Let's talk about... Peter's promises

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Southwark Council leader Peter John has pledged that the 11,000 new council homes to be built over the next 30 years will not entail the demolition of the same number of existing council homes. In an open letter to all residents Cllr John says;

"To be absolutely clear, the 11,000 new homes that we promise to deliver will be new homes additional to our existing stock. These will be council homes on council rents for those that need them. It has been said that what we are intending to do is demolish 11,000 existing council homes and replace them to reach our target of 11,000. This is just not true. These are new homes and do not include the existing stock of council housing."

This emphatic promise has been prompted by residents’ concern about some of the questions Southwark are asking in their resident survey entitled ‘Let’s talk about...new council homes for Southwark’. The survey seeks resident approval of a Charter of Principals for how the Council ‘will work with residents on our programme of investment and renewal’. The Southwark Group of Tenants Association's newsletter (issue 15) says that the survey ‘seems to confuse the building of 11,000 homes with the ‘renewal’ or ‘redevelopment’ of estates’. Southwark Defend Council Housing puts it stronger - ‘Southwark Council threatens massive redevelopment of its housing estates in Camberwell & Peckham’, and links the questions to Southwark’s new CIL ‘Estate Renewal Zone'.

..the price tag

All agree that building 11,000 council homes is a good promise and is off to a good start[^1], but the promise now looks as if it has a price attached, a price which the resident survey is very artfully concealing. The survey talks of ‘principles’ and ‘pledges’ but makes no mention of the asset appraisal study of council stock that will determine which estates are chosen for redevelopment, nor the part the survey itself will play in making those choices. The asset appraisal study is due to be completed by December and is described in a recent council cabinet report - ‘Next steps on Developing Long Term Plans for the Delivery of New Council Homes’. The report says that the council must ‘identify as much potential land as possible for development opportunity’[^2]. This requires ‘a detailed and comprehensive appraisal be undertaken of the performance of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) assets’[^3] (ie council homes), leading to ‘an assessment of their worth to the housing business’[^4].

..the Asset Performance Evaluation Tool

Establishing the financial ‘worth’ of each council home does not end the process. Southwark will also look at ‘non-financial’ factors – income, employment, health, education and social exclusion – to see which stock ‘prevents the council effectively meeting its social housing objectives’[^5]. An 'Asset Performance Evaluation Tool', which includes ‘a measure of social return based on feedback from engagement with residents’[^6], will ‘enable’ the council to reach its decisions.

Finally Southwark will make ‘a correlation of these results with open market values and development potential across the stock will identify candidate groups of assets where more detailed options appraisal could result in either opportunities for additional homes or improvements in values to the overall HRA business plan, increasing the surpluses that may be available to subsidise new developments.’[^7]

Putting all this into plain English, Southwark will put a financial value on each of its estates, take a look at the lifestyles of its tenants and residents and estimate how much the land is worth to developers. The ‘options’ will then open up, including sell-offs (aka ‘improvements in value to the overall HRA business plan’). Putting it even more simply, it looks like Southwark will;

This all paints a rather alarming picture, particularly in light of the Heygate experience where an options appraisal study which recommended retaining half the estate's buildings was ignored. The 35% campaign has requested a copy of the 'Asset Performance Evaluation Tool' given the key part it looks like playing in the future of every Southwark council estate resident.

Aylesbury - Stop Press

The long-anticipated outline planning application and phase 1b/1c demolition applications have been submitted to Southwark Council. Residents in the first phase have received this letter from agents acting on behalf of Notting Hill Housing Trust and Barratt. However, despite having been submitted on 25th September, there are no planning documents online yet. All we know at the moment is that the outline application is for 2,745 new 'private and affordable units' including 1,070 parking spaces plus retail, office & community space. The detailed application proposals include 815 new homes, new roads and some 'public and private open space'.


[^1]: Phases 1 & 2 of the programme will deliver 447 social rented homes out of 669 total units by early 2016.

[^2]: See para. 41 of Cabinet report

[^3]: See para. 50 of Cabinet report

[^4]: See para. 50 of Cabinet report

[^5]: See para. 51 of Cabinet report

[^6]: See para. 55 of Cabinet report

[^7]: See para. 53 of Cabinet report