ONE OF the most-opposed developments in Dalston, the Barratt Homes project at the junction, is still being criticised as a collection of undistinguished buildings aimed at if not occupied by the affluent rather than helping to meet Hackney housing needs. Barratt Homes, however, says that its figures show the scheme, which it named Dalston Square, to be a success.
The controversy arose several years ago when local people made clear their wish to retain a decaying Victorian theatre that was on the site. The land’s location on useful bus routes to the City and West End meant that it was near irresistible to developers. The East London Line station Dalston Junction, at the time unbuilt but hugely popular since its opening, was a further lure. Hackney council overruled objectors and the historic building was demolished.
Some of the criticism was strong. Last September, for example, Loving Dalston wrote “Money fever rages as buy-to-let revives and property becomes ever bigger business”. OpenDalston, an organisation “for the promotion of environmental needs”, said: “Welcome to the Big (Business) Society.”
But in a time of recession that is hitting property development more than most sectors, the Dalston Square project is helping to lift Barratt Homes out of its once-crippling debt. Flats in the development have been on sale from £210,000 for a one-bedroom to £470,000 (three-bedroom). What Barratt terms “latest prices” will be announced next month.
It told Loving Dalston that most flats have been sold: in phase 1 all 181 have found buyers, in phase 2 all 138 sold and in phase 3, 121 of the 193 flats have been sold.
Asked about the result of a marketing drive to Far Eastern investors, a Barratt representative said: “A third of sales to buyers from outside the UK would seem fairly successful.”
Foreign investors have not been universally welcomed by locally born residents. One Dalston Square occupant wrote on a blog that “East Asian investors… almost laugh at locals”.
The Barratt representative said: “The vast majority of buyers at Dalston Square came from London and the Southeast.” In phase 1, 30% of buyers came from outside the UK, and in phases 2 and 3, 20% of buyers were non-UK. The foreign buyers came not only from Asia; some came from Turkey and France.
As for sales to buyers, UK-based or otherwise, who reduce their tax liability by using offshore companies to buy property, Barratt said that “very few buyers have purchased through offshore companies — and none in recent phases”.
Of the 440 flats sold so far, 210 have been bought by what the representative described as investors, commenting: “They are providing a much-needed private rental opportunity in the Dalston area.”
The Barratt marketing campaign has been occasionally amusing to local people, who noticed a display in the on-site sales suite referring to Dalston Junction as an Underground station.
A marketing assistant was asked about the name Marley House for one block of the Dalston Square flats. Clearly unaware of the theatre’s 1980s period as a pop-music venue, the Barratt aide replied that Marley House was named after a “jazz singer”. She had no idea of the origins of the names Sledge Tower, Ruffin House and Wonder House. Anyone remember Bob, Percy, Jimmy and Stevie?
Hackney Green Party said: “There seems no end to housing prices in Hackney being driven up, which prices out both people wanting to buy and to rent and does not help to create stable communities.
“We need Hackney council to start using its powers to reuse — either permanently or temporarily — the 3,000 empty homes and to increase its council-housing portfolio.
“So-called affordable homes are not the answer because these are often not at all affordable, and do nothing long-term to increase the supply of social housing. Ultimately, we need action from the government — and real powers for councils to build social housing .”
* Emboldened words in Loving Dalston articles are hyplerlinked so readers can find background information or further details should they wish.