In one of the least surprising moves in recent times Greenwich Council are looking to sell Riverside House in Woolwich.
It formerly housed departments who moved to the Woolwich Centre a few years back. Many formerly occupied floors have been empty for some time so it makes sense.
But who will it be sold to? Does it make sense to sell the site to an external developer? Greenwich Council now have an arms-length housing company named Meridian Homes. They have since 2011 but havn’t done much with it. Information on it is near non-existent. I covered it back in July.
Other councils have used similar arms-length companies to push on and build much needed housing. It allows them to by-pass restrictions imposed by central Government on borrowing funds to build much-needed new homes.
Over in Newham they are moving ahead on very large schemes using their Red Door venture and then using profits to cross-subsidise social housing. It cuts out the big developers and their profit margins of at least 20%.
Doing similar in Greenwich borough would also provide housing for homeless families at a far lower rate than private lettings or B&Bs.
Given Greenwich Council recently pushed ahead with buying homes at market rates using £9 million of Right to Buy income instead of using all that cash to work with Housing Associations or their Meridian Homes venture to provide new homes, despite market purchases being up to three times more expensive, we have to wonder whether they will push for that.
One other option is to sell to developers who will encourage remaining tenants to move and then embark on a cheap conversion to residential using Permitted Development Rights. This allows developers to avoid providing affordable housing or Section 106 contributions. This is the worst option.
The other option is sell to a private developer who would demolish and rebuild at perhaps twice the height, but how much affordable housing would that provide? With 22-storey towers planned over the road in a couple of years on the Waterfront car park site, a tower shouldn’t be too hard to get through planning but no doubt the viability assessment would hamper numbers of social housing.
The plans for five towers on the Waterfront site opposite Riverside House were covered here.
And just beside Riverside House is the 18-storey Callis Yard tower, which is now rising quickly.
Of course it could stay as offices, but given it’s been half empty since Greenwich Council departments vacated it’s hard to see the demand for that.