Life on ghost town London estate with over 400 empty homes while thousands sit on waiting lists

Warren Lubin is one of the only residents left living in his tower block on the Carpenters Estate
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga)


In its prime, the Carpenters Estate in Stratford housed hundreds of people including families which spanned generations. But for over 20 years, the fate of the estate has hung in the balance of multiple regeneration plans, leaving some residents doubtful that they will ever see anything happen in their lifetime.

The estate has 710 homes in total, from the low-rise terraces to the three tower blocks of Lund Point, Dennison Point and James Riley Point, but today less than half of those are occupied. Leaseholder and lifelong resident, Tee Fabikun, remembers fondly how her estate was once home to a thriving community that lived in harmony with one another.

"We were all so proud of our estate, we wanted it to be the best, we had our own newsletter and we had so many activities," she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS). It was so peaceful, it was very, very safe. There were 127 languages spoken on the estate so you can imagine the amount of peace and harmony that existed there."

READ MORE: Shepherd’s Bush residents charged almost whole salary to replace tower block windows only to find there's 'no need'

Tee Fabukin, a leaseolder and lifelong Carpenters Estate resident
Tee Fabukin, a leaseolder and lifelong Carpenters Estate resident -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

Plans to regenerate the estate first began in 2003, after residents had complained to the council about poor building maintenance and asbestos and rodent infestations. James Riley Point, which had deteriorated the worst, was to be demolished and the very first residents were decanted from their homes in 2004.

The other two tower blocks were set to be refurbished but this was deemed too expensive for the Labour-run council, and residents were eventually moved out of their homes and the low-rise properties on Doran Walk in 2009. Only a handful of original residents, including secure council tenants, private tenants, and leaseholders like Ms Fabikun still live on the estate today.

As one of the few original residents left on the estate, Warren Lubin explained: "What was agreed with me, was that I would be decanted and moved into a property and would come back when the works are done. The question now is how long is a piece of string? Can the council be trusted?" Mr Lubin is one of the only residents left living in his tower block, and after living through regeneration plan after regeneration plan, has a morbid take on the future of the Carpenters Estate.

"This is an estate of an ageing population. I think the council is quite happy in its ivory towers saying, 'let's wait for those bu****s to die… but they're dying now'", he explains. "I need new heating put in, I need a new kitchen but well, I won't get that until the regeneration arrives but at this rate when is it going to be? We should have had that 20 years ago."

Ms Fabikun, who runs a vital food bank with other volunteers on the estate, agrees with her friend and neighbour Mr Lubin. She said: "It's more words than action, we've been talking about this for 20 years, so when are they going to start building? A lot of residents now are not willing to listen, they just feel fed up. Some even feel maybe the [council] is waiting for them to die. We just hope that something will happen in our lifetime although a lot of people doubt it. It would be a beautiful surprise."

'It wears the residents down'

Paul Watt, a visiting professor of the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics who visited the estate in 2011 and 2012 to interview residents for his book, Estate Regeneration and its Discontents, says he knows of several residents he worked with who have since passed away.

He explained: "The residents are left for years and years in a sense of limbo, waiting for this thing to happen which never seems to happen, and it's exactly what happened with the Carpenters Estate. The long-term nature of it takes so long, psychologically it wears the residents down plus - this is terrible but it's the truth - people of a certain age pass away well before the promised land of getting a new home ever happens."

By the time the redevelopment and regeneration of Carpenters Estate is set to be complete, it would have been 35 years since the very first residents were decanted out of their homes
By the time the redevelopment and regeneration of Carpenters Estate is set to be complete, it would have been 35 years since the very first residents were decanted from their homes -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

Prof Watt added: "A lot of council tenants want some improvement, they are aware homes aren't properly maintained. They want [improvements] to happen, but they don't want a scorched earth demolition and rebuild." After Rokhsana Fiaz replaced Robin Wales as the mayor of Newham in 2018, the council decided to throw out previous regeneration plans and start again, due to how unpopular previous plans had been with residents.

A ballot was cast in 2021 and according to a council spokesperson, 73per cent of residents were in support of the plans, which will see the estate triple in size and density to deliver 2,152 homes, with 50per cent of these set to be 'social market rent'. The latest £1billion masterplan from council-owned Populo Living, which will see around 60per cent of the estate demolished, has a 15-year timeline with the development being rolled out across eight different phases.

By the time the redevelopment and regeneration of Carpenters Estate is set to be complete, it would have been 35 years since the very first residents were moved out of their homes. Prof Watt said: "[The estate] has had regeneration schemes for 20 years… 20 years and not a single home has been built, can you imagine that?

Dennison Point, one of the three tower blocks on the state
Dennison Point, one of the three tower blocks on the estate -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

"The council is talking about a completion date that will be 15 years from now, that means the whole thing from beginning to end will be 35 years… people get worn down by the process." Local housing campaign group, Focus E15, has been highly critical of the multiple regeneration plans that have surfaced, and have always campaigned for an estate refurbishment over demolition.

The group claims that for over a decade, more than 400 homes have sat empty on the estate, all while Newham is facing the brunt of an acute housing crisis with over 37,000 people on the housing waiting list and the highest number of families in temporary accommodation in the whole of the UK.

This led to the group, among them a number of young single mums who had been evicted from their homeless hostel in 2013, occupying some of the empty homes on the estate a year later in a protest against the council and the lack of affordable homes available to them.

Warren Lubin has a morbid take on the future of the Carpenters Estate
Warren Lubin has a morbid take on the future of the Carpenters Estate -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

A spokesperson for the group said: "Ten years on, over 400 flats are still empty and Newham has lost millions of pounds in rent and council tax, while paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to win the ballot, for a plan that still hasn't materialised. When it does, it will not be for local residents struggling in hostels or hotels and temporary accommodation, but will be for those able to pay extortionate rents for luxury apartments."

Meanwhile Prof Watt says the country's housing crisis has been made worse by not enough social housing being built and existing social housing being demolished or sold off. He doesn't believe the availability of lots of privately rented homes, or those available to buy, is going to solve it. He said: "Certainly in London and the South East there's no way millions of people on low incomes are going to buy their own homes, it's just not going to happen."

Tee Fabukin runs a vital foodbank on the estate
Tee Fabukin runs a vital foodbank on the estate -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

What the council had to say

A Newham Council spokesperson told the LDRS: "The Carpenters Estate project is one of the largest and most ambitious estate regeneration programmes in London, which will eventually deliver 2,152 high quality homes on the 28-acre site at the heart of Stratford to restore a vibrant community. The council has made clear from the outset that 50 per cent of the homes will be at social market rent."

They added: "Projects of this size and complexity are never a quick fix, and the 15-year masterplan for Carpenters Estate was granted planning permission by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in February this year. In response to the acute need for social rent homes, the council took a decision to additionally seek planning permission to refurbish James Riley Point immediately to deliver 132 new homes that local people can afford." They went on to say the council is aiming to deliver over 1,000 homes within the first six years of construction.

Did you once live on the Carpenters Estate? Get in touch with Ruby by emailing her at ruby.gregory@reachplc.com

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