Issue - decisions

Investing in better neighbourhoods and building the homes we need to house the people of Lambeth – Cressingham Gardens Estate

29/03/2016 - Investing in better neighbourhoods and building the homes we need to house the people of Lambeth – Cressingham Gardens Estate

The Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Matthew Bennett, introduced the item and noted that it had been four years since the Council first started speaking to residents.  Lambeth council tenants deserved high quality, affordable homes that met people’s needs, and in 2012 Lambeth launched the Lambeth Housing Standard (LHS) as an aspiration not a legal minimum.  The LHS programme cost £500m in 2012 with a £56m funding shortfall, increasing to a £85m shortfall in 2016, with a further £30m to come out in the next four years, and the Housing and Planning Bill would add further pressures.  This meant that not all estates could be refurbished, but the Council was committed to providing decent homes and was having to make difficult decisions in the wider public interest. 

 

Surveys on the estate highlighted higher than average costs of refurbishment, but the case for diverting funding from other estates had not been made and it was not fair to spend double the average LHS cost on the estate.  The refurbishment options were not favourable, but option 5 would see all current homes retained, with no loss of social housing, new homes for each tenant at council rent levels and enough bedrooms to meet the overcrowded conditions as reported by a quarter of residents.  47% of homes would be affordable properties at council rent levels with a lifetime tenancy; with 75 extra homes including 27 family sized homes.  The Council was committed to 1,000 extra homes to house the 21,000 persons or 1,800 families in temporary accommodation.  The consultation (page 223 of the agenda pack), detailed the breadth of opinion and Cabinet was in no doubt about the strength of feeling, but existing tenants would get the homes they need, and a full assessment of the People’s Plan (Appendix J of the appendices pack) was provided in Appendix E. 

 

Neil Vokes, Assistant Director for Housing Regeneration, highlighted paragraph 1.27 setting out the high court judgment and paragraph 1.30 setting out the new round of consultation.  All five options had been reconsidered by residents and the responses were provided in the agenda.  158 additional new homes were to be built; with paragraph 3.7 detailing the finances and positive cash-flow. 

 

Sue Foster, Strategic Director for Neighbourhoods and Growth, advised Cabinet to note the addendum, correcting paragraph 9 of the main report and paragraph 1.19 of Appendix A.

 

Cabinet received representations from the following residents and representatives: Gerlinde Gniewosz, Nicholas Greaves, Georgios Sidiropoulos, Chin Ong, Tom Keene, Andrew Plant, Ann Plant, Helen Carr, Ashvin De Vos, and Albere Hanna who made the following comments:

·         councillors and officers had come to workshops unprepared, needing details explained, and could not answer, or did not reply to questions and a full enquiry was requested into the financial models, due to the lack of transparency;

·         the People’s Plan was not considered in any detail and was rejected after a short review and analysis;

·         the Council’s response to the People’s Plan had been inaccurate and residents had not received questions in response.  Furthermore, 250 pages had been excluded from the agenda pack, including the judicial review judgment, green-retrofit analysis, Tall survey summary, poor levels of maintenance and financial information showing that the Council could afford refurbishment even with Housing Revenue Account pressures and rent reductions the specific details of funding and cash-flow models were not included in the reports;

·         the Net Present Value (NPV) for option 5 was negligible meaning that minor cost overruns (such as adaptations or delays) would make this value negative, whilst there appeared to be omissions of costs such as the weather-tight repairs for option 5;

·         the Council’s proposal was unaffordable for residents and calculations did not include service charges, whilst the high market rents were greater than most residents’ yearly income for higher density, poorer quality builds;

·         only a fifth of Cressingham Gardens residents’ rental income had been returned to the estate;

·         viability workshops had informed leaseholders to expect £35,000 bills, which they were now receiving through section 20 notices;

·         the key guarantees stated no residents would be worse off, and in most regeneration schemes existing tenants got to keep existing tenancies, but were expected to lose current rights; and proposed tenancies also gave the Council increased powers to evict;

·         there was no mention of freeholders in representatives’ meetings;

·         under shared ownership freeholders became tenants, as they would struggle to get new mortgages;

·         regenerated estates required freeholders to be offered freehold replacements and the Leader of the Council had stated in July that freeholder swaps were viable, but this had not been progressed;

·         freeholders were not being offered the pre-existing market value for their properties and the new homes would not be affordable;

·         there were plenty brownfield sites in the borough and in London, and these should be used to meet the housing crisis instead;

·         residents were promised financial information in 2014 which was supplied in 2016, officers had shifted goalposts and changed the scope of consultation, which was not a collaborative exercise, and residents did not feel listened to by the Council;

·         the estate had a higher proportion of disabled persons than average and Equality Impact Assessments and supporting evidence did not sufficiently address concerns whilst the Council’s approach and handling of disabilities were questioned. 

·         the council could use the car parks as these amounted to five football pitches of space, and the Architects for Social Housing (ASH) confirmed that it was possible to convert these into housing.  

·         the People’s Plan was sensitive of needs, environmentally friendly and sensible. the process had been extremely stressful for residents as their homes were planned for demolition, and they were unhappy that they were paying for austerity;

·         concerns were expressed that Park View Court residents had not been informed of the Council’s plans (agenda pack, page 19) on the agenda pack as no notification had been received;

·         that Park View Court was targeted as a potential land purchasing opportunity and was not taking into account resident’s desires;

·         four derelict houses had been left empty for 16 years, which could have been used  to help in meeting the borough’s housing needs residents, including children, elderly and those of poor health, of both Cressingham Gardens and Park View Court had experienced considerable anxiety over these proposals.

 

Cabinet also heard from Councillor Tim Briggs, Leader of the Opposition; and Councillor Mary Atkins, Tulse Hill Ward councillor:

·         Councillor Tim Briggs noted that the UK needed more housing, but having 21,000 persons on the housing register when only 6,000 people were actively bidding should not be used as a reason for demolition; nor were these proposals present in the Labour manifesto.  In particular:

·         the report stated that the consultation had gone on for too long and that residents had become disengaged, the implication from the report being that it was the Save Cressingham Gardens Group that was preventing progress;

·         it was inappropriate for Lambeth to say that it was a 'claim' that 86% of residents wanted refurbishment when the judicial review judgment had confirmed that the consultation was inadequate, so the council's figures had no authority;

·         it was meaningless to say that 'the council had made commitments to residents...to ensure, 'as far as possible' that they can remain living on the estate';

·         tenancies were either assured or secured, and these were set by Acts of Parliament, and calling them something else was spin;

·         Lambeth had received £100m for its Decent Homes programme over 2012-16, the largest given to any local authority in the UK;

·         value for money was not being achieved and using subcontractors for capital works often led to inflated quotes as a result of the Council being tied into contracts; and,

·         the Council said it could not afford repairs, but proper repairs had not been done for many years, noting that Wandsworth had upgraded all of its social housing, and the Council was using the poor state of repairs, a situation it had created, to justify demolition.

·         Councillor Mary Atkins reiterated concerns over rent rises and tenancy types, and the deals provided to leaseholders and freeholders; but the real concern was that current residents would be unable to live on the regenerated estate.  Once in the masterplanning process, the individual needs of vulnerable tenants would need to be a priority.

 

In response to questions and comments, Neil Vokes, Assistant Director for Housing Regeneration and Rachel Sharpe, Director for Housing and Communities, stated that:

·         only local authorities could grant ‘secure’ tenancies and so where other boroughs had undertaken estate regeneration in partnership with housing associations then the new homes were let on assured tenancies;

·         the Council was proposing to set up a housing association as part of Homes for Lambeth,  so it would offer assured tenancies on a lifetime basis which would be as close to a secure tenancy as possible;

·         rental prices would be treated exactly the same way as current council rents, with a 1% reduction over four years, thereafter the target rent formula would be used and so was no different from the current method;

·         meeting the need of vulnerable residents could be built into the key guarantees and put into development costs;

·         Savills had been appointed to support the Council in registering the housing association (Homes for Lambeth), this was a technical registration process with the Homes and Communities Agency and therefore it was not felt necessary to involve residents in this particular procurement;

·         freeholders had not been involved earlier during the process and that omission had been acknowledged, it had now been corrected and included in plans, with freeholder documentation and advice now provided separately;

·         Council figures over maintenance works were correct, with the maintenance costs accounted for within the model as a proportion of the gross rents;

·         the People’s Plan had been assessed in the same way to the other options as detailed in Appendix B. The specific points for its refusal were around the technical assessment (particularly the proposed homes in the underground car park having issues with floor-ceiling heights), servicing for properties, providing good quality homes and that it would create single aspect homes;

·         the People’s Plan also proposed 2-bed 3-person homes, whereas the Council would prefer new build homes to be 2-bedroom 4-people dwellings.   In regards to the modular homes being proposed in the undercroft parking area, the Council had benchmarked costs against similar schemes elsewhere and this indicated the People’s Plan build cost of £50k per unit was inaccurate;

·         Cabinet had previously agreed a pipeline of funding (£25m) to deliver new affordable housing in borough. This funding was being used to cover masterplanning and design costs, and was spent by Lambeth Council and not gifted to Homes for Lambeth;

·         the Council was very conscious to pick up the specific needs of disabled and vulnerable residents, whose individual needs were not detailed in the report.  However, the Council would seek to design homes for people around what their needs were and would include all specific mobility issues.  These would be monitored under continuing  Equality Impact Assessments;

·         that Park View Court residents had been written to and invited to the consultation events, and the next stage of the masterplanning process would decide whether to include Park View Court in the regeneration plans.

 

Cabinet Members made the following comments:

·         Councillor Jackie Meldrum, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, noted the importance of stable homes and that private tenants were least likely to have this stability Concerns were raised over the lack of key guarantees for disabilities residents which needed to be addressed. 

·         Councillor Paul McGlone, Deputy Leader (Finance and Investment) considered the financial modelling in great detail and it demonstrated that the regeneration option was the only viable and affordable option for the estate. 

 

The Leader of the Council noted that the strong feelings of participants and that the Council was challenging both the financial work and the Housing and Planning Bill, but that there was no enquiry planned for Lambeth’s financial models. 

 

RESOLVED:

(1)    To authorise the redevelopment of the entire Cressingham Gardens estate, in accordance with the approach set out in Section 2 of this report and to procure a development management team to progress the redevelopment of the estate.

(2)    To implement the Key Guarantees as included in Appendix K (pending any improvement to the Key Guarantees through further consultation with residents) and to negotiate purchase of leaseholder properties under the shadow of a compulsory purchase order (CPO), as set out in paragraphs 2.6 and 2.7.

(3)    To authorise inclusion of additional land holdings within the masterplan for Cressingham Gardens estate, where such land lies on the boundary of the Estate, and where such inclusions can be shown through the masterplanning process to improve the place-making outcomes and/or deliver a net increase in the number of homes (see paragraph 2.6).

(4)    To require officers and the procured development management team to work closely with residents in the procurement and formulation of the masterplan, including a phasing strategy and a local lettings policy for the Estate.