Hackney Council has rejected claims that it published misleading information after publicity about a housing estate redevelopment failed to mention that the scheme will leave the block with fewer homes for social rent.
The council’s press statement on the “regeneration” of Marian Court in Homerton, which was also published on page two of its freesheet Hackney Today, portrays the scheme as providing “new homes for Homerton”.
The second line of the story reads: “More than half of the new properties at Marian Court on Homerton High Street will be genuinely affordable council homes for social rent and shared ownership, paid for by selling some outright in the absence of any government funding to build social housing.”
The press release quotes Mayor Philip Glanville saying: “Last night’s decision means we’ll deliver even more council homes for social rent at Marian Court, providing modern, high-quality properties for existing residents as well as homeless families desperately in need of somewhere to call home.”
However, as reported by the Hackney Citizen on 8 June, the plans will leave Marian Court with fewer social rent homes than before, down from 47 to 32, and a drop from 63 per cent of the old block’s homes to 20 per cent of the new block.
The rest of the new block will be 43 per cent private homes and 37 per cent intermediate homes, which the council groups with social rent as “affordable homes”.
Hackney Council does not dispute that its press statement omits this loss of social rent homes.
But the council defends the statement, arguing that the release does not claim that there will be more social rent homes than before.
A Hackney Council spokesperson also defended the Mayor’s quote, saying: “As is clear from the paragraph immediately after the quote, the Mayor is referring to the increase in social rent from the previous Marian Court planning application approved in 2012, which included only 16 homes for social rent.
“A review of the project following the Mayor’s election in 2016 doubled that number to 32.”
When asked if the council thought the Mayor’s meaning would be clear to residents, the spokesperson said this was “subjective”.
When asked if it would be clearer if the passage about the scrapped 2012 plans came before, rather than after, the Mayor’s quote, the council amended the statement in this way on its website.
The original statement without this change has already been published and distributed in Hackney Today where it therefore cannot be amended.
Opposition parties accused the council of “spinning the truth” on housing and publishing “propaganda” through Hackney Today.
Samir Jeraj of the Hackney Green Party said: “Hackney is losing social housing through regeneration.
“The council needs to stop spinning the truth and explain why, so residents can make up their own minds and hold them to account.”
Darren Martin, vice chair of the Hackney Liberal Democrats, said: “The council’s press release featured in Hackney Today gives the impression that the project will be delivering more homes for social rent when the reality is that it will have less.
“It is clear that Hackney Today is being used to positively promote the agenda of the Labour-run council with little or no regard for the facts.
“There is no other way to describe that than propaganda.”
Last night the council’s cabinet agreed to defend Hackney Today in court if the government does not drop its direction for the freesheet to switch to quarterly publication by September.
Hackney Council acknowledges the “slight reduction” in social rent homes across Marian Court and Bridge House – which it says are part of the same estate regeneration – but that there is also an increase in the size of those homes.
A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “Marian Court is the final stage of the wider transformation of the Bridge House and Marian Court estate which has allowed us to replace ageing properties that were beyond economic repair, provide a brand new council home to every existing council tenant and build additional new council homes for those who need them most – despite not receiving a penny from government to build social housing.”