London estates regeneration loses 8,000 social rented homes

Over the past decade 8,000 social rented homes have been lost in London through estate regeneration, says the London Assembly’s housing committee. Although the regeneration of London estates has almost doubled overall housing densities, the mix of tenures delivered has meant that the overall number of social rented homes has declined, its report concludes.

The report, Knock it down or do it up, was based on analysis of London Assembly data for 50 estate regenerations given planning permission between 2004 and 2014. It found homes for market sale had grown from just over 3,000 to more than 36,000, with intermediate housing levels also increasing. By contrast, social rented housing numbers decreased from just over 30,000 units to 22,000.

The change in tenure mix may create a more balanced community and make costly large-scale regeneration more financially attractive to developers, but there have been growing concerns that existing residents may be getting a raw deal in the process. Regeneration plans have given rise to protest activity at some London estates, most recently the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark. The report looks at how to improve the process of regenerating housing estates – including the decision of councils or housing associations to either renovate or demolish the estate.

The report gives guidance for community groups, councillors and housing professionals on working together to regenerate estates, and makes policy recommendations including:

  • Reviewing the level of the Mayor’s affordable housing grant
  • HM Treasury allowing councils to borrow against existing homes to reinvest in building new homes
  • Central government reducing the VAT disparity between refurbishment (20% VAT) and new build (0% rated).

Assembly member Darren Johnson, who chairs 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 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.”

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