Rebuilding Cressingham Gardens
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you rebuilding estates instead of refurbishing existing homes?
The 2002-2006 LibDem/Conservative coalition in Lambeth refused to take the Labour governments funding for upgrading homes and Lambeth’s housing estates needed major repairs. While Lambeth borrowed money to fund an investment of half a billion pounds, bringing thousands of council homes up to modern standards, there was not enough money to do this to every property. A 2011 Lambeth Housing Commission, which included tenant and right-to-buy representatives from across Lambeth, recommended a programme of rebuilding estates where refurbishment was unaffordable. This would rebuild existing properties at modern standards and provide much needed additional new council homes.
Has Lambeth Council built any new homes as part of these projects?
Yes – there are completed schemes at Akerman Road, Hillside Gardens, Vauxhall City Farm, Lollard Street and in central Brixton as part of the Your New Town Hall project, and with many more are underway at Somerleyton Road, Fenwick, Westbury, Knight’s Walk and South Lambeth estates. Plans have also been recently approved for new homes on the Central Hill Estate. The Homes for Lambeth scheme at Trinity Rise on the Cressingham Gardens Estate will deliver 100% affordable housing that meets modern standards.
When will a decision be made on what is happening on Cressingham Gardens?
The formal and legal decision to rebuild Cressingham Gardens was taken in 2016 and a Judicial Review by estate residents ruled the Council followed the correct procedures when making the decision to rebuild the estate. Whilst the masterplan for the whole estate has been delayed, the consultation on the Trinity Rise site is currently underway. Homes for Lambeth say they are looking for the remaining masterplan to be developed in the next year.
What is Homes for Lambeth?
Homes for Lambeth is a not-for-profit public housing company set up by Lambeth Council to correct the failures of the private development market to deliver new council and affordable homes. It is 100% council-owned and council-controlled explicitly to ensure we can deliver new homes while keeping them and the land they are on in public ownership. This means Lambeth Council can avoid having to either sell land to, or rely upon deals with, private developers and housing associations.
But isn’t Homes for Lambeth undemocratic and unaccountable to the Council?
Homes for Lambeth is explicitly 100% council-owned and council-controlled, functioning as a delivery arm of the council. The council approves HfL’s plan on an annual basis and it continues to be subject to full and democratic scrutiny by Lambeth Council’s committees, Cabinet and Full Council; with a specific cabinet advisory panel meeting quarterly to review performance and progress against the agreed plan. Homes for Lambeth is not able to act without council approval.
Why can’t the Council just borrow more money to pay for this instead of building some homes for private sale?
In the absence of a Labour government, who would properly fund council housing, Lambeth can only fund the construction of new council homes by building homes for private sale to subsidise construction. By building through Homes for Lambeth it has a programme over the next few years with minimal private sales and 79% affordable housing. Any surplus that would otherwise be taken as profit will be recycled back into delivering more council and affordable homes.
But didn’t the government change the rules on Council borrowing for housing?
While the government lifted restrictions on council borrowing for housing via what is called the Housing Revenue Account, any such borrowing must be paid back through the rents from council homes. This means that paying for new housing schemes solely through HRA borrowing is unaffordable due to the high costs to build them in Lambeth. HRA borrowing is also the main source of funding for the refurbishment and maintenance of Lambeth’s council housing. Over the past eight years the Council has already borrowed to deliver over £500m of investment in refurbishing council estates and improving homes, despite a decade of Tory austerity from Conservative and Conservative-led governments which took money away from the HRA.
Won’t existing council residents lose out if they move to a Homes for Lambeth property?
Existing council residents and those new residents living on the rebuilt estates will be protected by the “Key Guarantees” agreed by the Council after design and consultation with tenants and leaseholders. These guarantees include things like ensuring that rents are set at council level rents or guaranteeing residents in over-crowded properties that they will get a property that is the right size for them.
Won’t the homes you build just be sold on again through Right-to-Buy?
By building through Homes for Lambeth, this new generation of council homes is protected from the government’s Right-to-Buy rules. Over the past ten years of Tory government Lambeth has lost 787 council homes through the Right to Buy. Changing from the Homes for Lambeth model to a different approach will put the newly built extra council housing in Lambeth at risk of being bought out and sold on for private profit.
Doesn’t the Homes for Lambeth business plan put the Council’s money at risk like in Croydon?
The Homes for Lambeth business plan will see over a thousand new homes built by 2025, over half of them affordable and with 439 new council homes. This is the biggest council building programme in Lambeth for a generation and includes investing hundreds of millions in the local economy which will create highly-skilled jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities. The number of new homes was set as a cautious baseline, even in the past few months we have started to bring schemes to planning deliver more council homes than the business plan projected.