Abstract only
The Myatts Field North PFI horror show
Stuart Hodkinson

This chapter presents evidence gathered from the comprehensive regeneration of the Myatts Field North (MFN) estate in Lambeth, originally built in the mid-1970s as part of a slum clearance and area improvement plan. A first section contrasts the original promises made to residents by the council with the eventual 25-year, £272.4 million contract signed in 2012 with Regenter Myatts Field North Ltd (owned by Pinnacle and John Laing). Under the scheme, 305 homes have been demolished and rebuilt, 172 homes have been refurbished by Rydon and 503 new private flats have been built outside of the PFI contract. A second section documents the extraordinary number of defective works and services that plagued the refurbishment and new housing. A third section focuses on residents’ appalling experiences under a district heating system run by energy giant E.ON, which broke down 48 times in four years, yet some residents could not afford to use it. A fourth section then discusses the betrayal of some of the homeowners who had originally been guaranteed a new home on the estate but were forced out. A fifth section examines the safety defects discovered after the Grenfell fire.

in Safe as houses
Regeneration meets the Private Finance Initiative
Stuart Hodkinson

This chapter introduces the controversial background and evolution of the PFI model in public housing regeneration. A first section outlines the basic workings of PFI and how it emerged as part of the wider corporate takeover and financialisation of public services. A second section debunks official claims that the inflated cost of private finance is justified by the superior ‘value for money’ delivered through PFI’s ‘risk transfer’ and ‘payment by results’ model. A third section provides an overview of the origins and evolution of PFI during the 2000s as the ‘only game in town’ for local authorities that wanted to retain ownership of public housing and access the desperately needed finance for home and estates in need of major regeneration and refurbishment. It introduces the 20 public housing PFI regeneration schemes now operational in England, as well as the three London local authority case studies which form the evidence base of the book: Islington’s street properties, Camden’s Chalcots Estate and Lambeth’s Myatts Field North estate. A final section reveals the controversy on the ground that met the undemocratic imposition of many housing PFI schemes – sometimes in the face of resident opposition – and the problems that engulfed the procurement of these contracts.

in Safe as houses
Stuart Hodkinson

This chapter recounts the appalling experiences of residents in Islington and Camden involving the Partners for Improvement consortium. The first section focuses on Islington, where the council signed two PFI contracts, for 30 and 16 years in 2003 and 2006 respectively, in total worth £721 million, to refurbish and maintain some 6,500 homes in Georgian and Victorian ‘street properties’ purchased by the council from private owners, including many listed buildings. The chapter details the huge damage inflicted by the contractors on the housing and the devastating effect this had on residents’ lives. A second section covers the renovation and repair of five tower blocks built in the late 1960s on the Chalcots Estate in Camden. It recounts how, after procurement delays lasting several years that pushed up the cost, a much shorter 15-year contract worth £153 million was signed in 2006. Although the refurbishment was criticised by residents at the time, it was only after Grenfell that the council listened to residents and discovered that the cladding system fitted under the PFI contract was combustible, forcing the council to evacuate the estate for a few weeks in the summer of 2017. The PFI contract has since been terminated three years earlier than planned, with the council liable for a staggering £92.9 million of rehousing costs and remedial work.

in Safe as houses
Stuart Hodkinson

This chapter charts the course of public housing, from its emergence as part of a wider collective resistance to the social murder of unregulated capitalism, to its planned demise under neoliberal policies of privatisation, demunicipalisation, deregulation and austerity. A first section explains how public housing represented both the partial decommodification of shelter and the protection of residents’ health and safety through a wider system of building regulation and control. A second section argues that these qualities made public housing a target for privatisation and demunicipalisation policies that have recommodified and financialised housing and land for profit-seeking corporate interests. It was in this context that ‘outsourced regeneration’ featured in this book was born with the launch in 2000 of New Labour’s ‘Decent Homes’ programme to bring all social housing in England up to a minimum decent standard by 2010. The chapter ends with an explanation of how the assault on public housing has been accompanied by the rolling back of building regulations and the rolling out of self-regulation, which has weakened building safety and residents’ ability to hold their landlords to account.

in Safe as houses
Abstract only
Private greed, political negligence and housing policy after Grenfell

As the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire of 14 June 2017 has slowly revealed a shadowy background of outsourcing and deregulation, and a council turning a blind eye to health and safety concerns, many questions need answers. Stuart Hodkinson has those answers. Safe as Houses weaves together Stuart’s research over the last decade with residents’ groups in council regeneration projects across London to provide the first comprehensive account of how Grenfell happened and how it could easily have happened in multiple locations across the country. It draws on examples of unsafe housing either refurbished or built by private companies under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to show both the terrible human consequences of outsourcing and deregulation and how the PFI has enabled developers, banks and investors to profiteer from highly lucrative, taxpayer-funded contracts. The book also provides shocking testimonies of how councils and other public bodies have continuously sided with their private partners, doing everything in their power to ignore, deflect and even silence those who speak out. The book concludes that the only way to end the era of unsafe regeneration and housing provision is to end the disastrous regime of self-regulation. This means strengthening safety laws, creating new enforcement agencies independent of government and industry, and replacing PFI and similar models of outsourcing with a new model of public housing that treats the provision of shelter as ‘a social service’ democratically accountable to its residents.

Abstract only
Building a healthy spatial contract
Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith and Stephen Hall

This chapter summarizes the key contributions of the book. It highlights the way the text operates as three interlocking frameworks: an intellectual framework focused on an understanding of the relationship between collectively produced systems and human agency; a political framework which insists on the need for these systems to become the centre of politics; and an analytical framework which understands systems in context, with a focus on exploitation. It further demonstrates the utility of these frameworks by briefly analysing two current cases: the push for universal basic income globally, and the focus on the Green New Deal in the United States. The chapter also lists ten areas where future work is needed.

in The spatial contract
Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith and Stephen Hall

This chapter explains the concept of reliance and reliance systems – the way in which human agency stems from collectively produced systems. It then links this understanding of reliance and agency to capabilities theory, and explains the contribution that reliance systems make to rendering capabilities theory more aware of the materiality of capabilities. The chapter then delves into the nature of reliance systems, focusing on separating the material and functional components of reliance systems. We explain the need to modify social contract theory in order to pursue a better politics of reliance systems, as opposed to other possible political avenues such as rights and deliberative democracy. The chapter ends by suggesting six principles for examining the morality of any given spatial contract.

in The spatial contract
Abstract only
Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith and Stephen Hall

The introduction lays out the basic intellectual framework of the book. It argues that human agency is derived from collectively produced reliance systems such as energy, transportation and water. These systems are governed by complex formal and informal agreements called spatial contracts, which differ depending on the system, geography and moment in history. These spatial contracts need to become the focal point of twenty-first-century politics.

in The spatial contract
Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith and Stephen Hall

This chapter furthers the development of the analytical framework by focusing on the relationship between reliance systems and exploitation. It reworks Iris Marion Young’s five faces of oppression for use with reliance systems and the spatial contract. These five faces are exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence.

in The spatial contract
Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith and Stephen Hall

This chapter continues the work of building the analytical framework. Rather than pulling apart systems to appreciate their differences, as in Chapter 2, this chapter explains how systems must be seen together as human settlements. This settlements perspective illuminates two important sets of divisions that may hinder the development of healthier spatial contracts – the divide between urban and rural, and that between formal and informal.

in The spatial contract