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Why we’re rebuilding Cressingham Gardens

At one of the first resident workshops that I attended on Cressingham Gardens I met an elderly couple who live in a council home. They told me that they were among the first people to move onto the estate, with their children, over thirty-five years ago. Before they moved to Cressingham they were living near the top of a tower block in an overcrowded flat. They spoke movingly about the way that moving into a new home that was large enough for their needs completely changed their lives for the better. Across Lambeth we have thousands of families who are now in the same situation; for every family in one of our council homes in this borough, there’s someone else on our waiting list. The average waiting time for a two-bedroom home for someone in high-priority is between five and eight years. Everyone has started talking about the Housing Crisis; in Lambeth too many people are living it.

Over the last five years the number of new homes being built at council rent levels has plummeted in this country. First the Tory and Liberal government slashed the funding for new social homes, then they introduced so-called ‘Affordable’ rent at 80% of the market. In London this is totally unaffordable for people needing a council property. The market rent for a two-bed in central Brixton is about £350 a week, the average council rent in the borough is £109. It’s in the gap between these two rent levels that the housing crisis finds its victims and in Lambeth we’ve seen the number of homeless families in temporary accommodation rise from around 1300 last year to over 1800 today.

That’s why we stood for election last year on an ambitious pledge to build 1000 extra homes for council rent in the borough. This is more than have been built in a generation. If the government and the mayor of London won’t build, we won’t stand on the side-lines and watch the housing crisis get worse.

We’re looking at every available scrap of council land in the borough. On Somerleyton Road in Brixton we’re working with local residents to establish a housing co-op to manage over 300 new homes, with a mix of council, intermediate and private rented properties,  building a sustainable mixed community in an area rapidly becoming unaffordable. But there is very little spare land in a borough like Lambeth. Instead we have to look to our estates, many of which were built at a time when London’s population was much lower than it is today and was continuing to fall. Many estates are built to a low-density and we know we could increase the number of homes for council rent and help more families escape the grip of the housing crisis.

On Cressingham Gardens we’ve been consulting with residents for two years. First, on the cost of refurbishing the estate as part of a borough-wide £490m investment programme to bring homes up to the Lambeth Housing Standard, and second on increasing the number of homes. We’ve worked with residents on the costings of refurbishment and even on the most conservative and optimistic forecast it would cost three times what the council can afford just to refurbish existing homes.  And that won’t do anything to address the housing crisis we face.

Instead we will work with residents on plans to regenerate the estate. This will be a council development; the estate will not be sold to a private developer and all residents, whether tenants or homeowners will have the right to remain on the estate with options tailored to their needs. Tenants will have the right to a new home, at council rents, for their lifetime; resident homeowners will have the ability to buy a new home, or to take up a shared equity or shared ownership option if that better suits their finances.

We have the opportunity at Cressingham Gardens to build a new estate, fit for its time, giving families who are badly housed today the same chance at a new home as the couple I met on the estate last autumn did some thirty years ago. Given the scale of the housing crisis we face, it’s an opportunity that we must take.

Cllr Matthew Bennett

Cabinet Member for Housing

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commented 2016-03-28 10:37:59 +0100
Leon: I don’t think Lambeth Council has any control over population growth. As for buying land, a period of low interest rates is the ideal time to do it. Central government constraints are what is stopping it.

Lambeth is in a difficult position but the current policies of Labour in LB Lambeth will lead inexorably to it becoming demographically like LB Wandsworth where the Tories have ruled since 1976.

As Andrew said, can Labour really rely on its supporters and activists forgetting the arches, the short-life evictions, the estate demolition proposals and the parks? In the medium term, disillusionment with Labour may not let the Tories in, but there could be significant defections to the Greens and Poujadist parties like UKIP or AfD.

Lambeth also exhibits a distressing absence of any sense of responsibility for the architectural heritage of the Hollamby era. Can you really imagine today’s Lambeth coming up with anything of the calibre of Cressingham Gardens?

Sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/the-mayor-of-london-require-a-2-3-majority-of-its-residents-to-approve-the-redevelopment-of-a-council-estate?recruiter=422487482&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink
commented 2016-03-28 01:58:20 +0100
How about buying building land that has no buildings on. There are a quite a few of those in Lambeth
commented 2016-03-28 01:55:46 +0100
Did anyone ask us if we want an ever increasing population?
Perhaps asking Lambeth if they want ever increasing population density.
commented 2016-03-28 01:52:45 +0100
If Lambeth garenteed the communities stayed together and returned to their rebuilt homes, then, just maybe, Lambeth Labour would have a reasonable plan. But this is asset stripping the community for filthy Lucca. There is no good plan.
Most estates are wonderful examples of best practice in architecture. The new designs will be denser, less space less interesting and sold off to wealth people £500,000.00 Is not affordable. So incomers will gentrify the area undermining again the community’s in Lambeth.
The Special Purpose Vehicle is a nonsense and will end with Lambeth owning even less homes at a time of population growth.
commented 2016-03-27 21:57:02 +0100
Seamus, they’re not particularly worried about undermining their electoral base. They bank on sufficient numbers of estate-dwellers still voting “tribally” – as it were – for them to still carry the day come a local election. That’s not to say that they’re not worried at all, though. They wouldn’t spend so much energy rubbishing the lone Green councillor if they weren’t worried about competition from the centre-left on social issues, where our Progress-supporting cabinet are quite appallingly lacking in policy or conviction – despite the endless photo-ops of councillors “reaching out to the youth”.

They – Lambeth Labour – also don’t appear to grasp the degree to which other policies will impact on their voter base. They believe that “Save Brixton Arches” will be a distant memory in 2018, and that people will have forgotten the libraries and parks fiascos. Few of them appear to appreciate that their majority is based not on support for their particular policies, but on voters saying “anyone but the Lib-Dems and/or the Tories”. They take their majority as a mandate, but it’s nothing of the sort.
commented 2016-03-27 21:30:32 +0100
I have started a petition to require the new mayor ensures that estates can only be redeveloped with the approval of two thirds of the residents. https://www.change.org/p/the-mayor-of-london-require-a-2-3-majority-of-its-residents-to-approve-the-redevelopment-of-a-council-estate?recruiter=422487482&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink
commented 2016-03-26 20:42:19 +0000
This policy has all the potential for a slow burn disaster for the Labour Party in Lambeth. When LP members are sent out door knocking, where do they go? Council estates. Yet this policy is creating great ill-feeling and insecurity amongst all those who live on low density council estates, be they council tenants, private tenants, leaseholders or freeholders. Nobody knows where the axe will fall next. Zac Goldsmith has said that he will not support estate demolition if those that live there are against it. What does Sadiq Khan say? Nothing, because he knows that Labour councils are amongst the leading proponents. If the economic arguments put forward by Cressingham Gardens residents make no dent on Lambeth Council, are our councillors not in the least worried that they are undermining their own electoral base?
commented 2016-03-26 13:59:13 +0000
You ask a very good set of questions, Albere, as were those you asked on Monday night. A few corrections, though:

1) Crosby Walk has had SIX properties bricked up for 16 years, not 3. Six one-bedroom flats.

2) It’s not just Park View House in Lambeth council’s sights for CPO, it’s 126-138 Trinity Rise, too.

Of course it’s all about money, and very definitely about not “sharing it out” or paying the full cost (financial OR social) for what the council is doing. I spoke before you on Monday night, about the lack of any detail regarding special provision for elderly and/or disabled and/or vulnerable residents. I did so because the council’s own “Equalities Impact Assessment” details no strategy, no plans, no budget for such provision. This is because they’re hoping to minimise spend – a figure of roughly £1,000 per household is doing the rounds, which will barely pay for lever taps, door furniture and grab rails in each property, let alone anything more sophisticated.

What appears to be the intention behind the claims of developing a significant minority of the new build as “affordable” housing for rent, is for the council to tap into the private rental market, effectively becoming a private landlord – whether they choose to register as a social landlord (RSL) or not – in order to establish an alternative income stream, now that central government funding has decreased so markedly. It will be interesting to see the middle to long-term effect that this has on the political careers of some of the councillors involved, both here and at other regeneration sites in Lambeth.
commented 2016-03-26 11:16:43 +0000
Dear Mathew Bennett, please let me know why you have left 3 properties in a block of 6 on Crosby Walk, Cressingham Gardens, bricked up for 16 years whilst mouthing concerns over housing. Why have to not taken this opportunity to test prove your proposal by persuading the 3 resident occupants to vacate their homes and then redevelop that block into more homes? Then perhaps other residents would have been more persuaded by your intentions. Secondly, why cressingham homes are in disrepair is because you have mis-appropriated it’s rent money and not used it judicially for the upkeep of the estate and let it deteriorate as you have let the 3 Crosby Walk properties remain breeze-blocked for 16 years. Your rational is to create upheaval for 306 families by destroying their homes so you can increase house and population density, increase the value of the property portfolio and at the same time make it out of reach for those same families. Your actions are those of a private property developer except you have some elected office that can manipulate legislation to attempt to achieve his aim. This and you have your avaricious eye on my private property in Park View Court. You wish to destroy 6 homes and build 22 flats in their stead. You aim to force buy at a lower value than you will sell. If you offered £One million pounds it would cost £6 million, building 22 flats at say £200,000 each will cost £4,400,000 total £10,400,000. If you value the new build at say £600,000 that is £13,200,000. A net profit of £2.8 Million. What is this? This is called property development. This is what you want to do with Cressingham Gardens. Make money as a legacy for your career and business partners.It is one thing wanting to do this With a council housing estate it is another with private property. Yours is a money-making scheme. Maybe if you were sincere and shared the money out rather than try to make the many pay for the few to make the money, then perhaps you might get compliance. But not from me. I’m not interested in the equivalent of blood diamond money. This is blood-homes money. Sincerely, Albere Hanna.
commented 2015-07-14 00:32:46 +0100
This is an appalling idea and must strike the fear of God into any resident of a Lambeth low-density estate. Nothing that has been built in recent times matches the quality of the Hollamby era housing. Cressingham Gardens is a beautiful estate with a cohesive community. The replacement rate for houses in this country means they must last over 600 years. Where is the sense in tearing down 40 year old houses just to free up land? I f they are in bad condition it is because they have not been maintained. What likelihood that their replacements will be maintained?
Despite being a member of the Labour Party, if Lambeth Council demolishes it,, I don’t think I could ever vote again for a council presided over by the current leadership.
commented 2015-02-28 13:00:40 +0000
I’m disgusted but unsurprised at the spin that Cllr Bennett is putting on the Cressingham Gardens story (I live on the estate). Lambeth Council have been constructing a narrative about this since 2012 – a narrative that presents the council as having done its’ best for the people on Cressingham, when in reality what we’ve had are ineptness, evasions, elisions and downright incompetence. To name but a few recent instances:

We’ve had Cllr Marcia Cameron claiming at Housing Question Time (an event held in a church on Trinity Rise) that she’d spoken to tenants on the estate, which gave her the idea that the estate needed to be regenerated – no tenant has acknowledged speaking with Cllr Cameron.
we’ve had a farcical “households needs” survey conducted in mid to late February that couldn’t even set out its questions clearly – a survey that’s the subject of a complaint to the council and the polling company.
We’ve had the council representing the cost of refurbishment as “£14 million-plus” – Our own independent survey found the cost to be £7-9 million at worst.
We’ve had 6 flats empty and bricked up for 15 years, without any attempt at remedial work, based on a single survey that found subsidence/slip – the flats are still here 15 years later, and are eminently repairable, according to building specialists.

I could carry on, but frankly I’m not convinced that Cllr Bennett and his associates care about what those currently living on Cressingham Gardens think, except where the councillor can use a resident’s personal story as the basis of a bit of spin for his puerile apologia for his having decided (while we’re still supposedly in the consultation phase) to go with regeneration rather than refurbishment. And yes, I know how many people are technically-homeless in Lambeth. That’s not a justification for tearing up the green spaces on half a dozen estates for a PROJECTED net gain, especially given Lambeth’s past supine incompetence with regard to social and affordable housing gain on private developments.
commented 2015-02-27 23:56:37 +0000
Lambeth have sold off loads of social housing and have left properties to fall down through lack of care.
On top of that it has not bothered to act on its right to take over private landlords empty properties and house the homeless.
Its supported Blairite/Thatcher economics created by Milton Friedman that was totally at odds with the needs of the poor.
Where do you see this “trickle Down” effect.
In reality they have and continue to support the trickle up effect that will see more Quantative Easing that will make us all poorer while giving your wealth to banks. Yes the same banks that went bankrupt through their own greed and incompetence.
It is this that has caused the cuts and is why now the Labour council has to sell of homes and break up communities.
Of course the new homes will not be “affordable” to the less well off let alone the poor.
expensive new flat overlooking the park will not be going to the present residents. That make this complisit with social clensing. The poor dont deserve to live in nice places.

In truth Labour are still Following Thatcherite policies.
Its incompetence, lack of vision, lack of planning and shows their real disregard for people. But worse, far worse than that is that this shows that they have lost their ideals, they don’t instinctively know where they are going or what kind of economy will work or have any debate on the nature of society. Lambeth council are a self congratulatory bunch of nodding dogs, all inning up to slap each others backs while desperately trying to patch up the mistakes of last week.

I was in the council meeting of the 27th and one thing i did note is that the Labour 98% majority did not even have an alternative budget worked out! At least have a non austerity budget worked out just in case you win the general election would not be too much to ask.
Labour are carrying out Thatcherite policies wether told to or not.
Ask yourself, did the world get better after the election? No.

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