16 March, 2017
MRB, Screen 5
Goldsmiths University of London

For some people, a housing crisis means not getting planning permission for a loft conversion. For others it means, quite simply, losing their home. Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle is a feature documentary directed by Paul Sng (Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain) and narrated by Maxine Peake, exploring the catastrophic failures that have led to a chronic shortage of social housing in Britain.

Failures including government policy that prevents local councils and housing associations from building homes for the 1.4 million people on council housing waiting lists and 250,000 homeless people in Britain. Or the local authorities who have intentionally neglected council estates in coveted inner city post codes and used this justify demolition and ‘regeneration’ projects with private developers, which often force those who cannot afford homes in the new properties to relocate to other parts of the country, far from their families and support networks.

Following the passing of the Housing and Planning Act, council housing as we know it is being abolished. Dispossession tells the stories of people who are fighting to save their homes and preserve their communities from the effects of social cleansing and gentrification. The documentary focuses on the neglect, demolition and regeneration of council estates in London, Glasgow and Nottingham, and examines the human cost of the housing crisis, with unprecedented access to residents, politicians and experts in the housing industry and media.

In London, an elderly couple face losing the home they have lived in for 41 years as their neighbours rally around to prevent demolition of their beloved estate; a former resident of the architect Ernő Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower, who has been evicted along with all other social rent tenants after the iconic building was redeveloped into luxury apartments; and on the Heygate estate, where 1,034 council homes were demolished to be replaced by 2,704 new homes, of which just 82 are available as social rents. We also meet a lifelong resident of Southwark on the Aylesbury estate, who as the last remaining resident in her block is refusing to leave following the council’s demolition order.

In Glasgow, Paddy McManus is our guide to the Gorbals, a once a no-go area for non-residents, notorious for gang violence and drugs, now transformed to an area with a booming property market, but where only a pitiful quarter of properties are now available for social rent; in Govanhill we meet campaigners trying to end appalling Victorian-era slum conditions that have been allowed to fester in Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s own constituency.

In Nottingham on the St Ann’s estate we follow Dr Lisa McKenzie, a working class academic who grew up here, an area stigmatised as a place where gangs, guns, drugs, single mothers and those unwilling or unable to make something of their lives reside. Lisa introduces us to a community where we find strong, resourceful and ambitious people who challenge the simplistic and stigmatising notion of the ‘sink’ estate.

Dispossession investigates how the state is working with the private sector to demolish estates to build on the land they stand on, making properties that are unaffordable to the majority of people in the UK. It’s the story of people fighting for their communities, of people who know the difference between a house and a home and who believe that housing is a human right, not an expensive luxury.

For all enquiries regarding the film please email: info@velvetjoyproductions.com or call 01273 230 909 / 07587 710 306.