“REPORT EMPTY PROPERTIES” – Croydon council salvages 137 properties in homes drive / LAMBETH WARNING OVER STARTER HOMES (but it’s OK to demolish entire estates)
A council drive to turn derelict properties into homes for Croydon families has passed the 100 mark in one year – with people being encouraged to report any empty homes they know of.
In 2015 Croydon council launched its empty homes campaign to identify, refurbish and rent out homes that had lain empty for more than year.
The aim is to boost the rented sector in Croydon, help cut the number of families living in bed and breakfast accommodation and reduce the blight of empty homes on the borough’s local environment.
Since then, the council has got landlords to do up and re-let 108 flats and 29 houses to families needing temporary accommodation in the borough.
The latest properties to be reoccupied this month are 16 homes in south Croydon that had been empty until the council stepped in to revamp and re-let them with utilities consultancy and social landlord The Monarch Partnership.
The previously-derelict two-bedroom 1930s maisonettes in Haling Grove are now let by Monarch to the council so it can provide medium-term accommodation to families on the housing waiting list.
The 137 properties brought back into use so far under the empty homes programme range from a four-bedroom detached home in Purley that the council bought through a compulsory purchase order in March last year to sites in Waddon, Thornton Heath, Coulsdon and New Addington. The empty homes drive is part-funded by the Greater London Authority, which provides grants to councils that actively look to restore empty homes.
Other improvements in the last year to the council’s housing stock include converting Windsor House, a former office building in Norbury, into new medium-term temporary accommodation, as well as investing £30m in the Real Lettings Fund in partnership with homelessness charity St Mungo Broadway.
Croydon’s deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning Cllr Alison Butler said: “One of our biggest challenges is providing more Croydon families in need with better-quality homes while managing with less money.
“So on top of creating our own development company bringing forward thousands of new-build properties, partnerships like this one are important to meet our housing supply needs.”
Arjan Dosanjh, commercial director of The Monarch Partnership, said: “We’re proud to cooperate with Croydon council and offer these 16 homes in support of the council’s empty homes campaign.
“We look forward to continuing our collaboration on new projects to provide affordable housing as we kick off our own campaign. “We invite other private companies to step up and do the same.”
BOLD The council are encouraging residents to report empty properties via the My Croydon app, which is quick and free to download from the Google Play store for Android smartphones or Apple iTunes store for iPhones. You can also report empty homes online at www.croydon.gov.uk or on the dedicated hotline: 020 8760 5470. (Source: Croydon council press release)
LAMBETH WARNING OVER STARTER HOMES (but it’s OK to demolish entire estates)
NUMBER CRUNCHING: Number of homes built by Lambeth council between 2005 and 2015: 20 – an average of two a year*
Government plans for Starter Homes have been strongly criticised by Lambeth council which warns of inflated house prices and a lack of affordable homes in the borough.
The council say if local planning authorities have to support starter homes at the expense of traditional affordable tenures, their ability to meet local housing need and to plan for and create balanced communities will be severely reduced.
In its formal submission to the government’s consultation, the council say: “… there is a complete disconnect between local evidence of affordable housing need, as demonstrated through strategic housing market assessments, and the requirement that 20 per cent of all homes delivered on all sites above a nationally prescribed threshold should be starter homes.”
The council are strongly opposed to the government’s proposal that people could sell or sublet starter homes five years after buying them and argues that a minimum restriction of 15 years should be imposed.
The council’s concern is shared by a number of major private lenders who fear that the government’s plans could distort market values and encourage buyers to overpay.
In Lambeth, the cheapest new build properties are more than 20pc dearer than the cheapest homes available in the second hand market, generally ex-RTB properties.
As the council point out, starter homes will not increase the number of households able to enter home ownership, just provide them with a subsidy for a more expensive home which will be out of the reach of many residents, thus increasing inequality.
A spokesman said: “ We fully support the government’s objective to improve access to home ownership for those who aspire to own their own home, but this has to be balanced with meeting identified local housing need as set out in Local Plans, supported by evidence and local public consultation. Lambeth desperately needs more genuinely affordable homes, not a new label on unaffordable homes.” (Source: Lambeth council press release.)
(*with acknowledgments to Private Eye magazine).