New research by the Centre for London has revealed that Greenwich Council plan to build fewer new homes using an arms-length property company than almost every other Labour Council in London despite the severe housing shortage.

Arms-length property companies can bypass government caps on building yet just 250 homes are planned using this method as shown on the blue bar on the above chart.

Most of those building less are Tory boroughs but even neighbouring Conservative controlled Bexley plan twice as many as Greenwich. Lewisham plan four times as many.

The yellow bar also shows Greenwich having one of the biggest gaps between what’s planned and what is needed according to the London Plan.

Government restrictions

Government restrictions on borrowing prevent local authorities directly providing many new social homes. One alternative is use an arms-length company which can bypass Government restrictions on borrowing.

Greenwich created Meridian Homes in 2011 which can do so. However, seven years on and very little has been built, and as the Centre for London research shows, few homes are planned in coming years. 250 will average out at about 50 a year.

Abbey Wood tower approved with very little social housing

Many Greenwich councillors have continually claimed (correctly) that central government makes it very hard to build, but why has this crucial other avenue to provide needed homes not been fully embraced?

Meanwhile, land the council own which could be used to provide new homes is being sold off. Next week the Cabinet look to agree selling three sites to Pocket Living who provide expensive (and very small) new builds.

Previously this site revealed how at least £65 million will be spent buying homes off the market (at the peak of the property cycle as prices now begin to fall across London according to the ONS) instead of using it to build truly affordable new homes, which their own figures show are at least a third less costly per unit.

PR

For all the PR about Meridian Homes starting to appear, the hard data tells its own story. The housing crises is badly affecting many of the poorest in society and available measures to address homelessness and insecurity of private rentals are not being taken.

Meridian Homes has also come into question for a lack of transparency.

Greenwich can continually point at central government but they don’t have power over Westminster. They do have power to do things locally and are not doing so anywhere near the level of many other London boroughs.

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