Good news for those badly in need of secure and reasonably priced housing as new council homes near Maze Hill station are now well under construction, as a visit to the site last week revealed.
I last covered the site back in February 2019 as work got underway. Fifteen homes are being built either side of council homes built around a decade ago. One site was formerly a run down garage location.
The homes built a decade ago are not particularly good design from the exterior with a basic, boxy utilitarian appearance and timber which aged from day one. At the time they were described as “contemporary”. They almost seemed designed to perpetuate the stigma around council homes as ugly and second best.
New homes in the area from architect Peter Barber appear to be of far better design quality:
I’m looking forward to seeing the final result and am quite a fan of Peter Barber. His designs are somewhat at odds which much new housing in London – and often all the better for it. The Guardian covered his work last October.
These 15 new homes are welcome though the total number of new council homes in the borough lags far behind need. Greenwich have a pretty weak target of 750 starting by 2022. Not finishing by 2022 but commencing.
Those without a need for council housing may think so what? Well, a lack of homes is still costing you big sums. With a legal obligation to provide homes councils are spending huge sums putting people up in expensive private lettings – often former council homes sold under right to buy – and in many cases many miles from London. Another option is buying market homes at higher cost than building new and out pricing first time buyers.
Riverside House in Woolwich is one such site. The council recently sold it instead of utilising the site for new homes and using income to provide social homes on site or elsewhere in the borough. Income is to go to the Creative District. It’s now in line for new homes via permitted development with zero affordable homes.
Greenwich Council have just authorised spending another £60 million buying homes instead of building new. Nationwide the amount spent on doing similar instead of building new homes is eye watering with taxpayers picking up the bill.
Another option aside from direct council building is local authorities using off-shoot housing companies to build and use every penny from market sales to cross-subsidise council homes. Many council-home builders are not advocates but at the current time it’s a better option than the alternatives which is costing everyone dearly.
Greenwich Council have been very slow to build using Meridian Homes, preferring to sell land and let the private sector build, take a 20 per cent profit cut and hope for scraps left over to provide “affordable” or social homes. It’s bad all round – except for developers.
Meridian Homes have a target of 250 homes. If that sounds impressive it isn’t. Many other London councils are far more ambitious. In fact, compared to housing need under the London Plan, Greenwich Council’s target of 250 homes using Meridian Homes is at the bottom in all of London according to Centre for London research when it comes to using a council spin-off company.
So while the new builds in Maze Hill are welcome and will in all likelihood provide great homes, their needs to be a step-change in housing provision. Not just for those in need but all taxpayers paying huge sums for little return.