engaged artists in the pay of profiteering property developers or housing associations hell bent on gentrification by a wryly smiling social art practice that paints a thinly disguised veil over gentrification.  It stands sensitive.  Understated.  Peaceful. Honest.  Proud.  A fitting commemoration of those displaced at the hands of unbridled gentrifiers who will, with their own rabid teeth, devour themselves eventually.  Cindy.  Gavin.  Felicity.  Shiraz. Evelyn.

Inversion/Reflection: What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? A short film by Rab Harling

Balfron Tower.

It didn’t have to be this way.  Those involved didn’t need to exploit people. They didn’t have to lie. They didn’t have to socially cleanse.

This is not what Goldfinger planned.

He turns in his grave as capitalist greed stamps out the dying embers of our hopes and dreams for social housing.  Balfron Tower was and still is a symbol of our welfare state.  Built on optimism. Killed by selfishness.  Justice for all replaced by the dog-eat-dog world of possessive hyper-individualism and neoliberal capital accumulation by dispossession.  Systematic asset-stripping and land grabbing.

Balfron Tower is another battleground in a class struggle – a class war.  The rich elite may have temporarily taken control but one day we will assert our right to the city and we will take it back!

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A Balfron Social Club guest blog post by Stephen Pritchard

@etiennelefleur

http://colouringinculture.org/

Balfron Social Club

Poplar

Our Area is Nice When it Wants to Be.

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A mural by local children outside condemned social housing block Linton House in Mile End                                       pic: @balfronsocial

“Our area is nice when it wants to be
This depends on everyone in our community
It is our home where we are brought up
Our friends and family mean a lot to us”

-by The Junior Club Members

Were these words and this mural created in more optimistic days? Days when a vote to transfer the management of your council flat from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets was based upon promises made by Poplar Harca of new kitchens, bathrooms and windows?

Welcome to the new reality of social housing in Poplar, Bow and Mile End; a reality now outsourced to “Registered Social Landlord” Poplar Harca; a reality in which community art murals by Junior Club members are ripped down (along with their homes) and replaced with “community art” that isn’t really made by members of the community, but by those drafted in and curated by Poplar Harca’s “Head of Creativity and Innovation”, curated into his own bland view of what community art is: art that “placeshapes” community, artwash for the mass destruction of social housing and the dismantlement and social cleansing of our communities.

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Linton House in Mile End. Awaiting demolition.           pic: @balfronsocial

The same community that not so long ago was deemed worthy of creating a mural that celebrated being brought up in a community; that recognised the importance of being surrounded by a network of family and friends.

It continues to mean something to us. It still depends on everyone in the community being nice. Its just that the ones who aren’t being nice anymore aren’t hanging out on street corners scaring the elderly, but are hanging out in their corporate headquarters, doing deals with bankers at HSBC, eager to get their hands on the tax-payer funded capital assets that are (or were) our homes.

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Printon House in Mile End. Social Housing by Poplar Harca: Decanted, Demolished, Rebuilt and Sold               pic: @balfronsocial

So, what about the community on the Burdett Estate in Bow where that mural sits? For Printon House and Linton House the wrecking ball is imminent. An established pattern that has already seen most of the Poplar Harca-managed Leopold Estate demolished, with the remaining blocks (and their residents) still anxiously awaiting their fate. Their sin was simply not having a great enough density in their housing, and that they are social housing tenants, who have a level of housing security that those in the private rented sector could only dream of, and rents that aren’t “affordable” but are actually affordable. Just who is it that can afford to pay the £350 per week for a 1-bed flat in these re-developments?

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Demolition Notice nailed to a “door” in Printon House            pic: @balfronsocial

But surely Poplar Harca are a registered social landlord? Surely they wouldn’t act like a private property developer ruthlessly dismantling communities to build luxury flats for the financial service employees at nearby Canary Wharf? Would they?

Why don’t we take a look at some numbers? These demolition notices recently appeared on the doors in Linton and Printon House, although they are dated 4th November 2013. Their recent appearance could surely not in any way appear intimidating to the remaining residents, as they discover demolition notices stapled to every door in the block. They do however reveal replacement plans for what will materialise to replace the 78 socially rented flats that currently occupy this space.

And that is 11% social housing, with the rest available for sale.

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Initial Demolition Notice for Linton and Printon House          pic: @balfronsocial

Yes. 11%.

Does this really sound like a registered social landlord with its interests representing the community? Or does this sound like an exploitative property developer ripping apart the carcass of social housing to divide up the spoils?

To break down the figures further: Printon and Linton currently contain 78 socially rented flats. They are to be replaced with 12 flats for social rent, 12 flats for shared ownership and 85 flats for private sale. These numbers are a scandal and a disgrace.

Yes, Poplar Harca are also planning to provide other facilities such as a mosque, a primary school and a ‘cultural’ facility, but none of these additional facilities are the responsibility of a registered social landlord. Building schools etc. are the responsibility of the council; the same council who gave away our social housing to an organisation that has ripped through our community socially cleansing it as they go.

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A resident of Linton House has their possessions loaded into a van.                pic: @Balfronsocial

11% social housing retention is quite simply a land grab.

We reiterate our calls for retention of a minimum of 50% social housing in all re-developments of social housing blocks and estates.

Balfron Social Club

Poplar

6th July 2015