West Kensington and Gibbs Green residents have taken a big step forward to save their homes by voting unanimously to investigate a community takeover of their council estates. 760 homes occupied by 2,000 people are threatened with demolition as part of the Earl’s Court redevelopment scheme. The decision to move forward with resident control, coupled with the Conservatives losing control of the Council to Labour, offers real hope that the homes can be saved.
120 residents packed the Gibbs Green Hall for the general meeting of West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes (WKGGCH) on 1 July. The meeting was called to consider a resolution proposing the service of a Right to Transfer proposal notice on Hammersmith & Fulham Council. It was also an opportunity to explain more about the group’s plan to transfer the estates to a community controlled housing association. 79 Members of WKGGCH voted in favour of the resolution to serve the notice. Nobody voted against.
The Right to Transfer was enacted by the Labour Government in 2008 and was brought into force by the Coalition Government when it made the Regulations in December 2013. WKGGCH is the fourth tenant group in the country where residents have voted to use the legislation, and is the first which is not already in charge of management. The Chair has now written to all residents to explain the result and to invite representations. On 22 July the Board will consider any responses and make the final decision on whether to serve the notice.
At the meeting, the Chair introduced the elected Board of WKGGCH. Two resident Board members made a presentation about what we want to achieve:
Company Secretary Linda Sanders provided background about the organisation and summarised the five-year campaign; Sally Taylor, who is also Chair of the West Kensington Estate Tenants & Residents Association, set out our vision for the estates under community control, which includes:
- A landlord elected by residents that would decide the policies, employ professional staff to manage the properties, and spend all the income on the estates;
- Affordable rents with increases strictly limited, and tenants keeping the security they have now;
- Estate based management and maintenance providing a personal service for residents and tailored to meet the needs of the neighbourhood;
- Tackling overcrowding through local knowledge and more efficient use of homes;
- Improvements to the West Kensington blocks and to open spaces, with more CCTV and increased supervision by staff;
- Community services and events for residents with many more activities for younger people;
- Investigating opportunities to build more homes within the estates and to provide lifts for the blocks in Gibbs Green.
MP for the area, Andy Slaughter, explained the wider political context. Residents were also joined by local Councillors Larry Culhane and Ali Hashem.
WKGGCH Chair, Keith Drew, said: “The huge turnout and the unanimous result was a massive vote of confidence in our campaign to save our homes. We had a lively discussion about what community ownership would mean in practice. The fact that not a single member voted against investigating transfer really shows the depth of our community’s determination to decide our own future.”