Murky Depths

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Greenwich borough

Homeless numbers keep rising in Greenwich borough

The days of large-scale public building are long gone

Figures from a new Greenwich Council report show yet another increase in those classified as homeless and living in temporary accommodation in the borough.

In Quarter 2 of this year 1,186 people were living in temporary accommodation. That’s up from 1,131 in the preceding three months. Not only does this offer a lack of security for residents, but it also costs vast sums to taxpayers.

Riverside house on left. Site sold recently

There was also a fall in the percentage of households accepted as homeless rehoused; down from 36.8 per cent to 31.2 per cent.

A number of failures at both national and local level have contributed to the ever-worsening picture.

Central Government have pushed Right to Buy yet cut spending on social housing leading to a reduction in stock. Unlike the 1980s councils can re-invest proceeds, but it’s capped at 30 per cent on any given project. Greenwich Council have mostly used income to buy existing homes at high prices limiting additional stock numbers – and pushing out buyers in places helping to increase prices.

Hoardings around Creative District

Locally Greenwich Council have also been selling land and buildings and allocating income towards their Creative District in Woolwich.

Where they have retained land and plan to build, the number of homes planned is sometimes extremely low. As I covered recently, the latest example is a large disused garage site in Plumstead near good public transport links in a mid to high density area. They plan just four homes.

Low rise set among taller buildings

If the land was the be built at four floors with maisonettes – like other housing is around it – and less parking spaces, the number of homes provided could be tripled. The reason given for such low numbers of homes on site was that some people locally – often already with secure housing – didn’t want anything more than extremely low density.

Underusing precious sites (there aren’t exactly many of them left) is a factor in contributing to ever more people stuck in short term emergency accommodation. Add it to central Government and everyone pays – whether its those directly in need or those paying tax which is funding emergency accommodation due to a lack of council housing.

15% in latest plots. 20% over entire site.

Oh, and of course the infamous “viability reports” are a factor too when it comes to new developments. They often states that sizeable amounts of affordable housing is not possible at new-build plots, let alone social housing, which adds to the problem. Just this week I covered the next stage of Greenwich Millennium Village which is based on a 2014-approved masterplan. Affordable housing is set at 15 per cent.

6 Comments

  1. Greenwich council won’t be happy until it has sold all its land to private developers. It can then truly say that it can do nothing to help the homeless since it has no land.

  2. Graham

    That’s true. Greenwich Council actually turned away lots and lots of homeless people stating they cannot help them for various reasons and literally send people including vulnerable people back to the streets even when the weather is bitter outside.

    Greenwich Council’s and the Labour Party stance in general on homelessness is one of the biggest jokes this century.

    Many single people are forced in to private accommodation if they can get it. However, most cannot afford it and if your on Universal Credit only pays a certain amount of the rent up to the age of 35 unless you meet certain criteria being a vulnerable person. So many end up in rent arrears and evicted back on to the streets again.

    Greenwich Council needs to stop selling off the land they own to private developers with some of the money going to pay towards loss making GLLAB and GS Plus and start building council homes on these sites to house people from the ever growing housing waiting list. With priority going to those born and bred in the Borough and Ex-Armed Forces Personnel.

  3. fromthemurkydepths

    The Labour manifesto had a plan for 100,000 council homes a year. Though many screamed it would cost billions, they forget that many billions are now being spent every year due to a lack of social housing. The housing benefit bill is now £25 billion each year. Much goes to private landlords from taxpayers.

    And it’s not far-left to build social homes. The Tories did it for much of the 20th century. Churchill and MacMillan built that number each year after WW2 (well, from 1950) when the country was truly broke. And the Tories reaped the rewards in subsequent elections.

    Maybe the new Tory govt will go there if they truly aspire to be one-nation conservatives. Their manifesto was extremely weak on housing though.

  4. Ashley

    isn’t it about time this shoddy Administration acts on the needs and wellbeing of it’s homeless? The amounts of money wasted on GLLAB, GPS and GSS is absolutely harrowing. Funds that could benefit combating homelessness, upgrade existing housing stock/ building of new social housing from Meridian or how about transforming old office blocks into flats.

  5. There are no minimum space standards when converting office blocks to accommodation via the ‘permitted development’ route and the resulting units can be very small indeed. I doubt even Greenwich council would go that way.

    • Ashley

      This council lacks any resolve for change or improvement to combat, the ever growing housing shortage.

      So yes they should be using all available resources from Meridian home start to build much needed affordable council accommodation. Even “permitted development” with space standards. one example they could of done with! Before selling off was Riverside House.

      Could convert this into sizeable living apartments (1 to 2 bedroom) benefiting those in dia need of housing.

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