August 23, 2021
From London Anarchist Communists (UK)

New luxury flats in Balfron Tower

Like many so
called social housing organisations, Poplar HARCA, based in Tower Hamlets, makes
out that it is a custodian of the working class and poor in terms of housing.

But the record
of Poplar HARCA speaks otherwise. On the Aberfeldy Estate it replaced 297 units
(211 of which were social housing and 86 leasehold bought under Right-to-Buy)
with 170 at “affordable” rents (55 to 65% of market rates) 20 at intermediate
rents (80% of market rates) and 986 for private sale. On the Leopold Estate it
demolished 152 flats (135 social housing and 17 leasehold bought under
Right-to-Buy) with 19 social housing units, 52 units at “affordable” rents, 36
for shared ownership and 256 for private sale.

At Balfron
Tower, Poplar HARCA decanted the social tenants there with the excuse that the
building needed refurbishing. They were not allowed to return and Poplar HARCA
is selling the units on the private market. This means another 135 socially let
homes taken away, with none to replace them. In the meantime the block has
remained empty, losing HARCA millions in social rents. Balfron Tower was
transferred to Steve Stride, the CEO of Poplar HARCA, back in 2007, after he
signed an affidavit at the London County Court that he would not decant

Now there will
be absolutely no social housing at Balfron Tower and all the flats will be for
sale. There will, according to the Guardian, be a
“high-spec cinema club, a music room complete
with drum kit, a workshop, a library, a gym and a cooking and dining space for
bigger soirees”!
Stride has very good relations with the Labour Mayor of Tower Hamlets John
Biggs and their friendship goes back 39 years. Stride’s daughter, Suzy, was
recommended for the Labour All Women’s shortlist for Poplar and Limehouse this
year. You see all the connections? Biggs gives Stride and HARCA full rein to do
what they like in Tower Hamlets, which means, in effect social cleansing and
gentrification, as Strides scythes down more and more social housing. Meanwhile
more and more functions of Tower Hamlets Youth Service are being handed over to
HARCA by Biggs, and appear now to be under the control of Spotlight, HARCA’s
youth service.

Biggs approved
of what happened at Balfron Tower. One Labour councillor, Shiria Khatun, at a
hearing on the decision to transform the Tower, failed to disclose her former
and current interests in Poplar HARCA (she had been on its board) which should
have made her ineligible to vote (later Khatun fell out with Biggs and she
resigned from the council Cabinet, alleging bullying from Biggs).

More recently
HARCA ordered the demolition of Jolles House on the Bow Bridge Estate (as well
as the neighbouring Blue Anchor pub). This had 12 council flats. It has now been
replaced by a block housing 13 social housing units (an increase of one!) and
57 shared ownership flats.

HARCA’s future
plans include development of nearby Stroudley Walk. They decanted tenants from
an 11-storey block, which has now remained empty for years. This provided 52
units of social housing. They now plan to build 274 units, 82 of which will be
“affordable” housing, and 33 shared ownership with no look in for social

Poplar HARCA
are building homes for sale to rich investors and owner-occupiers, with little
provision for social housing. In addition, Poplar HARCA, following the
megalomaniac dreams of Stride, “
are leading a £2.5bn place-shaping programme including new
homes, education, healthcare, faith buildings, business and community spaces.”
Poplar HARCA are also involved in setting up various Cafes, including the
Viewtube Cafe in the Olympic Park in Newham, not even in Tower Hamlets.

Poplar HARCA
has a long standing relationship with the property developer Telford Homes,
involved in the exploitation of Balfron Tower. The odious Poplar HARCA flunkey
Simon Carroll now works for Telford Homes as Engagement Coordinator for
developing Chrisp Street Market. This long established market which provides
cheap food and clothing has long been in HARCA’s sights for gentrification. It
has deliberately run down the market so that it can then be gobbled up as a
tasty morsel for Telford Homes, decanting tenants from surrounding social

Stephen Green
served for many years on the board of Poplar HARCA. Green is of course now Lord
Green, Baron Green of Hurstpierpont and Tory peer. Green served as the chairman
of HSBC during the years of dodgy
accounts, earning £3million a year in the post. He left the HARCA board in
1998. He was replaced on the HARCA board by Bernadette Conroy, also an HSBC
official. She was HSBC’s Global Head of Planning and Strategy and sat on
HARCA’s finance and audit committee and Chair of the HARCA board. She left
HARCA after six years.

Taylor Adams is currently on HARCA’s Finance and General Purposes
Committee and works for HSBC.

Why are bankers and business
people serving on the board of an organisation supposedly pledged to providing
social housing? More than this, why were and are former and present officials
of HSBC, serving on HARCA, when HSBC was involved in enabling money laundering
by Mexican drug lords (chiefly for the Sinaloa Cartel), and had conducted
business with companies with links to terrorism (according to an investigation
by the US Senate) In addition they enabled more than 100,000 clients from over
200 countries to evade tax worth hundreds of millions of pounds through HSBC’s
Swiss private bank.

There is a strange smell in the
air in Tower Hamlets. It hangs over Poplar HARCA, Tower Hamlets Council and the
local Labour Party. It couldn’t possibly be the smell of corruption, no sir.