Pocket Living launch PR drive on building private flats on public land
Pocket Living, who have former Woolwich and Greenwich Labour MP Nick Raynesford on their board, go big on the “affordable” aspect.
However, Pocket Living’s website describes a £90k salary as modest, and “affordable” here is 80% of market rates – the very highest possible and still well out of reach of many, including the nurses and teaches proponents of the scheme claim it will help. That’s not mentioned on the site.
The pre-written email Pocket Living include to be sent to Greenwich Council states:
“Affordable home ownership for local people like me, helping them stay in the communities they grew up in and which stops them having to move out of the area to get on the housing ladder, should be the priority of any council.”
Well, not very affordable for most and a small one bed will start from at least £300,000-£400,000. And that’s for a tiny flat on the border of what’s legal in terms of size (38 square metres). Good luck with children.
Not many local people could afford that, nor many key workers.
Is getting people on the housing ladder a priority for a Labour council with more than 17,000 on waiting lists and ever more in expensive short term accommodation? The private sector is already being boosted by central government through various schemes to aid buyers – so why replicate that?
One of the most puzzling aspects in this is Greenwich Council not considering their developer Meridian Homes to develop the land when agreeing to sell it. Meridian Homes offer homes at an “affordable” rate of 55-65% market rate – and that could have been reduced. Even if not, it’s still comfortably less than Pocket Living.
Since the initial decision to sell land, central Government have also agreed to lift the borrowing cap on local authorities which hampered housebuilding.
An apparent benefit of the scheme is £150,000 to be spent improving estates nearby. This raises a number of issues. One is that the authority is swimming in income from new developments which it has chosen not to spend improving many estates and neglected area.
Is this now the only way they will do so? Deprive areas of improvements via S106 and CIL income and only allow investment if local residents agree to land sell offs?
Abbey Wood estate is a great example. Over £1.1 million from a planned development currently with the GLA on appeal would see just £50k spent on an adjacent estate – and even that is a goodwill gesture from developers as Greenwich Council did not want to allocate a penny.
£150,000 spent on estates is a tiny fraction of Section 106, Community Infrastructure Levy and New Homes Bonus income that should be spent improving deprived areas.
Supporters of the scheme also claim selling public land allows money to be reinvested in council homes – but that’s only after the middle man (Pocket Living) takes their cut of profit on the scheme. Building outright,or via Meridian Homes, would permit more homes helping reduce the 17,000 waiting list and offering lower cost homes than 80% market rate.
So how fair is this consultation? Local people are denied improvements unless they agree to land sell offs and a big company with large funds is encouraging people to email Greenwich council en masse to portray mass support. Their website is all sugar and gloss – all the serious side issues are ignored.