We asked Norwich City council how they financed the Goldsmith Street development, given that the last planning application from April 2017 was for 37 of the 105 dwellings to be for social rent. Since planning approval is dependent upon the financial viability of the scheme, how does a council turn 68 homes for market sale into social rent? The council refused to answer, but a bit of digging into the Norwich Regeneration Company, the council-owned development, management and lettings commercial vehicle, suggested some of the ways.
Of the 172 properties on the Norwich Regeneration Company's next 'flagship' development, Rayne Park, only 57 will be 'affordable'; and with an undisclosed breakdown of what constitutes that half of these could be for shared ownership, with the remaining 115 properties for market sale. So it's likely that these are cross-subsidising the 105 homes for social rent on Goldsmith Street. Across the two sites that would be something like 115 for market sale, 28 for shared ownership, 27 for affordable rent and 105 for social rent. That's still 38% for social rent, which is far better than we ever get in the London estate demolition schemes for which the rest of the Neave Brown Award nominees have been nominated.
However, following the privatisation of housing provision by Norwich City council, the Norwich Regeneration Company has introduced new conditions for would-be tenants, the first of which is that they are not claiming benefits. Moreover, Norwich City council also refused to reveal what happened to the previous residents of the 16 bungalows, 10 council flats, 2 wardens houses, and an unspecified number of homes from the Alderman Clarke House care home that they demolished to clear the land for the Goldsmith Street development.
In its wider context, Goldsmith Street is ahead of the blueprints for social cleansing provided by the disastrous Colville estate redevelopment, where Bridport House, which contains most of the small amount of homes for social rent that have been built so far, has been evacuated of tenants because of fears for their safety; or the Brentford Lock West Keelson Gardens development, whose 25 per cent homes for London Affordable Rent, which on average is 60% higher than social rent, somehow qualifies it for the Neave Brown Award. But as a privatised model of social housing cross-subsidised by market-sale properties and built on demolished council homes, it is a long way from providing a solution to the housing needs of the UK.
Architects for Social Housing