London boroughs are delivering more public housing than at any time in the last 40 years, boosted by funding from the Mayor and the lifting of HRA borrowing, according t a new report.
The Public Housing; a London Renaissance report from New London Architecture (NLA) shows that 32 housing development vehicles have been set up since 2014 and 19 boroughs have wholly owned development companies and 7 have joint venture partnerships.
The report also points to increased trust and transparency in the community consultation process, better understanding of the wider context and emphasising design quality and a renewed sense of civic purpose from local authorities.
The findings show that for first time in several decades London is starting to see substantial numbers of homes being delivered directly by councils, aided by the recent pledge by the Mayor Sadiq Khan of £10 million to help councils boost their housing design and planning teams.
It says that the challenge of demanding housing targets relies on quality, and that engaging and empowering communities, in design, delivery and management must be the priority running through public housing projects from start to finish.
NLA’s research showcases projects which successfully rehabilitate perceptions of public housing and which work with communities to deliver much-needed homes. According to the research, local authorities are making better use of public land and working with the private sector and housing associations to deliver an increasing percentage of well-designed homes that Londoners need.
The research states, however, that councils still need to work together with private developers and housing associations in order to provide the number of new, high quality and affordable homes desperately needed in the capital.
The role of local authorities in delivering new housing has been recognised by Government by the reform of the Housing Revenue Account in 2012, the Localism Act of 2011 which allowed authorities to set up their own housing companies, and then in 2018, the lifting of the HRA borrowing cap.
‘Changes in Government legislation have permitted boroughs to build at scale for the first time since Mrs Thatcher stopped them back in the 1980s. Now, with the Government calling for higher quality housing, London is leading the way with well-designed housing with good space standards and robust materials,’ said Peter Murray, NLA chairman.
‘As a result of the Mayor’s London Housing Design Guide first published in 2010, homes designed in the ‘new London vernacular’ style have become a common sight right across the capital. New London vernacular homes are invariably built in brick, they have balconies, they form part of the street network and they are low and medium rise. The new London vernacular is the Georgian terrace of today,’ he added.
Speaking at the NLA report launch event, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse, said that public housing has to play a part in the challenge to deliver 300,000 homes a year. ‘Probably the biggest moral challenge we face in this country is fulfilling the promise to the next generation that we will build the homes for them which were built for us. We now know that bad housing leads to all sorts of other bad things for the people who live there and the people in the surrounding areas,’ he pointed out.
‘We have seen this across the capital and indeed across the country, that what we once thought was leading edge, world beating, innovative, pushing the envelope amazing architecture, actually turned out to be a social disaster and we are busy correcting that now. So there are lessons from that about what people can live in, what works, what fits and what harmonises with the way people want to live,’ he explained.
‘There is a resurgence in the provision of public housing and something that we are doing our best to encourage. As the NLA has pointed out, we have this enormous, historical target to hit and we are determined to try and do so by the mid 2020’s; 300,000 net new editions homes by the mid 2020’s and if we’re going to get there our broad philosophy is anyone who wants to build should be set free to build,’ he added.