Boris Johnson described the development of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as ’paradise on the banks of the Lee’, but when asked whether such paradise would be accessible to everybody, the answer was less than clear
Boris Johnson assembled members of the media yesterday to discuss the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Talking at the London Media Centre, Boris and his panellists – all involved with the Olympic Park post-Games – were full of sweet words, already heralding the future of the park as a success for business and housing development alike. But what future really lies in store for potential residents of E20, in a part of London suffering a housing crisis?
Mr Johnson described the development of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (as it will be known) as ‘paradise on the banks of the Lee’, but when asked whether such paradise would be accessible to everybody, the answer was less than clear. The target, according to Daniel Moylan, chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation, is to have 35 per cent of ‘affordable’ housing, as determined by local incomes and house prices. However, targets have a way of slipping.
Stuart Corbyn, chairman of Qatari Diar Delancey East Village, which own the Athletes’ Village and will turn it into housing, said that of the 2,800 houses and apartments his company will create, 50 per cent will be on the open market and the rest will be ‘affordable’. According to Corbyn, this means that half are for ‘socially targeted rents’, a quarter for ‘intermediate’ renters and a quarter for shared ownership.
Pictured above: The East Village as developed by Qatari Diar Delancey after the Olympic Park reopens
Rather than being a governmental non-profit-making solution to the housing crisis, the private ownership of the five different neighbourhoods being created after the Games means they are a multi-million pound business venture. This may well incline the developers to put profits over the public good.
A recent Guardian article found that many in the Olympic borough of Newham have already been priced out of their homes near the Games, and that increases in price had been felt around the capital. Given that Newham is the London local authority with the highest rate of unemployment and is the third most deprived in the country, its people need more than vague promises. When the question of allocation for local people was raised, the mayor swiftly batted it down, a sign that the priority may lie with high-paying outsiders instead.
The houses which will occupy the Olympic Park, encircling the Velodrome and springing up across its verdant patches, all seemed bright and shiny in the developer’s visualisation. They range from the apartments of the East Village (currently the Athletes’ Village) to the high-cost semi-detached houses of the Chobham Manor area in the north of the park.
Currently, though, it appears only the apartments are going to be ‘affordable’, with Stuart Corbyn telling Spear’s rent would be set at a minimum £120 per week, so some may suggest that the same Newham mistakes are set to continue: creating more neighbourhoods where people can be separated by wealth.
The London 2012 Olympic Games have certainly brought the city together in 2012, but it seems that Boris and his team of investors are ready to add to the tensions that were so vividly brought to the fore last summer. For all their meticulous planning for their new ‘Golden City’, as one journalist present dubbed it, there is no real sign that, past the numbers, the state of housing in East London will be improving any time soon.