Tag Archives: social housing

No social housing please, we’re Newham

10 Jun

600full charles hawtrey Sir Robin meets a developer who’d rather pay cash than provide social housing

Back at the end of March I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Newham council about the amount of new housing built in the borough since the award of the 2012 Olympics:

Since 6th July 2005 to today’s date:

1. How many dwellings have been built in Newham by private developers?

2. How many of these have been added to the borough’s social housing stock through section 106 agreements?

For both questions, please provide total figures for the borough and a breakdown by ward.

For the purposes of this question, a dwelling means a self-contained unit of accommodation. Self-containment is where all the rooms (including kitchen, bathroom and toilet) in a household’s accommodation are behind a single door which only that household can use.

The due date for a response was 30 April, three weeks before the local elections.

I finally got an answer on Friday, two weeks after the election (make of that what you will). It makes for some pretty dismal reading:

Ward Housing completions from all sources Of which built for social rent (of which delivered through a S106 agreement) Of which built as Council social rented stock
Beckton 467 33 (23)
Boleyn 83 2
Canning Town North 538 113 (93)
Canning Town South 1882 158 (153)
Custom House 196 78 (33) 6
East Ham Central 175 34
East Ham North 132 16 (9) 7
East Ham South 66 12
Forest Gate North 299 76 (61)
Forest Gate South 378 49 (2)
Little Ilford 131 11 (10)
Green Street East 105 0
Green Street West 249 40 (26)
Manor Park 124 6 2
Plaistow North 426 220 (38)
Plaistow South 184 9 1
Royal Docks 552 95 (16) 6
Stratford and New Town 2292 475 (363)
Wall End 47 0
West Ham 361 156 (85)
Total 8687 1583 (912) 22

 (all figures are no. of units)

The council’s Core Strategy document says, on the subject of affordable housing:

The Council will ensure that our communities are places where residents can afford to live, and are adaptable to their changing economic circumstances.
To achieve this we will:

1. Aim to ensure 50% of the number all new homes built over the plan period [2004 – 2013] are affordable;

2. Seek all new developments or redevelopments on individual sites with capacity for 10 units or more to provide between 35-50% of the number of proposed units affordable housing, comprising 60% social housing

On the basis of the figures provided to me, that’s a big fat fail. Why haven’t developers been required to stick to the plan? Why are blocks of apartments being built that can be advertised to overseas ‘investors’ as ‘100% private; no social housing’?

In recent years Newham has received millions of pounds from central government in new homes bonus and next to none of this has been spent on housing, despite the acknowledged need for more affordable housing in the borough. 

Newham has also been handed millions in payments from developers in lieu of social housing provision where “exceptionally” it has been judged impractical to provide it.

Hopefully (I’m not holding my breath) our newly elected local councillors will ask the questions residents want answered: where are the affordable homes we desperately need and where has the new homes bonus and S106 money been spent?

A social housing crisis in Newham?

12 Aug

According to an FOI reply delivered on 31 July the number of people waiting for a council house in Newham massively exceeds the total number of properties available. There are 17,535 social housing properties in Newham; and 24,544 households currently on the waiting list.

As the council itself admits the average waiting time for a 2-bedroom house is 13 years. Even for a bedsit the shortest waiting time is over 7 years.

Demand for social housing is extremely high in Newham and there are currently thousands of households on our housing register. The majority of people who apply will never be housed. [emphasis added]

Applicants at the back of the queue are likely to be permanently resident in the City of London cemetery long before Newham finds them a home.

So you would think that a major priority for the council would be building as many new homes for social rent as possible. But, as another FOI response (see page 23 of the linked Word document) makes very clear, that isn’t happening:

How many social homes for rent have been built in your local authority area since May 6th 2010? 6

How many social homes for rent to be built in future have, at this point in time, both planning permission and financing in place? None

Not that Newham isn’t building new homes. A council owned 500-home development on Stratford’s Leather Gardens estate, which will consist of a mixture of one and two bedroom flats, has been given the go-ahead. These will be offered to Newham residents as “affordable rented homes.”

If the scheme is successful Newham will create a local authority company tasked with acquiring or building more than 2,000 homes for “affordable rent” over the next decade.

Note that these homes will be for affordable rent, not for social rent. And they won’t be let directly by the council to households on the waiting list, but by an arms-length company operating as a private landlord.

There is a desperate need for social housing in Newham, but the council has decided instead to become “a player in the private rented sector” (to quote Councillor Andrew Baikie).

That is not a priority I would have normally associated with a Labour council.