“Temporary” housing to remain and thus limit new social homes if Lewisham Council approve scheme

Lewisham Council look set to approve plans tomorrow to retain a temporary housing block instead of building 232 homes if council officer recommendations are given the green light.

The site currently houses temporary modular homesat a development named PLACE, approved in 2014 and installed in 2016. It gained much media attention at the time. Lewisham’s Cabinet and Mayor have two options before them at a meeting tomorrow, either “deliver a comprehensive scheme delivering circa 232 homes or to retain the PLACE building and deliver circa 69 new homes to the rear of the site.”

According to Lewisham Council: “The average cost to the Council for a 2 bed household in Nightly Paid (Temporary Accommodation paid on a nightly, rather than weekly or monthly) accommodation is £6.9k per year.

PLACE/Ladywell has saved the Council £166k per year in avoided nightly paid fees over the 4 years since it was first occupied.”

PLACE showed how much each new social home can save an authority. However, despite  clear benefits of additional social homes both for those in need and taxpayers Lewisham Council’s cabinet are now being advised to approve plans to retain temporary housing and only build to the rear which could provide as little as 48 additional social rent homes in total.

That compares to 112 social homes and 151 to cross-subsidise if replacement was undertaken. That option – which provides the most homes – both social and market/intermediate – is not the option being recommended to the Mayor and Cabinet.

The report states fewer social homes by retaining the building: “If PLACE is to be retained and the new homes are to be built around it, including the nursery site, current proposals are that circa 69 new homes could be delivered – a reduction of 70% against the opportunity presented through either relocation or demolition.”

Moving temporary housing now stopped?

The site formerly housed Ladywell leisure centre, and in 2014 was designated for uses such as retail and housing. The current modular block was designed to stay in Ladywell for around five years then move. One option was to now move to Forest Hill car park, though the council state “there is strong local opposition to the loss of the town centre car park” and the location may be unsuitable due to ground conditions. They also state moving the block – which was a flagship feature in 2016 when it opened – is now too expensive.

The report highlights how poor this looks: “It should also be noted that there are reputational risks associated with this option. One of the defining innovative attributes of the PLACE building was for it to be able to be relocated to a new location when the current site was ready for redevelopment. To retain the building in its current location would go against this. However, this must be balanced against the unprecedented financial demands that the Council now faces as a result of
the pandemic, and to support our aims of fighting climate change.”

Climate change as a reason is a bit rich given many more people will be housed miles from support networks requiring continual travel if the option to provide fewer homes is chosen. In terms of financial demands, fewer social homes will only cost the authority more in the mid to long term. 24 homes saved £664,000 over just four years. A 70 per cent reduction of overall homes now advised will see heavy costs.

It cannot even be stated that retaining the modular block assists existing residents and business as many have now been moved out – with further to follow.

There are various options that could enable the larger scheme not mentioned such as using an arms-length developer that can borrow funds (the equivalent of Greenwich Home Start and Red Door Homes in Newham) or partner with a Housing Association.

If approved, the option that benefits the least people will be the one taken forward. There is a net gain of social homes from current levels but far less overall social housing and homes to assist with the housing shortage.

In short, a major missed opportunity looks like being approved tomorrow night. Many more families will in turn be spending much time in temporary housing many miles from support networks, and costs to taxpayers will rise ever higher.

Short term it may make sense – perhaps – but its far from wise beyond the immediate few months. The mess that is UK housing – and truly affordable homes in particular – looks set to continue, with everyone paying for it.




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    11 thoughts on ““Temporary” housing to remain and thus limit new social homes if Lewisham Council approve scheme

    • I am glad that PLACE will not be dismantled, but Lewisham as with Greenwich, is not doing enough to address housing shortage and cut the cost temporary accommodation.

      • Despite keeping it in place and not moving to another council site as planned deprives 24 social homes in another location and an additional 100+ at the current site? The cost to taxpayers then runs to many millions with many families stuck in short term emergency housing often way out of London. I can’t see how that is good on any level?

        • Moving 24 homes around the borough is not really the answer to the housing shortgage. Lewisham council was never going to build 232 housing units and won’t even consider the 93 social homes you mention above. I keep saying this and you must be sick of seeing it, BUT Lewisham and Greenwich councils are not interested in housing those who cannot afford to buy.

          I was listening to Radio4’s ‘You and yours’ this week (Friday, 15 January from @15:35) which mentioned a low cost, fast build, zero carbon housing scheme provided by ZedPods – https://www.zedpods.com/bristol/ – in collaboration with Bristol City Council. Whilst the homes for this particular scheme are small, they can be scaled up.

          I really don’t understand why local authorities waste so much taxpayers’ money on providing often poor temporary housing when they could be spending that money on building low cost, quality housing.

    • This looks a classic example of save a little now and pay FAR more later with an ongoing loss of 50-100 units. By my maths that’s a cost saving of £690,000 per year, every year lost by retaining them – and a loss of these modular homes providing homes in another location saving £164,000 per year.

      With inflation that could be £10 million over a decade in payments in emergency housing alone – plus the many other costs..

      A real shame this block doesn’t move and provide housing elsewhere and thus permit 232 new homes which we really do need in the borough.

      I read through and don’t believe they’ve pushed hard to maximise possibilities on site and sought best practice seen in other London boroughs.

    • My maths is bad! If 112 social homes could be built on site if PLACE relocated and 24 homes provided elsewhere that’s a saving of 136 x £6,900 a year = £924,600 each year excluding inflation.

      With a 40 year lifespan of modular buildings and lets say 100 year of new homes, well that is quite some amount over the decades now lost if the Cabinet approves this new plan.

      Around £50 million is a conservative estimate.

      Factor in that the original plan would have some market sale homes to help pay construction costs for social homes.

    • Sadly both Labour controlled Lewisham and Greenwich councils are not that concerned about providing affordable social housing despite an housing crisis.

      They prefer to sell sites they own to private developers for homes to be sold, for shared ownership or for high rents which many local people cannot afford.

      I have to say however, I do like The Place site at Ladywell and it does provide houisng for people from the housing waiting list

      Prefabricated/ modular type buildings were the norm after the war to provide much need homes and ease the housing crisis at the time.

    • Not mentioned, of course, is that “the nursery site” is currently occupied by an established nursery supporting almost 50 families, many of them being of key workers displaced by the previous closure of the nursery at Lewisham Hospital. This half-way through the school year, and in the middle of a pandemic, when finding alternative spaces is going to be a massive challenge. All for the sake of ten residential units on the nursery part of the site.

    • I do agree with you Nick Cooper and it is important that a nursery can be located close to a Hosptial for example where a lot of essential Key workers work. including our amazing NHS workers.

    • A lot of people including myself believe Greenwich Council lost a huge opporunity to covert Riverside House in Woolwich in to new social housing homes with a mixture of possibly one two and even three bedroom flats.

      Providing much needed homes for people on the Councils ever growing housing waiting list.

    • Greenwich council did not lose a huge opportunity but chose not to do anything about the critical shortage of social housing in the borough.

    • Pingback: Anya Martin: Not all social housing campaigners are in favour of social housing - OnLondon

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