Wednesday 19 November 2008

Lewisham Homes "resident-led" programme of works

I suspect that some of the regular readers of this blog might be leaseholders or tenants of Lewisham Homes, the arm's length management organisation that took over ownership of some of Lewisham Council's housing stock a couple of years ago.

This is particularly relevant to Deptford, since the vast majority of its council housing - the Pepys and Evelyn estates which stretch west from the High Street towards the river, and the Crossfields estate on the east, among others, are all now owned and run by Lewisham Homes. And the Dame's limited experience, so far, had suggested that it was an improvement on the service offered when the council was in charge.

Those readers who are Lewisham Homes residents may well be aware of its ongoing 'resident-led' programme or works. Essentially, we were told earlier this year, we were being given £500,000 to spend on improvements to our estates, and residents were going to decide how it should be spent.

Individuals, residents associations and local groups were invited to put forward their proposals for improvements, and bid for a slice of the pie. At the end of the summer, the winning schemes were announced - and the funding was split between the north and the south of the borough. Residents were even involved in the judging panel which decided where the money should be spent.

Two projects won funding on Evelyn estate, the Dame's demesne. A community garden (nice idea!) and a dog run (unnecessary - we already have one and it has become a grubby, misused strip of mud). Letters were sent out asking for feedback from residents - did we think the projects were a good idea or not?

But one MAJOR piece of information that has been left out of all correspondence and publicity so far is the fact that leaseholders will have to pay towards these works! Only a thorough read of the article on the next to the last page of the recent Homes magazine revealed the true state of play.

Believe me, this has NOT been communicated to leaseholders. They believe, as they have been led to, that this money is 'free of charge' from Lewisham Homes. They are NOT expecting to see it in their maintenance bill next year, or the year after for that matter. And quite frankly, in the case of a dog run, why should they?

According to our leasehold agreement, we must pay for the upkeep and repair of the building in which we live (fair enough, even if sometimes the charges NO WAY represent value for money, but that's for another day), and we must also pay for the MAINTENANCE of the estate on which we live. I understand that to mean cutting the grass, picking the litter, mending broken fences etc. Not building a community garden or a dog run.

Aside from anything else, to offer money for improvements and then ask leaseholders to pay towards it is a very divisive policy: tenants who want to see improvements will be pushing the schemes while leaseholders will be resisting them or resenting them. Not the best way to create and strengthen communities.

Despite being an out-and-out cynic, I suspect the failure to communicate this information properly is the result of a cock-up rather than a conspiracy. But it is shockingly lax of our freeholders to let this slip through - especially since they have scored very low on services to leaseholders in the past. It does suggest that they are not getting any better.

A campaign is being launched by leaseholders against this inappropriate levy; for more information contact me at the email address shown in the left hand column.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hello deptford dame, i'm a student journalist at goldsmiths and i'm really interested in this story - i've spoken to lewisham homes and even they don't really seem to understand what's going on. could you speak to me a bit more about this?

please email me on - i'll be intermittently at my computer all day, so i'll get back to you asap. thanks!