Housing Crisis in Miniature

17 Robinson Road is a 2-bedroom family home in Bethnal Green, previously owned by the Queen as part of the Crown Estate, before she flipped it to Peabody housing association.

17 Robinson Road

On 26th February, Peabody – reputedly a “social landlord” –plan to sell it by “digital auction”.

The auctioneers are BidX1. They’re an Ireland-based company who recently sold a big chunk of their business to Pollen Street Capital.

They used to be the private equity wing of formerly publically-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and intend to extend their investment in “distressed assets”, like 17 Robinson Road.

“Lot #10”, as it’s listed on the BidX1 website, is in Tower Hamlets where there are 20,000 families on the housing waiting list, including 4,500 who need a home like 17 Robinson Road.

These are the people Peabody are supposed to work for. But if it’s sold at auction, probably at a knock-down price, it will either be re-sold for a quick profit, or more likely, rented privately.

The average price for a 2-bedroom home in the borough is £580,000. The average private rent is £360 per week. Families on the waiting list have no chance.

According to the Chartered Institute of Housing, 165,000 social rented homes have been lost in the last six years and the number’s set to rise.

Housing associations (HAs) – who made a collective surplus of £3.5bn last year – are using greater freedom granted by government to maximise their income and asset base.

Peabody made a “surplus” of £175m in 2017/18. They’re one of the oldest HAs, with their roots, ironically. in Tower Hamlets.

But like others, Peabody have abandoned their social purpose.

Over the next couple of weeks, 55 other homes intended for social rent, are due to be sold at auction by HAs, public authorities and other organisations who are supposed to be benevolent, including the church.

Peabody, who recently formed a corporate merger with Family Mosaic, have 18 more homes going under the hammer.

This is the UK housing crisis in miniature.

Desperately needed homes treated as speculative commodities, sold by “social” landlords, in conjunction with private equity firms, while thousands suffer in temporary, overpriced, substandard housing. But perhaps the biggest scandal of all is that this is all happening with barely a word of objection from politicians and others in the housing industry who claim to care about the rising tide of housing need.

17 Robinson Road is only one example.

But it must be stopped.