35% Campaign update – 11000 new council homes: figures show loss rather than gain

Nov 12, 2018 12:00 am

Southwark demolishing and selling off council homes faster than it’s building them –

In 2014, as part of its manifesto pledge Southwark Council’s administration announced an “ambitious but realistic plan to build 11,000 new council homes” across the borough over the next 30 years. Concerns were raised by us and in the local press that this would fail to make up for the thousands of council homes currently being lost to ongoing estate regeneration, void disposal policies and Right to Buy applications over the next 30 years.

Extract from an Oct 2014 article in the local newspaper

Council leader Peter John subsequently issued an open letter insisting that the 11,000 council homes would be over and above the existing stock count – i.e. a net increase:

Extract from Council leader Peter John’s open letter

Councillor John went one step further to pledge that the first 1500 net additional council homes would be finished by 2018:

Extract from 2014 Cabinet report

Four years on and we have taken a look at whether Councillor John has delivered on his manifesto pledge. Official statistics from the government’s live tables on local authority dwelling stock show that since the manifesto pledge in 2014 there has been a net reduction in Southwark’s council housing stock of 476 council homes.

Extract from the government’s Live Table 116

The figures aren’t saying that Southwark hasn’t built any new council homes, only that the rate at which is building has not kept up with the rate at which it is knocking them down and selling them off. The Council has or will demolish over 7,500 council homes as part of regeneration schemes, including 1200 council homes in the Heygate estate regenerationand circa 2400 on the Aylesbury estate.

In addition, it has sold 1300 council homes under the Right to Buy since 2012 and has an ongoing policy of selling every council home that becomes vacant which is valued at £300k or more.

Meanwhile, this 30th Oct 2018 Cabinet report confirms that the council has built just 262 council homes over 5 years (para 12).

The Cabinet report confirms that an additional 239 units of developer-built (S106) affordable housing have been bought by Southwark, to become council housing (para 17). One such example is Blackfriars Circus, where the Council has bought 56 homes for £10m from developer Barratt.

A problem with this method of buying council housing is that it does not actually increase the net supply of social housing – the same units would otherwise have been bought and let by a housing association anyway. Further, Southwark is denying itself the benefit of the S106 contribution, by paying for something a housing association would have paid for anyway – and, rather perversely, denying itself funds for building units that would actually increase the net supply.

It is also not clear whether all the new homes have been let at council rents. We have blogged previously about new ‘council homes’ now being let at a percentage of market rent (40%) rather than social rent (which is currently approx 20% of market rent).

In any event, 112 of these new ‘council homes’ are temporary accommodation units in hostels (Willow Walk – 75 units, Good Neighbours House – 37 units) and are let at LHA rent levels, which are more than twice current council rent levels.

Even if we do count all these new homes as council homes at council rents, the short and long term trend is clearly one of an ongoing decline rather than net increase in the number of council homes:

St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots at Betsham and Northfleet Houses

Since 2006 Team London Bridge (the local Business Improvement District) has been managing a number of green spaces in or just on the edge of our area: Northfleet & Betsham House, The Greenwood Theatre, Melior Street Garden, Gibbon’s Rent, Whites Grounds and Snowsfields Primary School to name a few. As well as lifting the aesthetic and ecological value of public space we also see this very much as a social project.

Our involvement with residential estates is a way for our businesses to connect with the local community, and by using St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots (PDR) as our gardening contractor we are helping people out of homelessness. PDR is an initiative of St Mungo’s that provides the homeless, or those at risk of becoming so, with formal horticultural training to aid them through recovery and into eventual full-time employment.

The PDR clients are led by trainers Ian, Victoria and Jeff who will often be seen tending the Northfleet and Betsham House gardens on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Please do say hello and they would love for residents to come out and help them if they wish (every month throughout the spring and summer they run a Saturday gardening workshop for residents as well as the usual Tuesday and Thursday mornings).

 In September this year we won a Gold medal and overall winner of the Business Improvement District category at the RHS London in Bloom awards – a competition where we show off all the best green spaces (including Northfleet & Betsham House) that the area has to offer.

 Thank you for the ongoing support and we’d always welcome more residential involvement and feedback. If you would to get in touch please contact Henry Johnstone at Team London Bridge henry@teamlondonbridge.co.uk

Build Halloween Birdy Houses – 31st October

tate hall




tate hallo

The garden is open to local residents that live in Southwark within walking distance of the gallery which may not have a lot of outdoor space. These events are being led by Bankside Open Spaces Trust. If you would like to become a FREE Friend of the Garden or to find out more: E: community@tate.org.uk T: 020 7401 5176

BUILD HALLOWEEN BIRDY HOUSES – Wednesday 31st October, 15.30 – 17.00
Join us to help build some spooky houses and scary feeders for our feathered friends.

Find out more