6: Valued places

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This chapter assesses how and why residents came to value their estates as places to live. It begins by considering their attachment to their dwellings as homes. The importance of place belonging is then analysed at the spatial scale of the estate in relation to neighbourliness and community. This leads on to an examination of the intermediate scale – blocks of flats and rows of houses. The next two sections show how estates have been affected by the Right to Buy policy in relation to place belonging, by considering, first, RTB owners and, second, middle-class homeowners who bought their homes on the open market from the original RTB owners. The final section considers whether London’s estates form 21st century urban villages.

This section focuses on the domestic dwelling space and shows how residents valued their houses and flats as ‘homes’. Most secure tenant and leaseholder interviewees expressed place attachment to their dwellings, albeit that owners were more likely to be positive than tenants. The NES found that nearly three quarters of respondents were satisfied with their flats or maisonettes, with satisfaction higher among leaseholders (91 per cent) than tenants (68 per cent) (Watt and Allen, 2018). Homes provided ‘ontological security’ (Easthope, 2014) and this attachment is related to the dwelling’s physical qualities, their own home-making efforts, and sentimental attachments.

In terms of physical qualities, two facets stood out: solidity and generous space standards. The term ‘solid’ – meaning well-built, structurally sound buildings – was commonly invoked when people described their homes. Frank was a builder and when I asked him about his flat at Northumberland Park estate, he hit the kitchen cupboard wall in order to demonstrate its sturdiness: “this is four inches thick, it’s old school, well-built, they’re solid and warm flats”.

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