Councillor Aydin Dikerdem’s maiden speech to Wandsworth council, December 2016
Thank you Mayor for allowing me to make my maiden speech during this debate around housing. And I must say it is a fitting debate for someone recently elected in Queenstown.
Nowhere represents the tensions and inequalities of modern London more than Queenstown does. The ward is witnessing the struggle over what regeneration and development mean for everyday Londoners, those who can’t afford the luxury flats rising around them but who are rooted in an area they have grown up in and love.
If there is one issue on the doorstep that came up time and time again it was housing. Be it the lack of low-cost homes, soaring rents, huge housing waiting lists, or problems of damp and overcrowding – having a decent home, what was previously a social democratic given, is now a source of anxiety and uncertainty.
Of course the council will say it’s building more homes than any other, just look to Nine Elms… But let’s say it how it is: no matter how many riverside penthouses go up, the fundamental problem is not being addressed.
As every major housing study of the last decade shows, its not that we are building too little but that we are not building the kind of housing stock that is needed to address the problem. We need more social housing units and genuinely affordable homes.
Residents roll their eyes when they hear the term ‘affordable housing’ because they no it is not affordable for them, their kids or anyone they know.
When an ‘affordable’ studio flat is costing upwards of £400,000, it’s understandable why so many residents feel the development is not for them. As someone born and raised in Battersea, it certainly makes me question whether I’ll ever be able to raise a family where I grew up.
This motion celebrates the 20,000 homes sold off under Right To Buy – yet how many of those homes have been replaced? The answer is less than a third – No wonder people are feeling the squeeze when social housing stock continues to deplete while demand increases.
It is appalling that of the 9,000 or so homes being built as part of the Nine Elms development, only 7% are social housing. An opportunity that could have benefited a generation of residents in Battersea is instead creating a symbol of all that is wrong with the London housing market.
Let us be clear, when it comes to housing we must be getting the best deal possible from developers – regeneration should address the loss of social housing, not facilitate in pricing people out of the borough and the breakdown of communities.
Why is it that Queenstown housing stock like the Doddington, Savona and Patmore are left in such a state? These are public assets and yet have been in desperate need of renovation for years. When gleaming new developments are rising up all around its hard not to see the inequality.
We also have to make sure community assets are not sacrificed as part of regeneration. A prime example of this in Queenstown is the issue of Flanagan’s Pub. Earlier I gave you a petition about this issue, Mr Mayor. Flanagan’s is the last traditional pub in the area with a large and loyal base. There are three darts teams, an OAP Christmas dinner service, live music every week, and so many more other community activities. Even the Chelsea Pensioners travel down to Battersea for their weekly pint there.
If this council is serious about making sure regeneration in Queenstown benefits everyone, it’s in protecting places like Flanagan’s that prove the local authority is looking out for the community – and not just developers. I would hope this council upholds its flagship pub protection record by giving Flanagan’s Article 4 protection.
We all know how important consultation is when it comes to affecting change in our areas, and while not a housing issue, its clear that many Queenstown residents felt they were being swept aside and ignored when it came to Formula E. Making sure residents feel empowered in decisions that they care about is crucial.
The mandate I got from the people of Queenstown is a testament to the issues I’m raising here tonight. I’m honoured to now be representing what (and I say this without bias) is undoubtedly the best ward in Battersea: the beauty of Battersea Park, the famous dogs and cats home and of course the iconic power station.
I promise to be a councillor to all residents, whether you have just moved to the area, or are have been living here three generations – the changes taking place in Queenstown need work for everyone.
I hope kids growing up on the Doddington, Patmore and Savona will see a Battersea that includes them in its future.