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Report: London loses 8,000 social homes in a decade

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London has lost more than 8,000 social homes in the past 10 years, according to a new report from the London Assembly’s Housing Committee

The report, Knock It Down or Do It Up looked at major estate regeneration schemes in London over the last ten years and concluded that although thousands of new homes have been built, there was an overall decline in those available for social rent.

For example, only 212 of the 2,535 flats being built in the footprint of the now demolished Heygate Estate (pictured) in Southwark will be affordable, with only 79 socially rented. The original estate had 1,194 socially rented units.

The Heygate development – which features in the report – is part of a £1.5 billion regeneration of Elephant and Castle led by developers Lend Lease, with practices including AHMM, Panter Hudspith Architects and dRMM working on the wider scheme.

The report comes amid news that developers are able to reduce commitments to building affordable housing in the city. Affordable housing rents are currently set at up to 80 per cent of local market rate.

Across the capital, multiple post-war housing estates are being redeveloped, and the report explores how to improve this process of regeneration by looking into the decisions of councils or housing associations to either demolish or repair an estate.

In addition, the document makes recommendations to the mayor and central government to allow councils to borrow against the existing housing stock in order to reinvest in building new homes, and for governments to reduce the VAT disparity between refurbishment (20 per cent) and new build (0 per cent).

Darren Johnson, chair of the housing committee, said: ‘Market homes play an important role in unlocking investment to plough into creating decent social homes, but the extent of the housing crisis means we need more homes for all income groups, not just the well-heeled. What’s also clear is that the most popular regeneration schemes are those where councils and housing associations genuinely engage existing residents in decisions, rather than taking important decisions about people’s family homes from behind closed doors.’

He continued: ‘We also heard of some examples where providers have gone the extra mile to work with their communities on regeneration schemes, and I hope councils, housing associations and residents will be able to use the report to build a two-way dialogue.’

The report also hopes to provide a guide for community groups, housing professionals and councillors to work together when regenerating an estate. The suggestions include creating a steering group of residents, and investing into comprehensive engagement with residents.

‘Knock It Down or Do It Up’ looked at the ‘major schemes’ in the capital, defined as housing estate regeneration schemes where there were over 15 existing units, including at least 10 affordable.

The table below shows the number of units given planning permission anytime between 2004 and 2014.

Tenure                                    Existing                      Proposed

Social rent                               30,431                         22,135

Affordable rent                        46                                1,832

Intermediate                            550                              7,471

Market                                     3,186                           36,163

Total                                        34, 213                        67, 601

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