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:

Are tenants adequately involved in decisions that affect their homes?

London Tenants Federation E-bulletin June 2018

www.londontenants.org  –  www.facebook.com/londontenants/  –  @londontenants

Are tenants adequately involved in decisions that affect their homes?

London Assembly Housing Committee Post-Grenfell Investigation

Email your comments or evidence to the committee by 29 June

Through discussion with the chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee, Sian Berry AM, it was agreed that LTF would support the committee’s investigation into social housing tenants’ involvement in decision-making about their homes, post-Grenfell, by facilitating a meeting of social housing tenant representatives with the committee.

Since the Grenfell tower fire, last year, LTF has argued that as part of efforts to prevent such a tragedy occurring again, there must be change in policy and practice around participation of tenants in decision-making about their homes – to ensure our voices are properly heard.

For some time, we have seen the gradual loss of democratic and accountable tenant participation processes, including removal of funding from an increasing number of council tenant federations or organisations that bring together elected tenant and resident representatives around borough-wide issues. Instead, consumerist models that were more common in the housing association sector are being gradually adopted across social landlords. Such models include a wide range of panels, forums and mystery shopping, through which tenants (sometimes selected) might engage, but without a remit to couch the views of others, or to feed back to them. Necessarily many tenants lack trust in these processes, resulting in disengagement and ultimately disempowerment.

LTF, alongside other groups that we have contacts with – including Camden Housing Association Tenants Forum, Genesis Residents, London Federation of Housing Co-operatives and Race on the Agenda, presented concerns to the meeting, which also facilitated an open mic session. Together we agreed a list of ‘asks’ of the London Mayor.

This link provides information about the investigation including the committee’s key topics and, towards the bottom of the page, a link to a full recording of the meeting, held on 24 May.

While the London Assembly doesn’t have policy-making powers, it has a role in scrutinising the Mayor. Its investigations can put pressure on the Mayor and ultimately contribute to policy changes.

There are opportunities for tenants and residents to submit written comments or evidence to the committee and we encourage you, your TRA, TMO, Co-operatives and / or wider networks to do so, by emailing housingcommittee@london.gov.uk by 29 June.

We have attached an document that highlights our key asks of the London Mayor and some of the issues that we discussed with the other groups that we worked with, in preparing for the London Assembly meeting.

Please also find links here to a briefing on TRAs (with a case study), on TMOs (with case study) and Co-operatives that we produced for the London Assembly Housing Committee members, a comment piece from LTF delegates published in Inside Housing and an article published in the Times which reported on the London Assembly Housing Committee meeting.

Stand Up for the Elephant protest!

From Elephant Amenity Network

Dear Friend

The shopping centre planning application has yet to be approved or rejected by Southwark Council and while there have been improvements to the original application it still not good enough.  We don’t know exactly when the planning committee will be making its decision, it but we have to be ready.  There is a weekend of activity this weekend, leading up to a Protest: Stand Up For The Elephant, 6pm, Thursday 21st June, Outside London College of Communications SE1 6SB

More details and FB event here

To build support for this protest please come and help on our next campaign stall: Up the Elephant campaign stall, 11am-12pm, Saturday 16th June,
outside Elephant shopping Centre, top of the slope opposite Charlie Chaplin pub.  No social cleansing, no community stitch up!

We will also be leafletting the local area 4pm-7pm, Sunday 17 June, outside Elephant shopping Centre, top of the slope opposite Charlie Chaplin pub.

Attached is a letter sent by local campaign groups to the London College of Communication

Up the Elephant is supported by Stop the Elephant DevelopmentLatin ElephantElephant Amenity NetworkSouthwark Defend Council HousingOccupy Elephant, and Southwark Notes.

Regards

Jerry