A report released this month which monitors delivery of affordable housing across London has shown Bexley to be 32nd out of 32 London boroughs for social and council housing.
Bexley was one of few boroughs to see a net reduction in social homes in London, with 41 homes lost.
There’s a couple of reasons for this situation which is costing the authority and taxpayers large sums as households are housed in expensive temporary accommodation; not to mention a lack of stable homes for those in need. Firstly, major estate rebuilds such as those by Peabody have taken an extremely long time to be built. When they are, there is usually no net increase in social homes and homes for sale are extremely expensive. Last week I covered Peabody charging £558,900 for a 3-bed flat in Thamesmead. Politicians often seem hoodwinked by Peabody’s slick PR while the company builds at a snail’s pace. It’s now almost five years since Housing Zones were announced for 3,000 new homes in Bexley and Greenwich boroughs. So far Peabody has completed barely 60 homes. It’s almost a decade since they took over a largely demolished area in Thamesmead from Gallions Housing Association and still haven’t completed a home there.
Secondly, new developments aside from estate redevelopments often gain approval without a single “affordable” home, let alone social housing. This all contributes to financial pressures on the authority. One element of the current financial problems Bexley find themselves which helped require a capitalisation order derives from ever higher costs to house people in temporary accommodation. The authority did meet its target for total homes – but the vast majority were not at affordable levels.
This is an ongoing problem as this chart covering 2015/16 to 2017/18 shows:
This all doesn’t mention the reality for families having no affordable housing available – let alone social housing, as “affordable” can require an income above £30,000 a year. That isn’t the level of wage people in much of the borough earn from full time work.
The situation doesn’t appear likely to improve soon. While some new homes in Thamesmead will complete this coming year, more have been flattened since 2019. Promises by Peabody to submit an application for replacement homes have come and gone once more without a sign of anything appearing. Even when it does, that’s another year for approval then work commencing. It could be three more years before a home is occupied.
Greenwich borough saw just four per cent of total homes being social housing, Bromley three per cent and Lewisham at 16 per cent. Lewisham has spent £109 million on temporary accommodation over the past four years.
Various documents on the London Plan can be seen here. A new London Plan has been adopted this year which increases total home targets in some boroughs such as Greenwich.