More boroughs neglect social housing delivery

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We reported in December how Southwark Council has been slammed by the ombudsman for having no monitoring or enforcement of section 106 affordable housing provision.

Last week Inside Housing magazine conducted a survey of other London boroughs, asking if they had monitoring procedures. There were mixed results - fourteen said they had, one (Bexley) that it did not and 13 which didn't reply.

Some of the replies look familiar to us - Southwark also claimed to have monitoring procedures in place when it gave evidence at the Aylesbury estate CPO inquiry, and the truth that they didn't was only flushed out by our subsequent complaint to the Ombudsman.

Inquiry document 27 - evidence submitted by the Council to the CPO public inquiry, 12/05/2015

Our sceptism is deepened by further research, where we have found tenure breaches in Lambeth, who claim to have monitoring, and Greenwich, who did not reply to the survey. In both cases estate regeneration schemes delivered affordable rent when social rent was required by the planning consents.

Ferrier estate (Greenwich)

The first of these is the ferrier estate regeneration in Greenwich, where 1,906 council homes have been knocked down and are being replaced by Berkeley Homes with a 'mixed tenure' scheme comprising a total of 4,398 new homes.

The most recent phase (4a) of the scheme to be completed is 'Kidbrooke Village', where Berkeley Homes was granted planning consent in 2012 for 374 units. Berkeley's planning application clearly states that 67 of these would be social rented homes:

Extract from Berkeley's planning application for phase 4a

This is repeatedly confirmed in the Mayor's planning report for the application:

Extract from the Mayor's planning report for phase 4a

However, the GLA affordable housing dataset shows these 67 supposedly social rented units provided as affordable rent at up to 62% market rent.

Extract from GLA affordable housing outturn dataset

Claremont East estate (Lambeth)

Lambeth was one of the boroughs that told Inside Housing that it did have section 106 monitoring procedures in place, but we can show that these are clearly not effective.

In 2013, Lambeth Council sold land on its Claremont East estate in Brixton Hill to Notting Hill Housing Trust for the knock down price of £1.5m, on the basis that it would provide 100% social rented housing.

Extract from planning committee minutes

Despite having sold the land at a discount on the basis it would provide 100% social rented housing, Notting Hill submitted a viability assessment pleaded viability poverty, which Lambeth's planning committee accepted and resolved to grant consent on the basis that 40% of the homes would be 'affordable' of which 70% social rented.

Extract from the planning committee report

However, GLA housing data shows that Notting Hill has provided the rented element (37 units) entirely as affordable rent, at rents of up to 68% market rent.

Extract from the GLA affordable housing dataset

Notting Hill Housing (no) Trust

Notting Hill's flagrant breach of its planning consent for the Bermondsey Spa regeneration, was what provided the impetus for our complaint to the Ombudsman last year. This further discovery of Notting Hill's malpractice should be sounding alarm bells with Southwark's administration, who selected Notting Hill as its development partner not just for Bermondsey Spa, but also for the Silwood estate, Aylesbury estate, Elmington estate, Wood Dene estate, Manor Place Depot and Canada Water regeneration (joint venture with Sellar).

Bermondsey Spa205
Silwood estate160
Aylesbury estate3,500
Elmington estate279
Wood Dene estate333
Manor Place Depot270
Canada Water1,046

This mammoth development pipeline of 5,793 new homes doesn't include the housing Notting Hill already owns in Southwark; for example, the St James Place estate in Bermondsey, where Notting Hill was recently branded a 'predatory, rogue landlord' by the local ward councillor, after it implemented a series of rent hikes and eviction threats.

Former Notting Hill Exec spills beans on CEO

Last week, Steve Hilditch from the Labour Housing Group spilled the beans on Notting Hill and its predatory activities. Steve is a former Notting Hill board executive, who resigned as a result of the Trust's change in direction and priorities. He points out that Notting Hill's CEO, Kate Davies, was a fellow of the Centre for Social Justice - the conservative think tank set up and chaired by Iain Duncan Smith, which conceived the idea of both affordable rent and right-to-buy for housing association tenants.

Within her role at the CSJ, Kate Davies produced this policy proposal report, in which she claimed that council estates are ‘ghettos of the poorest and neediest people’ that are ‘subsidised by the taxpayer’ and provide ‘low cost living for life funded from the public purse’. She said that tenants ‘often pay little or no rent, and get their home maintained in good order for free.’ She concluded that ‘social housing is not a desirable destination’, that ‘private ownership is preferable to state provided solutions’ and that social housing providers should be able to sent rent levels without restrictions.

Kate Davies was also a key advisor to the extremely influential Localis review (Principles for Social Housing Reform by John Hills), the insidious effects of which are well outlined on the Labour Housing Group's blog.

In 2007, she wrote a column in The Times saying "It has become popular to criticise Hills for raising the issue of tenure reform and rent levels. But we need to get away from one type of housing-based answer for so many different types of people. Social housing should not be seen as a destination but as a springboard to a better life; a place from which people can re-establish themselves, improve their prospects and move forward". She went on to assert that "rolling assured shorthold tenancies .. give landlords greater influence to encourage positive social behaviour."

In 2008, she wrote in The Times making the case for fixed term rather than secure tenancies - "We need a greater diversity of options in the social sector. For example, some accommodation rented at almost market price.. As well as tenure reform, I would like to see greater flexibility in the housing available and who it is offered to."

In 2008 she also wrote for the Guardian in defence of Boris Johnson's introduction of affordable rent and wrote an article on the Conservative Home website arguing that Councils should promote more homeownership.

The Guardian notes that Davies' partner, Nick Johnson, is chief executive of H&F Homes, the "arms-length management organisation" that manages the Council's homes. Together they run 'Davies Johnson Ltd' - a consultancy employed by Hammersmith & Fulham Council, amongst other things, to advise on the redevelopment of council estates in its Earls Court redevelopment. The Independent notes that Johnson used to lead Bexley Council and that H&F Homes contracts have been awarded to his wife's housing association, Notting Hill Housing.

Kate has clearly come a long way since her days as Kate née Marshall, when she was Secretary General of the Revolutionary Communist Party..