Letter to Residents from Minister of State for Housing

Dear TRA Chair,

Please see the below and attached  Covid-19 Letter to Social Housing Residents links to an important communication concerning Coronavirus from the Minister of State for Housing, the Right Honourable Christopher Pincher, MP:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/885686/Covid19_Letter_to_social_housing_residents.pdf

Kind regards,

George Changua

Tenant & Homeowner Support Officer

Southwark Council || Communities Division || Housing & Modernisation

160 Tooley Street || 5th Floor || Hub 3 || SE1 2QH

T: 0207 525 3326 || E: george.changua@southwark.gov.uk || Website: www.southwark.gov.uk

www.southwark.gov.uk/mysouthwark For council services at your fingertips, register online.

Update on schools and other COVID-19 information

Cllr Peter John OBE

Dear resident,

As we look forward to another bank holiday weekend it’s vital we remember we are still in lockdown and that we should still stay at home as much as possible. If you go out this weekend, please continue to follow the rules and keep your distance from others.

Next week is also the half-term holidays for schools. In these unprecedented times I want to pay tribute to school staff in Southwark who have been continuing to provide outstanding support and education for our children and young people in difficult circumstances and also to parents who have been supporting their children’s learning at home, whilst juggling other commitments.

We are working with our schools to establish whether more children can safely return to schools in Southwark from 1 June in line with government guidance. If a school cannot open safely we will support them to remain closed until they can open safely. Our priority is making sure our children return to school safely at the right time, not rushing to meet a specific deadline.

We want to understand how parents feel about education provision during lockdown, and changes to government guidance. Have your say on plans to reopen schools from 1 June, and how the council and schools can best support families over the coming months.

Thank you for helping to keep Southwark safe.

Cllr Peter John


Suggest ideas to make social distancing easier

We’re committed to quickly rolling out schemes to make travel safer during the COVID-19 crisis. Help us identify locations where we can make changes to help you get about safely.


ASB and dealing at Boughton and Balin

Hello Balin Residents,

As you may have seen on twitter, or heard early this morning, a drugs warrant was carried out by the Neighbourhood Tasking Team in Boughton House, where they arrested a male for Possession with Intent to Supply.

Whilst we were outside the block between 8-10am this morning, a known drug users came by whistling up to Boughton House before seeing us. We informed him a dealer was arrested. So the news must of spread as we didn’t see anyone else arrived in the time.

We understand this has caused residents a lot of concern, upset, and harassment. We will continue with patrols over the next 2 days we are in, to be in the face of the dealer and the users.

The male will be released today under investigation. So don’t be surprised that you may see him about.

We are now speaking with the Council regarding actions they can take in regards to their tenant.

Regards

Sarah & Richard

Chaucer Safer Neighbourhood Team

PC Sarah LOCK, PC Nigel QUINN & PCSO Richard SMITH

Southwark Police Station, 323 Borough High Street, LONDON, SE1 1JL

Tel 0208 721 2441

E-Mail CHAUCER.SNT@MET.POLICE.UK

Ward Promises:

1) Balin House re: ASB Drug Use

2) Meakin Est re: ASB Rough Sleepers/Drug/Drinkers

3) Berwick Court re: Mail Thefts

Follow us on Twitter @MPSChaucer or on Nextdoor App

Also see our webpage on www.met.police.uk

IN AN EMERGENCY, ALWAYS CALL 999

COVID-19: update on lockdown restrictions and other useful information

Cllr Peter John OBE

Dear resident,

Southwark, like the rest of the country, is still in lockdown, despite some changes to government guidance. We must all stay at home as much as possible and keep our distance from others if we need to go out.

Therefore, if you go outside this weekend, please keep 2m away from others. You should only go out with members of your household or meet one person – outside and at a 2m distance – who’s not from your household. We are working on a plan to open more areas for sports (more details below) but will only do this where and when we can do it safely.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, so much important work continues in Southwark. And today, as part of Foster Care Fortnight, I’d like to thank all of our extraordinary foster carers who continue to play such a vital role supporting children and young people in Southwark. If you think you could make a difference and have a spare room we’d love to talk to you about fostering.

Thank you for helping to keep Southwark safe.

Cllr Peter John


Highlights from our stay-at-home library

You can look at all the activities to keep you busy at home or check out our highlights below.

Get involved in the Race to Health, 25 May to 7 June

Looking for new ways to get active? Join in the Southwark Race to Health family challenge! A fun, two-week online exercise challenge where children and adults join a virtual local library team and try to complete 60 minutes of exercise every day to help your library win the race and win virtual medals for yourself.

Camberwell Arts Festival, 13 to 21 June

The festival is back and this time with its very first digital edition and a theme dedicated to the A–Z of Camberwell. Check out the full festival programme here.

Bold Tendencies creative learning workshops, 14 May to 30 June

Join a new, free, online creative learning workshops suitable for all ages and those with Special Educational Needs.

Watch Macbeth, free of charge.

Watch a Shakespeare’s Globe’s production of Macbeth – available free of charge on YouTube until secondary schools reopen.


Self-employment income support scheme is open

The government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is now open for claims. Self-employed individuals can claim a taxable grant of 80% of average monthly trading profits. You can check if you are eligible and you can make a claim online.


 

Face masks and face coverings – IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Dear TRA Chair,

It has come to my attention that some TRAs have been considering applying for funding in order to purchase face masks and/or face covers, in order to take full – but safe – advantage of the recent (slight) relaxation in lockdown measures. Our colleagues in Public Health have issued the following message to us, which I am forwarding to you just in case your TRA is contemplating taking such a step:

  1.  Face masks should be used by front line health and care workers, or others carrying out essential works and coming within 2 metres of an individual, or who need to protect themselves from usual occupational hazards. The Government has urged the public not to buy medical-grade masks so as to ensure there is sufficient stock for these workers.
  1.  Face coverings can be made at home using a cloth, scarf, or bandana that ties behind the head. On Sunday, the Government suggested the public consider making their own face coverings to be worn in enclosed public spaces, e.g. on public transport or in shops, where social distancing cannot be maintained. The Government has advised that face coverings do not need to be worn outdoors, while exercising, or in workplaces such as offices and retail. They should also not be worn by anyone who may find them difficult to wear, e.g. small children and those who have problems breathing when wearing a face covering.
  1.  Importantly, face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing and they are really aimed at preventing the person wearing the covering from unknowingly passing on the virus, rather than protecting themselves from other people. To protect yourself, the advice remains to follow social distancing measures and isolation guidance, and to regularly wash hands. Any residents who are shielding are advised to continue to do so until at least the end of June

If you have any queries regarding this message, please contact the council’s Covid-19 response team at covidsupport@southwark.gov.uk or call 020 7525 5000, and ask for Public Health.

Kind regards,

 

John

John McCormack, BSc. (Hons.); MA; Cert. Ed.; PhD (London)

Tenant and Home Owner Involvement Team Leader| Communities Directorate | Housing and Modernisation Department

Southwark Council | 160 Tooley Street | London | SE1 2QH

Tel: 0207 525 7544

Mob.: 07908 795167

COVID19 (Coronavirus)

For the latest NHS guidance, please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19

To read the latest advice and information for Southwark residents, please visit www.southwark.gov.uk/coronavirus

If you have an enquiry about a vulnerable Southwark resident, please email covidsupport@southwark.gov.uk or call 020 7525 5000

35% Campaign update – Old Kent Rd scheme faces loss of affordable housing

Old Kent Rd scheme faces loss of affordable housing

May 01, 2020 12:00 am

Berkeley Homes threatens to reduce affordable housing at Malt St –Berkeley Homes is the first developer in Southwark to threaten to reduce the affordable housing in one of its schemes, since the onset of the Coronavirus crisis. Berkeley secured planning permission for the Malt St development, just off the Old Kent Rd, in June 2019, with a promise to build 40% affordable housing. Since then it has joined-up with Peabody, who had a smaller, neighbouring development on Nyes Wharf. Together the two sites will provide 1,569 new homes, with 40% affordable housing (359 at social rent and 222 shared-ownership), delivered by Peabody.

Now a planning committee briefing reveals that this affordable housing is at ‘risk’ because Berkeley intends to mount an appeal that will reopen the question of the viability of the scheme. To prevent this happening, the briefing recommends approval of an unprecedented clause in Southwark’s s106 planning agreement with Berkeley, that could see all the affordable housing lost, should development partner, [Peabody] hit financial trouble.

The Southwark Law Centre has written to the planning committee, objecting to the proposed clause and requesting a deferral, to allow the serious issues it raises to be properly addressed.

Why a Mortgagee in Possession (MIP) clause matters

The planning committee is being asked to approve a so-called Mortgagee in Possession (MIP) clause. Simply put, if a borrower cannot pay their mortgage, then the lender can take legal possession of the property and sell it – they become the ‘mortgagee in possession’ and up until now this has evidently been covered with a clause that keeps the affordable housing affordable ‘in perpetuity’ .

The MIP clause proposed for Malt St is different – it will not secure the affordable housing ‘in perpetuity’ , should Peabody fail. Instead, Southwark or another affordable housing provider would be given the option to take on the affordable housing, but if they do not, the affordable housing can then be sold onto the open market. If Southwark does buy the affordable housing, they would also have to pay anything outstanding ‘under the terms of the relevant security documents, including all accrued principal monies, interest and costs and expenses’ 1.

The MIP briefing is at pains to point out that such a situation is very unlikely to arise, because Peabody is in rude financial health; it has an annual turnover of £630m, an annual profit of £160m and assets of £7.6bn, so the possibility that it will fail is remote. The briefing reinforces the point by noting that no major housing association has ever gone into administration and quotes a GLA document that says ‘there is no known cases of a MIP clause being triggered…..’ 2.

Mayor of London opens the door…

This all begs an obvious question – why replace a MIP clause that protects affordable housing, in all circumstances, even unlikely ones, with a clause that does not?

Part of the answer is that this is what the Mayor of London wants. As Southwark’s briefing explains it, the Mayor wants ‘a consistent approach to MIP clauses across the London boroughs and to secure greater access to funding for RPs (registered providers) to increase the delivery of affordable housing’. The report continues; ‘In order to achieve this, the GLA MIP clause would allow, in certain limited and unlikely circumstances, affordable housing to no longer be “in perpetuity”’ . The briefing notes that Southwark’s own MIP clause is different from the Mayor’s, precisely on this point; Southwark does require affordable housing to remain such ‘in perpetuity’ , should a RP go into administration 3.

Peabody takes advantage

Peabody also wants the GLA MIP adopted, because it would allow them to borrow more money for other projects. To quote the briefing ‘Peabody have funds to deliver this scheme, but given the very large scale of the investment they are only willing to make such a commitment on the basis that they are able to secure additional funding in the future against the asset of the completed scheme’ . The report says that while the Malt St scheme is ‘entirely financed by Peabody from its own investment’ Peabody nonetheless wants more private bank finance and needs to make more of its ‘capital assets’ and the banks consider that the affordable housing ‘asset is not sufficiently liquid’. The briefing reiterates ‘Peabody has confirmed that they cannot proceed as the RP [registered provider] partner in this scheme without this clause’ 4.

Berkeley turns the screw

Berkeley backs Peabody, saying that it cannot, or will not, proceed without them. Berkeley goes on to threaten to reduce the affordable housing in the scheme, if the GLA MIP clause is not agreed, by way of an appeal to the government of ‘non-determination’. Berkeley would argue that Southwark had failed to conclude the s106 legal agreement in the required time, and also reopen the question of the viability of the scheme 5. Berkeley has a track record for such manouvers; this 2018 Guardian report shows that Berkeley has reduced its affordable housing obligations using viability reviews in almost all of its London schemes.

Southwark’s briefing tries to make the best of things; as well as emphasising the unlikelihood of any default, it claims that this decision will ‘not therefore set a precedent for other schemes.’ The Mayor has different ideas – he wants to see his MIP clauses used across London and says they will be used for anything he ‘calls-in’, (such as the Biscuit Factory) and that he ‘will promote their use for other schemes that are referable…and non-referable’ ie basically everything 6.

What we think

A Mortgagee in Possession (MIP) s106 clause that has evidently been perfectly adequate up to now is to be changed, compromising the ‘in perpetuity’ principle of affordable housing. The Mayor hopes that this will help meet his strategic 50% affordable housing target, but Peabody and Berkeley are not proposing 50% for the Malt St site. More generally, the Mayor has published no concrete commitment from developers and registered providers to increase affordable housing, in exchange for the Mayor’s more market-friendly MIP.

So, while it would be easy for Southwark’s planning committee to approve the clause in the almost sure knowledge that it will never be triggered and the affordable housing will remain as such, ‘in perpetuity’ , they should nonetheless reject the Mayor’s new MIP clause. It purports to facilitate a general increase in affordable housing, but there is no evidence before the committee that this will actually happen, either in Southwark or elsewhere. On the other hand, though, the Mayor’s MIP will definitely weaken the ‘in perpetuity’ status of affordable housing

This is the thin end of a very long wedge. These clauses have already been used in Islington, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth. They are being actively promoted by the GLA and the Mayor. Once they proliferate the whole principle of affordable housing being for ‘in perpetuity’ will start to be lost and developers and their registered provider partners will use the same kind of ingenuity that they have used with viability assessments to squeeze real affordable housing out of London 7.

The briefing and its recommendation, will be considered by the planning committee meeting on Monday 4 May, the first to be held online.

Footnotes:

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Weekend wellbeing

Hello Everyone,

We thought you might like this Isolation Wellbeing Pack – newsletter attached. It has some great links to museums, galleries and other mood lifting public spaces that are doing things online.

Over the weekend, why not try some indoor food growing? Thank you local tenant Tina who has provide us with this great information for indoor food growing from Random Acts of Green.

In Southwark we have a Universal Credit Network, made up of front line services. Next Tuesday they will be holding a Zoom call and taking questions regarding
Universal Credit. This won’t be an opportunity to ask direct questions about your case (but we can look into that at a later date). It will be an opportunity to learn from experts and ask important questions. It would be lovely if you could join us, if it is not directly relevant to you, it may be to one of your neighbours so you can learn about it and we can support you to share that
knowledge. Information is below.

Don’t forget to tune in to Resonance 104.4fm (from your kitchen radio) or online at resonancefm.com at 11.30am on Monday where you can hear our interview with Cabinet Member Leo Pollak.

Thank you all, stay safe. And remember – if you need a chat, we are hear for that!

Southwark Universal Credit Network Online – COVID-19 Special Q&A

Coronavirus updates from DWP, CAB + Southwark Law Centre and Q&A session. Bring your questions!

You are invited to special meeting of Southwark Universal Credit Network ONLINE:

TUESDAY 28TH APRIL, 10AM – 11:30AM

We will be using ZOOM for this meeting, please register here to receive a link to join the meeting:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/southwark-universal-credit-network-covid-19-special-qa-tickets-103216140254

Please pass this invite on to any frontline workers in Southwark who support people claiming Universal Credit.

Join the mailing list by emailing: sari@communitysouthwark.org

For further info on Southwark Universal Credit Network please visit:

https://communitysouthwark.org/resources/universal-credit-network

Entertainment, education and exercise: Southwark Council’s stay-at-home library of activities

Cllr Peter John OBE

Dear resident,

We know that staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives gets harder as time goes by, and that keeping yourself and your family entertained for such long periods is a new and often difficult challenge. To help in a small way, we’ve developed an online library of things to do at home to help you and your family keep active, creative and learning at home during the lockdown. There’s lots on offer from free film screenings to art workshops, dance classes and much more and we’ve included some further highlights below.

Sadly, we also know that not everyone who is staying at home feels safe. Remember, there is support for anyone who experiences abuse at home – you do not have to stay at home with an abuser.

I wish you all the very best and thank you again for playing your part in keeping Southwark safe.

Cllr Peter John


Donate to the community fundraiser

There’s still time to donate to the community fundraiser for local charities. United St Saviours are distributing much-needed funds to local charities who are playing a vital role in the local coronavirus response.


Are you worried about domestic abuse?

If you or someone you know is suffering from Domestic Abuse, isolation rules do not apply. Police response and support services remain available. Nationally, there is advice and support available but you should call 999 if you are in immediate danger. Locally, the Solace Advocacy and Support Service is also available to women and men in Southwark aged 16 or over in Southwark.


Do you know a vulnerable resident who needs help?

If you know of a vulnerable Southwark resident who can’t leave the house due to coronavirus (COVID-19), and who may not have friends, family or neighbours who can help with the delivery of essential supplies, please tell us straight away so we can help them.


London Tenants Federation Spring newsletter: Tenants’ organisations responding to Coronavirus and new survey deadlines

Welcome to our Spring Newsletter

We hope you and your family, friends and neighbours are safe and well.

These are very difficult and uncertain times. Social housing tenants are some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and its repercussions for our daily lives.

It has been heartwarming to see tenant representatives in London going above and beyond to help, whether in essential jobs or through local efforts to support vulnerable neighbours and keep spirits up.

We’ve written a blog about how one of our members, Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations (SGTO), has adapted to the new circumstances; keeping tenants involved in local democracy and linking Tenants and Residents Associations together with some of the many mutual aid groups that have sprung up to help neighbours during the pandemic. Read more here.

Of course, Coronavirus and the lockdown have made it harder for some tenant reps to help or take part as they might normally. We hope you are taking this time to be kind to yourselves. Your health and wellbeing are most important.

We’ve produced a list of links and information about Coronavirus, some essential and some more fun. Please feel free to share this with your neighbours and suggest additions.

LTF’s response to Coronavirus

Alongside other renters’ groups, our call for an eviction ban was picked up by the Mayor of London and within the week an eviction ban was announced by the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the government’s support for those in housing need still leaves many people vulnerable.

On 19th March we made this statement calling on the government to provide better support: to homeless households; to tenants, leaseholders and shared owners who may struggle to meet housing costs; and to households who are overcrowded or in unsuitable accommodation.

We also worked with fellow members of the London Housing Panel to put out this statement calling for greater support to those in housing need.

We’d love to hear from you

How has your tenants’ group or organisation been affected by COVID-19?

Email info@londontenants.org

Extended survey deadlines

LTF Survey: What are your priorities as a tenants’ organisation?

New deadline 11th May 2020

Please take a moment to complete this survey to help us develop upcoming events and resources for TRAs, TMOs and Co-ops across London. Click here to take the survey.

The government’s First Homes consultation closes on 1 May

There is no evidence of need for yet another form of subsidised low cost home ownership in London. The evidence, by far, is that social rented homes are what is needed. We’ve shared LTF’s response to the consultation. Please feel free to use and adapt it.

New deadline 11.45pm on 1 May 2020

Responses can be sent to FirstHomes@communities.gov.uk

Working from home during the lockdown? 

We’ve been contacted by Dr Frances Holliss at Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design. She is examining the impact of compulsory home-based work as a result of COVID-19 on people with a range of living situations. She is interested in how those with less space and no garden, perhaps those affected by the Bedroom Tax, are managing during the lockdown. Email f.holliss@londonmet.ac.uk with a photo or description.

Other news

The UK Housing Review was published this month, and it shatters the myth that social housing is the most subsidised tenure in England.

Measures to stimulate homeownership and the private market in England amount to £53bn. That is 75% of the government’s planned housing investment for 2019/20 to 2023/24.. Only 25% was set aside for affordable homes (social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership). Note: these figures pre-date the recent Budget.

In contrast, government support for affordable homes in Wales is 74% of total investment, in Scotland 84% and in Northern Ireland 100%.

Other statistics that stood out were:

  • There were more than 170,000 families and individuals across Great Britain experiencing ‘core homelessness’ on a typical night in 2017. Core homelessness includes: rough sleeping, sleeping in cars, etc; squatting, in hostels, refuges and shelters; in unsuitable temporary accommodation (e.g. B&B), and ‘sofa-surfing’
  • Rates of core homelessness were almost identical in Scotland and England in 2010 but have since diverged markedly – steadily worsening in the latter
  • Grant for new build affordable housing has increased in England, but only from 7% of development costs in 2017 to 11% in 2019.
  • Over the seven years April 2012-19, the net loss of social rented stock in England reached 181,000 homes, despite the building of over 60,000 new social rented homes over the same period. Conversion to Affordable Rent and the Right to Buy were the biggest reasons, but in London estate demolition has played a big role.

Trust for London’s Poverty Profile: 2020 was published this week. Among the key findings were:

  • After housing costs, 28% of Londoners are living in poverty
  • 76% of children in poverty in London are in working families – an increase of 8%, or 80,000 children, from five years ago.

It is troubling to think this was the picture before COVID-19 hit. In a statement on Twitter, they said “Let’s use this as a baseline to measure the impact of #COVID19 on poverty in our city & work together to create a fairer London.”

What’s been said on Twitter

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth @HousingActionSL  shared testimony from members of overcrowded families dealing with lockdown.

Inside Housing @InsideHousing reported that Newham Council moved hundreds of homeless families out of shared accommodation amid the coronavirus crisis. This came not long after we highlighted the 300+ empty homes on the Carpenter’s Estate.

Pete Apps at Inside Housing @PeteApps reported that “for a couple of years now, the government has been refusing to test a commonly used cladding system (HPL + phenolic insulation). The test was just done privately and it failed in under nine minutes”

Trust for London @trustforlondon shared this article by Lynsey Hanley: Lockdown has laid bare Britain’s class divide

Somerton House Residents’ Association @SomertonHouseRA shared some beautiful photos of the flowers in their entrance green: jasmine, tulips and daffodils.

D’Eynsford TMO in Camberwell @Deynsford were among many tenant-run organisations across London to share photos of some of the good work being done to help neighbours during the pandemic.

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