Residents of a council-owned housing estate in New Cross can begin voting later this week on Lewisham Council’s plans for demolishing and replacing their current homes in the latest such ballot since Sadiq Khan introduced new rules for securing regeneration funds.
Lewisham hopes to knock down the existing 87 dwellings of the Achilles Street estate together with some other nearby buildings and cover the same space with around 450 new homes, half of them “affordable” with the majority of those for letting at social rent levels, along with a near doubling of accommodation units for Goldsmith University students to 180 and additional commercial floor space.
The council has distributed its Landlord Offer to estate residents, which says all council tenants among them will be offered “a new modern home on the rebuilt estate” at the same level of rent, unless its number of bedrooms is different, in which case the rent will be set at the same level as homes of that size on the estate as it stands.
Residents housed in the Achilles Street estate temporarily will also be offered a new council social rented home on the site, and resident leaseholders, some of them direct beneficiaries of Right To Buy, will also be offered a new home and be able to invest the equity in their current dwelling in it. Social tenants and residents leaseholders who have cars will be allocated new parking spaces.
The council has said its demolition and rebuild plan will enable it to build “between 100-150 new council homes for Lewisham families in housing need”. A council officer report produced in December said there were “9,635 families in priority need on the housing register” and a “further 2,028 families in temporary accommodation and 600 in nightly paid accommodation”.
The council needs a majority of residents of the estate to vote in favour of its plans in order to receive financial support from Mayor Khan for going ahead with them. The council has been looking at increasing the amount of housing on its Achilles Street land since 2014, when it considered an “infill” approach, which it says could add only around 22 new homes.
The Landlord Offer says that the 225 “affordable” new homes will include 49 for current current tenants on the estate with rents set at existing estate levels and a minimum of 109 for social rent with rents set at Mayor Khan’s London Affordable Rent level, which is equivalent to what new social rent levels would be had the government not ordered successive one per cent reductions since 2015.
A further 47 future affordable are hoped to be Council-owned for social rent but might be the shared ownership or London Living Rent low cost home ownership products instead, depending the project’s viability. The final 20 homes would be earmarked for resident leaseholders, should they want them. The other 225 new homes would probably all be for sale at full market rates, to help meet the cost of the scheme as a whole, according to the Landlord Offer.
The Landlord Offer acknowledges that service charges for tenants might rise, notably to cover the cost of installing lifts, but adds that overall housing costs will probably be lower due to the new homes being more energy-efficient than those they would replace. The council says it hopes the layout of the site will enable some residents to move directly into their new replacement homes without having to move somewhere else in the short term.
Anti-regeneration campaigners have said the promises being made “are not legally binding” and expressed displeasure about residents being “given a glossy brochure” and “officials going door to door to gather support for a yes vote”. They say they “suspect many residents want” only “refurbishment of the existing estate”. The council says that some of the homes have “aged poorly”, with residents reporting “persistent issues with damp and vermin in many properties”.
The first five estate ballots held across London since Mayor Khan adopted them as a condition for funding support all produced votes in favour of regeneration. In four cases the landlord was a housing association and in the other it was Ealing Council.
Voting in the Achilles Street estate ballot is due to begin on Friday and end on 11 November.
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