A recent Sydney Morning Herald feature on urban renewal in London shone an interesting and quite revealing spotlight on a high profile project with a major Australian connection. Crucially, though this rather uncritical account completely missed the aspect of the story with the greatest direct relevance to Sydney.
The SMH piece focused on the renewal of Southwark’s Heygate Estate and the central involvement of Australian developer Lendlease – a project already lauded by Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison as ‘…[something] I’d love to see … lived out on the streets of Australia’. Quite rightly, the SMH noted that “Lendlease sits at the heart of the debate about the best way to build and renew social housing in London”. Having done that, however, it entirely failed to explain the main reason why the company “sits at the heart” of this argument. In fact, through its profitable exploitation of planning system loopholes on affordable housing obligations, Lendlease has achieved notoriety within UK affordable housing advocacy circles. And just how this came about is a tale with direct implications for Sydney.