How we debunked the ‘regeneration’ lie: One year since the People’s Regeneration Show Home

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Last year we turned a smashed empty building into a beautiful family home. This is how we did it.

One year ago, several dozen of us did something remarkable. In the midst of London’s still-ongoing housing crisis, and as Barnet Council and Annington Properties Ltd continued to push for the social cleansing of the Sweets Way estate, we came together to undermine the core argument behind the destruction of our – and so many others’ – homes across London: that the only viable option for the estate was demolition and developer-led regeneration.

Following each family eviction, contractors were unleashed on our former homes, smashing porcelain, wastewater pipes and removing everything short of the doors they used to keep us out. In building after building, we found a pattern of deliberate damage that could only be explained as a way to make these otherwise liveable homes unliveable, in the midst of a housing crisis! The consistency between the buildings made clear that this was not the work of a rogue contractor, but a deliberate strategy to justify the demolition of the estate and to prevent its reoccupation.

But rather than dwell on the sociopathic tendencies of Sweets Way’s legal owners, we decided to prove that there was – and is – an alternative to handing homes to private developers for so-called ‘regeneration.’ In just one week, with found and donated materials, a few hundred pounds and countless hours of voluntary labour, we turned a smashed up shell of a building into a beautiful family home, overflowing with character and the strength of community that made it possible.

Now, one year on, we wanted to share how we did what we did. In July 2016, London is none-the-better-off then it was then. Estates are still being given away to private property developers intent only on making profit from the places we call home. Families are still being pushed out of London and forced to choose between rent, food, bills, furniture and other essentials.

The need for us – all of us – to continue to stand together and take back the homes we need has never been greater. The People’s Regeneration Show Home was one way we tried to do this, and we hope the lessons it offered can be put to use by others working to bring their communities together to shine a light on the regeneration lie and to demonstrate the power of people to create the housing solutions we need.

The PDF below offers a detailed guide to the steps we took to create the show home. Download it, share it, put it to use where you are and feel free to drop us a line [sweetswayresists[AT]gmail.com] if there is anything we can do to help you make it happen!

Love,

Sweets Way Resists

Download the PDF guide here

Here are some of the things the media had to say about the show home:

ALL OUT FOR SWEETS WAY!

The kitchen of the show home

In the last 48 hours, everything has ramped up at Sweets Way for what is likely to be a major confrontation between those who believe in the right to housing and community, and those who would see London cleansed of all but the wealthiest.

Annington has sent in contractors, Cuddy, to prepare the estate for demolition. Fences have begun to be erected around large swathes of the estate and contractors and security guards have begun to more actively intimidate us.

Yesterday two bailiffs, with two policemen in tow, attempted to deliver court orders to occupiers. However, through a strong showing of people power, we sent them away, peacefully preventing the delivery of the notices.

Meanwhile, Mostafa and his family – the last remaining household on Sweets Way – have been told by Barnet Council’s solicitors that High Court bailiffs will be coming to evict the family on Monday morning.

We will do all that we can do to keep Mostafa in his home. He has been through such mistreatment already, with Barnet repeatedly failing to take on their duty of care for him, due to his disability, and we need a very strong presence on Monday morning to send away the highest level of bailiffs the courts can send.

Can you join us to stand up to the bailiffs on Monday morning, 8am at 46 Sweets Way?

In the meantime, we are opening up the estate this weekend to show off the People’s Regeneration Show Home, the independent nation of Sweetstopia and the state of the estate as a whole.

Join us Saturday, 2-5pm for show home tours, and stick around if you can to help prepare for eviction resistance!

This is truly crunch time for the campaign to save our estate. We are up against giants, but we’ve managed to win some crucial victories, in spite of the odds.

That said, we need your help. The days ahead may decide if Sweets Way will continue to exist as more than a memory of its former residents and those it sparked the imagination of, through our refusal to go quietly into the pages of a future history book.

So come down! If our fight has inspired you, come join us this weekend and Monday morning!

We can still win! But it’s up to all of us to prove it!

D.I.O. Regeneration: Proving that we can Do It Ourselves

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As of last Thursday, Sweets Way Resists had succeeded in regenerating 1/142nd of the Sweets Way estate. We did so in just six days and for about £370, using a lot of volunteer labour and a mix of found and donated materials. We hope that the People’s Regeneration Show Home will encourage others around London and beyond to come together and reclaim – and when necessary rebuild – homes where they are, rather than leaving them in the hands of those who simply see them as investments.

Beyond inspiring others with a little taste of what regular people are capable of doing to a smashed up building, we also showed that we can do Annington’s job – regeneration – better than they can. We’ve shown that the story of private development offering the only route to quality affordable homes is a convenient myth that facilitates the decimation of socially-rented housing stock, for the benefit of private profits. There IS another way.

Remember what we’ve done in this past week every time you hear a council, developer or social housing provider argue that it would be ‘too expensive’ to do anything other than just sell-off public homes or leave regeneration in the hands of the private sector! Why not put that argument to the test?

By our math, if we keep up our regeneration plans at last week’s rate, we could make the entire estate re-inhabitable for a mere £52,540. Which is considerably less than we’re sure Annington have earmarked for the project, or what Barnet Council spend each year on housing benefit given to private landlords.

Needless to say, their regeneration plans are slated to be considerably more expensive and will yield far fewer units below market rent than the current 142 houses. Annington will argue that none were ever social housing, but doing so is simply a distraction from the fact that they were leased as such for the past six years, and so in practice, their regen plans will drastically reduce the number of houses available to those who can’t afford full market rent from 142, to 59. (And those 59 are in themselves a mix of so-called ‘affordable’ homes that will cost up to 80% of market rent, and part-buy-part-let schemes, neither of which will be accessible to the majority of former residents.)

When we went into 153 Sweets Way, its waste water piping had been deliberately destroyed; its toilet and sink were smashed to bits; its upstairs windows were left open, letting rain in. Very few of us have any specialist skills or experience in DIY or renovation work, yet with just a bit of skilled help from a plumber, an electrician and a cabinetmaker, we fixed-up a building that had not simply been left to deteriorate over time, but had been deliberately made uninhabitable by its owners.

Most of us agree that the council should be offering homes to those who need them – but given their abject failure to protect critical housing stock in the midst of a housing crisis, it’s up to all of us to protect and secure the homes we need. Until they prove they can do their job, we’ll do what is needed to keep good homes and strong communities from being torn apart.

We’d call this D.I.Y. but it is more collective, more collaborative than that. None of us could have turned this home around on our own, but together, we can outdo one of the largest property owners in the country at their own game.

This is a D.I.O project – Doing It Ourselves – and we hope that others will take it and run with it wherever they are facing the sell-off and demolition of their homes. It’s up to all of us to find our way out of this housing crisis – let’s continue to prove that we can do it ourselves!

Come to 153 Sweets Way (N20 0NX) to get a sense of what we’re capable of, and learn more about how you might create a People’s Regeneration Show Home on your own estate!

On Saturday (August 8) we’re holding an open day on the estate. You can join us for:

– Our weekly street stall, 11-1 in front of Waitrose on the Whetstone High Road
– Tours of the People’s Regeneration Show Home and it’s smashed up counterpart, the Annington Degeneration Show Home, next door, 2-3pm @ 153 Sweets Way
– An open meeting hosted by Sweets Way Resists and Sweetstopia after the tours looking at ways to protect our estate from demolition.

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Come to Sweets Way and see the People’s Regeneration Show Home!

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House smashed up by Annington to prevent people from living in it, has been occupied and refurbished by Sweets Way Resists’ families and supporters this week. It is now open to the public.

WHERE? 153 Sweets Way, N20 0NX (near Totteridge and Whetstone tube)

WHEN? Thursday, July 30 (10am – 1pm)

Well it was more-than-a-bit daunting for a few dozen of us to take this on, particularly as very few of us had any experience in the ways of regeneration projects, or even simple DIY. But we got there!

After six intensely-long days of sanding, painting, tiling, sawing, cleaning, plastering, gardening, concrete-pouring, drilling, plumbing, cabinetmaking and more, we are proud to show off the house that we have re-built together!

In less-than-a-week we have been able to throw into question the logic of countless so-called regeneration projects, by highlighting what a community of committed people with found and donated materials can do to address our own housing needs, without relying on private investment and the demolition of perfectly-good homes.

While we won’t claim to have achieved housing refurb perfection at 153 Sweets Way, we think we’ve done a pretty good job of making the house livable – and beautiful – once again, even if it is still missing a few awkward bits-and-bobs. Given the limits on both time (six days) and money (less than £300), we’d LOVE to see campaigners on another estate in London do better! (Seriously – give it a go!)

Here are a few pics of the work-in-progress… Come join us if you can, if you’d like to see how things have ended up at 153 Sweets Way, or if you’d like to learn about how to do a People’s Regeneration of a home on your own estate!

PEOPLE’S REGENERATION SHOW HOME LAUNCH
Thursday, July 30, 10am – 1pm
153 Sweets Way, London, N20 0NX

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You can see our press release here.

UPDATE: People’s Regeneration Show Home launch delayed (like every other regen project, ever)

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…Apparently 72-hours was a bit ambitious to redo an entire house… so we’ll be working through to Wednesday to highlight the possibility that still exists in each of the homes on our estate.

We hoped we could undo all the reckless damage inflicted on 153 Sweets Way in just 3 days, but Annington’s hired vandals really did a job on the place! A couple more days should give us sufficient time to get 153 Sweets Way ready for a family to live in. And we’ll still have done so for just a few hundred quid, so running late doesn’t mean the price tag is shooting up, like it does with most regeneration projects.

If you want to get involved or come document the process, come on down and join us today or tomorrow, or for the new launch day on Wednesday, between 11am and 5pm.

The house next door is now also open and has been left untouched, as a living record of what Annington does to these buildings to keep people from living in them, which this project is showing an alternative to.

Since we know not everyone is keen to get involved in DIY, we’re also keen for people to come help with feeding those of us doing the DIY work, and tidying up at our community house, as dozens of people come and go all day.

There’s always something you can do to get involved if you’re keen, so come down!

Here’s some pics of the process so far:

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