"Property developers wining and dining town hall executives - it’s a jaunt so lavish as to be almost comic"
"Starting [today], 4,000 men - and, yes, they’ll mainly be men - will gather in a giant hall in London. Among them will be major property developers, billionaire investors and officials of your local council or one nearby.
"And what they’ll discuss will be the sale of public real estate, prime land already owned by you and me, to the private sector. The marketing people brand this a property trade show, but let’s drop the euphemisms and call it the sales fair to flog off Britain.
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"For the past 25 years, this conference – Mipim for short – has been held in Cannes. It’s a jaunt so lavish as to be almost comic – where big money developers invite town hall executives for secret discussions aboard private yachts, and whose regulars boast that they get through more champagne than all the liggers at the film festival.
"Suitably oiled-up, local officials open talks with multinational developers to sell council housing estates and other sites. All this networking is so lucrative for the builders that they even fly over council staff. Last year, Australia's Lend Lease paid for Southwark’s boss, Peter John, to attend Cannes.
"This is the same Lend Lease to which Southwark sold the giant Heygate estate at a knockdown price: 1,100 council flats in inner London to be demolished and replaced with 2,500 units, of which only 79 will be for 'social rent'.
"... Against that backdrop even the smallest victory looks historic. Up on
the northwestern perimeter of London, in West Hendon, other council
residents are fighting the borough of Barnet over the redevelopment of
their estate on terms that suit the developer, Barratt Developments, not
locals. Just under 700 homes are to be smashed up to make way for 2,000
new units. Just under 1,500 will be sold privately: the rest will be
“affordable”, which in the doublespeak of housing means unaffordable.
"Barnet council cannot say how many social-rental homes will be provided,
but it is clear that whatever provision there is will be grudging. With
a quick Google you’ll find a video of the chair of Barnet’s housing
committee, Tom Davey, claiming that his council is providing affordable
housing because people are buying them. An objector points out that only
the wealthy can afford them and the young Conservative thumps the desk and says: 'Those are the people we want'."