Greenwich Council have released some further details of possible sites for new homes in a report before the Council’s Cabinet next week. But are they lacking in ambition?
Last year Central Government lifted the borrowing cap on councils and the authority revealed plans for 750 homes – but only starting on site around 2022. Yep, that’s right. Three years time. To compare, Hackney are looking to build 3,000 by 2024.
The housing crises requires much faster and more ambitious plans than just 750 homes with 17,000 now on the waiting list – an increase of 44% over the past five years. And these stark figures show the increase in homelessness in just one quarter:
Looking through this document shows why numbers are so low. Greenwich want to build low rise in many places. Compare that to other Labour councils that have ambitions ranging from family homes to high density locations where suitable.
In Hackney, to give one example of what can be done, at King’s Crescent estate redevelopment has seen 765 new homes on site with 376 for private sale, 115 shared ownership and 275 council flats – which is 80 more than before.
The Cabinet report in Greenwich states:
“The majority of the sites on RBG HRA land which are currently available and
have the potential for development, are small in scale. This means they will
accommodate less than 10 units and will be low in density.”
I’m always reminded of the authority building bungalows in recent years directly next to a Zone 2 DLR station at Elverson Road. It was madness. More and more people are homeless and others left in completely inadequate short term accommodation at extremely high cost to the taxpayer and they build bungalows by a high frequency station.
The whole area could be reworked with a sizable jump in council homes and new homes for commuters to prevent urban sprawl. Yet it looks like they’ll make the same mistake nearby with just 14 new homes on large sites such as this:
It’s the same in every corner of the borough.
In addition, and separate to direct council building is the option of using council spin off developer Meridian Home Start. The number of homes to be built using Meridian remains at the very bottom of the list of London Labour councils when judged against housing targets in the London Plan according to Centre for London research.
As a comparable, Croydon are looking to build at least 2,500 using their version of Meridian. Greenwich? Just 250.
If using arms length council developers means building some market sale homes and using income to cross-subsidise social homes then so be it. It’s really not a time to piss about. It’s still preferable than the private sector building on land, providing a sprinkling of “affordable” homes and walking off with a 20% plus profit margin.
The severity of the housing crises just doesn’t seem to permeate through to the authority. It’s an absolute disaster and public health crises. It affects children and families. The old, the sick and the most vulnerable. It’s forcing people to commute far longer to work. Less time with families. The negative impacts are massive.
To add insult to injury they’ve actually proclaimed 750 homes starting in three years as some sort of triumph. Sure, that’s better than dire numbers over the past decade but really they should be aspiring for far, far more using every tool out there.
I’ve had to move about eight times myself and know how awful the housing situation is. I’ve seen the reality of it and the impact on friends and families. This is one of the most pressing issues right now. I just don’t think Greenwich Council get it.
I’ve listed numerous sites on this website that are council owned and ripe for building. They include garages and a council yard next to Abbey Wood Crossrail (seen above). Abbey Wood estate could see many more homes in certain locations including the shopping parade on Eynsham Drive with extensive garage sites behind shops.
We’re not talking half a dozen homes but hundreds across underused sites. That’s if they had the ambition. But are they running scared of NIMBYs? Those fortunate enough to already have a home placed above those in need?
It wouldn’t be without controversy. Some demolition may be required but the need is vast. The alternative is condemning more and more people to atrocious living conditions.
Schemes could be funded in numerous ways such as borrowing, partnerships or market sales to help cross-fund. It needs imagination. And is it there?
For example, Woolwich’s Creative District is being funded to the tune of £40 million partly through sell offs of council buildings such as Riverside House in Woolwich. Would it not be possible to fund the Creative District (let’s assume it will go ahead) using an ultra low interest rate loans from the Public Works Loan Board and instead use all income from building sell-offs on building new homes? Or build a high rise tower on the site directly or through Meridian? There’s many options to be studied.
It can be done. Other Labour councils show it can. Many are planning far more homes than Greenwich. When will this authority realise the urgency of the situation?