Monday, 19 March 2018

Housing - winners and losers

Councillors in Lewisham were patting themselves on the backs last week after a Mayor & Cabinet meeting agreed to fund an increase in the number of affordable houses that will be built as part of the Tidemill redevelopment in Deptford.

It's difficult to know what sort of compromises have been made, what deals struck and where the money has come from, as the report was debated and the decision taken behind closed doors - a common procedure with 'commercial sensitivity' usually blamed. Councillors rarely, if ever, seem to challenge the decision to conduct proceedings in secret. Or perhaps that's just the unavoidable consequence of having no opposition.

In this case even the general gist of the discussion was kept under wraps ahead of the meeting, which could be considered rather draconian given that it's clearly in the public interest to know about these sort of things.

The council must however report the decision that it took, and it did so in the following way:

Having considered a confidential officer report and a presentation by the Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Damien Egan, the Mayor agreed that:

(1) the update on the Deptford Southern sites project, as detailed, and the progress in negotiations led by officers with development partners and the GLA with the aim of increasing the amount of affordable housing within the proposals be noted;

(2) the Council provides grant funding on the basis set out;

(3) the tenure of 43 homes on the Tidemill site be changed from private sale to London Affordable Rent (social rent) at a cost to the Council of £4,310,211 and 16 homes from private sale to shared ownership at no additional cost to the Council;

(5) the revised budget for the development, as set out, be approved; and

(6) authority be delegated to the Executive Director for Resources & Regeneration, in consultation with the Executive Director for Customer Services and the Head of Law, to negotiate and agree the necessary legal documentation in connection with the recommendations in this report.

Apparently this means that the redevelopment will now provide 104 new units for social rent - in addition to the 16 provided for those tenants whose flats will be demolished to make way for the new development - and 41 new units for shared ownership. 

The sound of mutual congratulations echoing round social media made it easy to forget the rather disappointing news that the housing select committee had just received the day before. 

A total of £40 million promised by the Mayor of London through his Housing Zones scheme to support housing provision on the New Bermondsey and Catford Town Centre redevelopment schemes has now been withdrawn because the developments are not progressing quickly enough.

In the case of New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal Road (aka the Millwall fiasco) most of the funding was intended to pay for the fit out of the new Overground station which locals have pretty much stopped holding their breath for by now. The plan was that £12 million of the money would pay for the station fit-out, enabling it to be built and opened very early in the phasing of the development. The contribution that developer Renewal would have been obliged to make to TFL towards transport as part of the Section 106 agreement would then have been diverted to fund additional affordable housing on the site.

But it's all about swings and roundabouts in the crazy world of funding. What the Mayor takes away with one hand, he (almost) gives back with the other. Lewisham might have pissed away their £40 million allocation, but according to the same report a new allocation of £10 million from a different fund has been approved for Catford scheme. Trebles all round!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand what happened with the surrey canal overground station?

They got 12 M funding but sat on it, didn't bother to start on it, and lost it again?
Why didn't they just build it already?

Was this because of some condition that it could only be build if the larger development around it was being build? I.e. is it because of the endless opposition of the locals/the football club that they now don't have a new station?

Or did they have to wait for network rail/TFL to be able to start?

Or is it simply a clusterf"&k by the council?

In any case it's a absurd story and bizarre they just wave criticism away in terms of "we can find funding other ways.."( x years from now)

Gary Williams said...

"Councillors rarely, if ever, seem to challenge the decision to conduct proceedings in secret. Or perhaps that's just the unavoidable consequence of having no opposition." This is precisely why I am standing as a Lib Dem candidate in Evelyn Ward. An oppositionless one party Borough is deeply unhealthy. Absolute power is corrosive.