Friday, 16 March 2018

A Green Vision for Housing in Lambeth

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A safe home that we can afford to rent or buy is a basic human need upon which all our individual and community wellbeing depends. 

And yet tens of thousands of people in Lambeth are currently in acute housing need, living in temporary or overcrowded, insecure homes – or forced to give over unaffordable amounts of their income in rent to landlords.

Thousands more who thought they had a secure home on a council estate – either rented or bought – are currently suffering great stress and uncertainty with the threat of demolition hanging over them.

There is no magic bullet to solving the housing shortage in Lambeth. The constraints put on local authorities by central government that prevent councils borrowing to build, or spending the receipts of right-to-buy sales on building new housing severely restrict their options.

But Labour-led Lambeth’s approach – to fund new housing by demolishing council estates and rebuilding with densely-packed flats and houses, much of it to be sold to investors in the private sector is NOT the only option.

While it may provide tempting investment opportunities for big money – and lucrative contracts for the consultants Lambeth employs to run the regeneration programmes - it provides very little extra housing that is genuinely affordable. And the cost to the families uprooted and the communities decimated is enormous.

Across London, in places such as the Heygate estate in neighbouring Southwark, this model of regeneration has resulted in the destruction of a local community only to be replaced by supposedly luxury flats, owned by wealthy investors, sometimes living abroad.

The needs of London’s nurses, cleaners, teachers, security guards, secretaries, mechanics, charity workers and small-business owners aren’t met by this approach to housing.
And while there isn’t one simple solution – there are alternatives.

A Green vision for housing in Lambeth includes:

Council Housing

  • A vote for residents in all regeneration schemes – as a condition of planning, not just the Mayor’s funding.
  • Make all regeneration resident-led, with funding for expert support for residents to plan their own regeneration and people’s plans, such as the one created by residents of Cressingham Gardens.
  • Commit to at least 65% affordable homes in any new council developments, with 50% at council rents.
  • All residents returning to regenerated estates to be offered equivalent new homes with the same housing costs and rights.No joint ventures or PFI schemes - council to run its own home-building projects and use private companies only as contractors, not developers squeezing profits from our plans.  
  • Bring repairs and major works in house and run more efficiently for the public benefit. No costly PFI schemes or partnership deals with big firms who do a bad job
  • Reform how council housing is run in the borough, with a much stronger voice for residents in decisions.
  • Make sure private renters in former right-to-buy homes on council estates are given full rights to be members of tenants’ and residents’ associations (TRAs).
  • Stop using property guardians in homes that are temporarily empty. Use these homes for temporary accommodation for homeless families instead.

Planning

  • Be firm on planning rules for genuinely affordable homes - and full transparency for all viability assessments.
  • Strengthen affordable housing targets in the new Local Plan to at least 65% to match the need in London, and make sure the definition of ‘affordable’ at 80% of market rates is abolished. All ‘affordable’ homes for rent must be either social rented or London Living Rent.
  • Prohibit ‘buy to leave’ and ‘buy to let’ investors from taking new homes away from Londoners, through lease conditions on developments that ensure homes are the primary residences of purchasers.
  • Find land and small sites for community-led housing and co-ops to build new homes. Give them long leases or ‘commonhold’ ownership at low cost based on the public benefit they bring.
  • Support and encourage community-led co-housing schemes for older people to help them downsize from much-needed family homes.


Renting

  •  Crack down on bad landlords by funding more environmental health officers, and carrying out more enforcement work on landlords and letting agents. This is even more important as the ban on fees to tenants comes in.
  • Support the formation of a renters union with start-up funding and promotion.


FIre safety
     Full transparency for fire risk assessments (FRAs) in council homes, private blocks and rented properties.
     Commit to fixing all outstanding fire safety issues identified in FRAs by 2020 at the latest.
     Invest in building control staff to check works on all homes are carried out correctly without compromising safety.

View A Green Vision for Housing in Lambeth as pdf
View Housing in Lambeth - the facts as pdf

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