Figures before Greenwich Council’s Cabinet next week paint a bleak picture of housing in the borough with 1,200 households now in temporary accommodation. This is up from 909 the previous year.
Those in emergency overnight accommodation have also increased. Aside from worry and often poor housing conditions for those in need, the high cost of temporary accommodation and ongoing lack of council housing to meet demand continues to cost local taxpayers dearly with another £2.9 million needing to be found – in addition to existing budgets.
The report states purchasing existing homes is being pursued – which is the most expensive means of providing housing.
Some London council’s are trying other measures. I recently covered how Hackney Council managed to gain the equivalent of six new social housing units in a new-build block for the same price that Greenwich spend purchasing just one existing home off the market.
The Mayor of Hackney has established a Housing Challenge Fund to forge close links with Housing Associations and increase social housing in new-build blocks. This is essential as central Government cap use of right to buy income on new builds at 30 per cent, so partnerships are necessary to secure the additional 70 per cent.
Doing so results in fewer so-called “affordable” flats available at high cost, such as that seen in new Peabody flats in Thamesmead, and more genuinely affordable homes. A small 1-bed at the Reach development is costing £280,000 outright, or shared ownership which results in a mortgage plus rent of £481 a month and then a monthly £157 service charge. It’s beyond the reach of many.
Greenwich Council have been selling land and buildings to fund projects such as a refurbished Plumstead library rather than securing outside funding as neighbouring boroughs have managed at similar projects. Income from building sales such as Riverside House in Woolwich are also heading to fund the Creative District at Woolwich.
The authority make a big play on 750 council homes starting by 2022 but this is far below need, what with 1,200 classified as homeless and nearly 20,000 on the waiting list.
Central Government continue to compound the problem with strict caps on council building, lack of funding and pushing right to buy. The claims of one-for-one replacement made when right to buy discounts were increased have never come anywhere close to being met. Families in need and taxpayers are picking up the cost.