Mayor Sadiq Khan awards Greenwich £32.6m for 588 new council homes
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has today announced that £32,600,000 will be awarded to Greenwich Council to build 588 new council homes over coming years.
This is much welcome news. It’s part of a £1 billion scheme to construct 14,724 new public homes across the capital over coming years.
It’s a big step up from recent years, though still far below what is needed and what was built for much of the 20th century. Greenwich alone has 17,000 people on the council waiting list (and many more who simply do not apply knowing the odds are so slim…including your humble author).
An additional 800 people are in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs which is not only dire for those stuck in them with no stability but awful value for taxpayers.
So whilst this is good news, it’s merely the start of what is needed. 588 is less than 750 that Greenwich were aiming for.
It also doesn’t negate the need to push ahead full speed with off-shoot development company Meridian Home Start and increase building into the thousands.
As I’ve covered before, Meridian plans are simply too unambitious. An extra 300 homes via Meridian over coming years is way too weak. Some council off-shoots are looking to borrow using the Public Works Loan Board at ultra low interest rates.
It also means that last weeks announcement from Theresa May that the borrowing cap on councils is to be lifted needs embracing with both hands, and quickly. Many councils have come out publicly since the statement stating how eager they are to get on and build.
Greenwich has shown caution on the announcement. Understandable, but it half feels like they are pulling up the drawbridge already instead of chomping at the bit to get moving.
Another issue stopping homes getting off the drawing board is the rather dry yet crucial process of plans and strategies – but this is essential.
A strategy for garage sites across the borough is many years late. This screenshot was taken in 2017 when running two and a half years late. It still hasn’t happened.
Housing is one of the biggest issues of our time badly affecting the lives of so many people. Yet movement is glacial.
Here’s another comprehensive plan regarding land site allocations all over the borough which determines where homes can be built:
Consultation is now two years late here. Only the first stage ever happened. Sites that could be allocated for housing are not, and slows down building.
Cuts can hardly be blamed here. New private sector homes in Greenwich are bringing large income which could be used. New Homes Bonus income in Greenwich is the 4th highest of 350+ UK authorities this year. It totals around £60 million since introduction in 2011/12:
- 2011/12 – £924,000
- 2012/13 – £3.15 million
- 2013/14 – £5.8 million
- 2014/15 – £7.6 million
- 2015/16 – £10.8 million
- 2016/17 – £13.5 million
- 2017/18 – £13.7 million
It’s roughly the same again this year.
In addition, the amount allocated to administration of the planning department in Greenwich Council from Community Infrastructure Levy income is not set as high as possible. It’s currently 4% of income instead of 5% allowed. When income is so high that 1% is a sizable number of staff. Staff that could help in pushing forward site plans.
This all hinders strategies being drawn up.
So anyway, today is great news and recent soundings hopefully signal that the tide is turning from low points under Thatcher, Blair, Brown, Clegg and Cameron who didn’t do anything near enough with public housing.
But it’s just a start, and Greenwich Council cannot be reliant on external support alone. They have a big role to play. They have to step up and show big ambition as they once did. At least 17,800 people and families are relying on them.
If this feels a bit personal then it is. I’m paying huge amounts to rent privately and can barely make ends meet. Many are in the same position.
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