BY TOBY PORTER
Town hall chiefs will lend at least £300m to a new housing company over the next five years to kick-start an ambitious plan to build up to 2,000 more homes
Lambeth council’s cabinet on Monday agreed to create Homes for Lambeth (HfL), which will also replace 1,300 poor quality houses and flats over the next decade.
The report on the plan reveals there are currently 23,000 people on the borough’s waiting list, and 1,300 families are living in “severely overcrowded” homes.
The company is expected to borrow up to £300m for the first phase of three estates and housing developments so it can build more than 300 new homes.
The council will be the only shareholder and will create a committee for “ongoing democratic oversight”.
A cabinet advisory panel, called the Ownership and Stewardship Panel (OSP), will act as a watchdog over its activities.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the council and the new group of companies has already been drawn up, along with a business plan for the new group of companies, taking it through to March 2019.
A report to cabinet on Monday said: “The establishment of HfL will enable the council to build more genuinely affordable homes than would be achieved by partnering with other developers or housing associations.
“The surpluses – such as 20 per cent profit – that would otherwise be extracted by the private sector can be recycled by HfL back into delivering more affordable homes.
“HfL would be a new council-owned house building and management company, to build and manage more and better homes, to help reduce the substantial pressures on the council’s housing waiting list and to improve the lives of those residents currently living in poor quality and overcrowded homes.
“By developing through HfL, land will be maintained in effective public ownership, and HfL will enable the council to build and own homes for market rent with longer tenancies, better management and more security than many Lambeth residents are able to access.”
The report sets out the housing issues ahead for the borough. “Housing represents one of the greatest challenges facing Lambeth,” it said. “It is an issue that links all three major themes of the Lambeth Borough Plan (2016-2021) – Inclusive Growth, Reducing Inequality and Strong and Sustainable Neighbourhoods. Over the past few years house prices have risen by 47 per cent in Lambeth, putting home ownership in the open market out of the reach of an increasing number of local people. Private rents have risen by 27 per cent, with an average two-bed flat in the borough costing nearly £1,600pcm.
Combined with reductions in benefits, many families find themselves priced out of the community they know and love.
“Despite being one of the most effective boroughs in London in preventing homelessness, we have seen the number of homeless families needing temporary accommodation rise to over 1,800, including almost 5,000 homeless children.
“The council wants to make sure that the residents of Lambeth can continue to live in the borough in which they grew up, to enable communities to stay together. At the same time, the council’s planning policy seeks to make sure that urban regeneration and new developments give rise to socially mixed communities in the borough.”