Council Housing - going up or coming down?
Just before Christmas Southwark Council issued a press release, accompanied by a lovely map entitled “Housing Estates and Sites for New Council Homes”, which shows where 1500 of Southwark’s 11000 new council homes will be built.
But as we showed in the previous blog, this council-house building programme is not all it seems. For example, the 19 new homes planned on the East Dulwich estate (Gatebeck & Southdown House), will be offset by 50 council homes which are being sold off on other parts of the estate - a net loss of 31 council homes in total1.
Another site on the map, Maydew House will also show a net loss once completed. This 24-storey block containing 144 council flats overlooking Southwark Park, has been decanted (amidst protest) after the council declared the cost of repair “difficult to justify”. It is now being refurbished and 5 extra penthouse floors added to provide a total of 180 units, but only 74 will remain as council flats - a net loss of 70 council homes2. The remaining 106 flats will all be sold off on the open market.
Building council homes is a popular pledge and one that we unquestionably support – it’s the best, most economical way of providing decent housing to those who most need it - but we are reminded of similar promises from the not-so-distant past that were used to mask over the loss of the Heygate estate’s 1200 council homes3.
When we blogged in October about concerns that the new homes would only be replacements for council homes sold off or demolished, council leader Peter John reassured everyone that there would be a net gain of 11,000 council homes; he said - “To be absolutely clear, the 11,000 new homes that we promise to deliver will be new homes additional to our existing stock. ……These are new homes and do not include the existing stock of council housing.”
These latest findings show a different picture. A council house building programme that depends upon ‘asset disposal’ and ‘estate renewal’ needs close scrutiny, if it is not going to end up leaving us with fewer council homes than we started with.