Plans for 48 small homes on public land sold by Greenwich Council to developer Pocket Living have been uploaded to the authority’s website today. The building will top out at five floors.
This project is one subject I’ve covered extensively in recent years. Three plots of public land were put up for sale by the council despite a sharp increase in homelessness and people housed by the authority in expensive emergency accommodation.
Eventually three plots for sale reduced to one which was sold to Pocket Living who proposed homes at the very edge of legality when it comes to overall size.
Flats are as small as 38.5 square metres. National size standards state a home should be at least 39 square metres for a one-bed property with a bath. This gets around that by having a shower instead of a bath.
The Council’s Cabinet were not presented with a full range of options when the decision was made to sell in July 2018. Using the authorities own developer Meridian Homes was not on the list of options:
Numbers of people registered as homeless in the borough increased from over 700 in 2018 when the decision was made to over 900 in 2019.
The council also choose not to build directly despite ever increasing costs of housing people in emergency accommodation. Since then millions have had to be found to meet ever growing costs. This is just one example seen in February 2020:
References to “affordable housing” in the council report neglect that this is at the level of 80 per cent of market rates. Meridian Homes are typically 60-65% and direct council homes around 40%.
Applicants will need to earn at least £37,000 a year to afford the smallest 1 beds on site. Pocket Living state a very small one-bed at 80 per cent market rate will be more affordable than other tenures. Well yes, but so would an even smaller box at 60 per cent but it’d be barely liveable. This race to the bottom is not a model that benefits many people.
Pocket Living claim in planning documents that 38%, or 42,000 households would be able to afford a Pocket Living home. Yet their small size means it would be completely impracticable for many of those households.
Is this what an authority should be doing with precious public land? Selling to a company that provides homes on the borderline of legality in terms of size? Greenwich Council could have built directly here providing cheaper and larger units that would have reduced cost pressures on emergency temporary housing – especially as the borrowing cap for councils was removed in 2018. They could have used Meridian which prohibits future sales via right to buy. Neither was taken up.
There was strong opposition from respondents to a survey in 2018 despite a strong PR campaign and dedicated website sent to local residents with pre-filled responses from Pocket Living advocating development.
It wasn’t the only public land sell off. Other council owned sales included Riverside House in Woolwich. New owners now propose 200 homes on site using Permitted Development rights which require no minimum size standards, no affordable housing and no Section 106 or Community Infrastructure Levy income to the authority. Money from that sale is going towards Woolwich Creative District.
Click here to view plans.
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