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Special Purpose Vehicle

The Cressingham SPV bike trailer (henceforth C-SPV) is a bike trailer that records audio, and video footage of Cressingham as myself and others audit repairs data. C-SPV served to open conversations with CGE residents about repairs in their homes. I attached a camera to an extensible pole so I could film upper walkways from the lower level − I found the pole near a rubbish area on the estate. In a later version of the C-SPV I built a shelf so I could easily work on my laptop while out and about.

The best time to film was at the weekends which is when residents tended to be around. I created the trailer so I could look after my children while also filming − it provided an extra pair of hands. Importantly, my children and the novelty of the trailer provided an entry point to conversations. The trailer also provided an excuse to spend time in parts of the estate I was less familiar with.

Video Footage combined with housing data

SPV stands for Special Purpose Vehicle. Local authority urban regeneration schemes employ Special Purpose financial Vehicles as a means to develop housing. Lambeth Council's (henceforth Lambeth) SPV is called Homes For Lambeth (HFL) which is an an umbrella organisation for multiple subsidiary companies tasked. Homes for Lambeth is tasked with the demolition of thousands of homes in Lambeth and is managing a £1b+ capital budget.

HFL is part of a juggernaut of urban regeneration that rides roughshod over residents concerns. For residents of Cressingham HFL is part of Lambeth avoiding democratic accountability by commissioning companies such as Savills − a global real estate company − to structure HFL so it aligns government aspirations for social housing with global markets. Other companies such as Thornton Communications, involved in £b property deals in the UK, are advising and accelerating HFL in the submission of planning proposals to demolish Cressingham.

As these economic vultures circulate Cressingham residents attempt to ensure their estate is maintained. This is difficult because, ahead of any demolition, Lambeth aims to spend the minimum as part of a managed decline. Resisting this decline involves reporting and following the progress of repairs and frequently complaining about poor quality results − if they have been undertaken at all.

Cressingham residents are faced with more-than-technical database systems that instantiate Job Identification numbers and other database entities that prompt layers of contractors and sub-contractors to perform their work. These database system work distribute accountability so that residents get caught in endless bureaucratic loops as each layer of administration passes the buck.

I created C-SPV to help audit repairs on Cressingham. C-SPV was part of building our own resident-controlled database system as a resident-led endeavour to systematically collect, filter, and act on knowledge about Cressingham. Crucially this endeavour involved more than the technical components of databases, laptops, and web-servers as it also required humans, a bike trailer, and many other components to function.

C-SPV performed the physical labour of 'databasing' where myself and other residents systematically interrogated Lambeth's data-sets by inspecting repairs and speaking with residents. Through this work I gained an understanding of how data entities in Lambeth (e.g. Job ID's, descriptions, costs) had come into being. Crucially, I came to understand how these entities are stripped of resident knowledge and experience that residents were now attempting to reclaim and then re-insert into government processes.

Us council estate residents must deal with regeneration in our spare time while managing family and work commitments. Whereas Lambeth workers are in full-time work and contracted corporations and companies are paid (comparably) vast sums to perform their work. C-SPV was an attempt to address this power imbalance by providing a space to look after and amuse my kids while inspecting repairs. In doing so I drew attention to the hidden resident-labour of contesting data, the incompatibility of this work with family life, and issues of a participatory democracy that exudes those without time to engage. The additional time that I gained helped myself and other residents overwhelm Lambeth with our own data which temporarily slowed them down in their aspirations to demolish our homes.