A report before Greenwich Council’s Cabinet next week reveals that the number of homeless households continues to rise and now sits at 1,636.
That’s an increase from 1,528 the quarter before, and up from 740 in Q1 2018/19.
The latest figures relate to Q2 2021/22 (covering July to September 2021). That record high came shortly before Greenwich Council celebrated completing part one of three Woolwich estate redevelopments that sees a mass reduction in social homes. As part of the “One Woolwich” scheme, housing increases across three estates from 1,064 to 1,615 yet just 35 per cent is “affordable” – which also includes shared ownership.
Social housing numbers are down over 650 across the project. Boris Johnson supported Greenwich Council’s plan in 2014, noting that phase 1 at Connaught Estate meant “at present there are 303 affordable units on site, which are provided as social rent. The proposals will provide 241 affordable units (35%), as a split of 169 rent and 72 intermediate, which represents a net loss in the quantum of affordable units of 62 units (and a net loss of 134 social rented units).
This is contrary to London Plan policy 3.14 which sets out that any “loss of housing, including affordable housing, should be resisted unless the housing is replaced at existing or higher densities with at least equivalent floorspace”.
Phase two of the overall “one Woolwich” project covers Morris Walk, which was approved last year and continued the theme with a reduction in social homes from 500 to 167.
The authority have launched their Greenwich Builds program of 750 homes, though it’s running just to stand still when so many homes have been lost elsewhere.
The program so far appears to have had little impact on demand for social housing. As a result of the social housing shortage, people are housed in expensive private lettings or B&Bs. This is contributing to ever higher costs to both central Government and councils. Greenwich regularly go over budget, and have done so again.
These figures of course are not the total spend on temporary housing, but merely the latest overspends on already substantial sums.
Other plans such as 300+ council homes in Kidbrooke – welcome though they are – are also unlikely to make much of dent by the time of completion given what has been lost and strong demand.
We also know that just 23 net new social homes are planned in Woolwich on public land as part of the 500+ home mixed-use leisure centre project. 27 existing homes will be replaced like-for-like. That means just 50 new social homes – around five per cent of the total.
Peabody have also failed to build at a number of Housing Zone sites in the borough, which have the opportunity to assist. They are at sites not included as part of 20,000 with require a public transport connection such as the DLR.
Central Government have severely hampered supply of social housing through limited grand funding and restrictions on how Right to Buy income can be spent.
With the new Housing Minister Stuart Andrew appointed by Boris Jonson last week a landlord himself and someone who voted against numerous protections for tenants, it’s unlikely much will change soon. Taxpayers and those in need of secure housing will continue to bear the brunt.