Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet Member for Housing, with the first family to move into a new council house built by Lambeth council in over a decade.
Last week Lambeth approved a set of key guarantees for residents whose homes will be rebuilt as part of the borough’s plans to improve some of the poorest quality housing in our community.
Labour is already delivering on the pledge to provide 1,000 new homes for council level rents in Lambeth. On Friday, I visited some of the first residents moving into these new properties in Vassall near Brixton. On top of the 17 already built this year, another 70 will be completed via similar projects.
But just as important as building new homes is improving existing housing in our borough. We are currently completing the most ambitious refurbishment of council homes in a generation, an investment of almost £500 million, with many residents getting new bathrooms and kitchens. But on some estates the council’s properties, partly due to structural problems dating back to when they were built, are in such a poor state that repair works cannot solve the problem. This is an issue I know only too well from an estate in my ward, Central Hill. I’ve been inside homes with leaking roofs, backflowing sewage and walls turned black with mould. Many of these properties would require levels of repairs that the council simply cannot afford, especially as the Tory government has cut the amount Lambeth can spend on upgrading homes by £100 million.
But it would be unacceptable for us to leave residents in these appalling conditions. This is why by June we’ll have submitted planning applications for three estate rebuilding schemes at Knight’s Walk, South Lambeth, Fenwick and Westbury, which will see all homes rebuilt for existing residents and nearly 300 extra homes for council rent. Cressingham Gardens and Central Hill will also be part of this programme.
In each of these cases, we are both creating more housing, and addressing the poor conditions that many residents on those estates live in. We’re being ambitious in tackling the housing crisis. Not just talking about the need for more social housing, but actually getting it built, and families moved in. At the same time we have been working with residents on a set of Key Guarantees, which the council has now adopted. After extensive consultation with residents throughout the borough these guarantees represent the best offer in London: balancing the needs and aspirations of our existing tenants, leaseholders and future tenants.
For tenants who want to stay on their rebuilt estate, we’ll work with them to design their new home, large enough to meet their family’s needs, and their new estate. New homes will still have a lifetime tenancy, with identical succession rights as at present and with council (social) rents set in exactly the same way as for all current council homes in Lambeth. Alternatively, if they wish to move, they will be offered an existing council home or housing association home in Lambeth of their choosing through the council’s transfer scheme. We will provide a home with enough bedrooms to address any overcrowding and provide compensation to help with the cost of moving.
For resident homeowners, who elsewhere in London have just been given a cheque and told to go, we’ve put together a wide range of options to make sure that communities who want to stay together can stay together. Lambeth will provide an independent external market valuation of the home, with the ability to appoint a second value of the leaseholder’s choosing and at the council’s expense. Then we will pay 10% above market value and cover all moving costs: legal fees, stamp duty, mortgage fees to make sure that nobody ends up out of pocket. This can then be used to purchase a new home on the estate.
We’ll also work with them to design and build their new home. To ensure it is affordable, we’ve come up, through consultation, with four options – including rent-free shared ownership which will allow homeowners to move into a new home without paying anything extra; as well as support and options for anyone who can’t get a new mortgage or who faces problems with debt.
This means that nobody will have to leave their estate if they want to stay living there, and with our commitment to phasing rebuilding we’ll try to make sure residents only have to move once: from their current home to their new one.
Lambeth is, despite the complete indifference of the Tory government, building a new generation of council homes to help keep Lambeth families in Lambeth – and we’re doing this together with our residents. Rebuilding homes is a real challenge, but we are showing that it can be done in partnership and can keep existing communities together as well as supplying more homes for our residents.
Cllr Matthew Bennett
Cabinet Member for Housing