Wandsworth to City Hall: get all London building Hidden Homes

Published: Monday 19th December 16

Wandsworth Council is calling on the Mayor of London to help other local authorities adopt its successful Hidden Homes programme, which could help deliver thousands of additional low cost properties across the capital.

A letter from Cllr Guy Senior, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Resources, to Sadiq Khan welcomes the £3.15billion funding package City Hall secured from central Government and the emphasis the Mayor has placed on delivering a range of new low cost homes for Londoners to rent and buy.

Cllr Senior asks the Mayor to ensure that more housing associations and councils in the capital are encouraged to make better use of their assets to meet the housing deficit, suggesting Wandsworth's Hidden Homes programme could play an important part in a London-wide delivery programme. This innovative scheme has seen 250 low cost homes built on council land to date, and with 300 more on the way. 

The Hidden Homes approach builds on underused spaces on existing housing land such as garages, undercrofts, rooftops or old boiler rooms, and with no land purchase required this means construction costs are reduced. 

Cllr Senior also refers to two council estate regeneration schemes in Roehampton and Battersea as a model other councils could follow. These projects guarantee all council tenants and owner-occupiers a newly-built home on their estate while also building many more for low cost rent and affordable home ownership. 

He also points to Wandsworth’s “self-build scheme for residents to build their own homes on council land…Right to Part Buy policy and a DIY shared ownership initiative” as examples other councils could follow.

The text of the letter is as follows: 

Councillor Guy Senior

Dear Sadiq,

I must congratulate you on securing the record sum of £3.15billion from the Chancellor for affordable housing in London, as announced following the Autumn Statement last month. 

This is very good news, and the pledge to build 90,000 affordable homes demonstrates the top priority that both the government and your office give to the issue of increasing housing supply in the capital. Our target is to ensure that a minimum of 18,000 homes are built in Wandsworth over the next decade. 

Your emphasis that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to affordable housing in London is also to be welcomed. As a long-standing local resident, you will know that in Wandsworth we have always encouraged a mix of homes both to rent and to buy in order to help meet ever-rising demand. 

A recent survey of private renters in Wandsworth revealed that two thirds of them rent because they can’t afford to buy. So, our approach is to enable and encourage development and in turn secure a steady supply of new affordable homes as a result. This approach has led to 501 affordable homes being built in the borough last year, well above the London average, and a further 1,742 forecast for the next three years. 

I would also hope that as London Mayor you will provide a signal to both housing associations and local authorities to use their assets and balance sheets to build new homes. Many housing associations in particular have the balance sheets to support significant levels of market and affordable housing development, and councils can do more to utilise their assets to the benefit of their existing and future residents. 

In this respect, our Hidden Homes initiative, which has so far built 250 new low cost homes on under-used council land and with another 300 in the pipeline, is something that should be adopted by all councils in the capital as a matter of urgency. Hackney, for example, has embarked on a similar, ambitious self-build programme, and I hope as Mayor you would urge all local authorities in the capital to follow our lead. 

We also welcome your draft good practice guidelines on estate regeneration and recognition in it of Wandsworth’s approach to involving local residents in the procurement process for our Winstanley and York estate regeneration scheme. This also benefits from Housing Zone status and I believe that Deputy Mayor James Murray was impressed with our plans and approach when he visited a few months ago.  

In Wandsworth, the council is playing its part in tackling the housing deficit and facilitating home ownership through Hidden Homes; a 3,000-home estate regeneration programme; a self-build scheme for residents to build their own homes on council land, a first for London; a Right to Part Buy policy; and a DIY shared ownership initiative, aimed at creating a new generation of homeowners. I would hope the innovation being shown by Wandsworth and its commitment to supporting new development across tenures sets the bar for others.

I must thank you again for recognising our efforts as a ‘fantastic example’ of council housebuilding at the Mayor’s Question Time of 19 October, which, to my mind, should demonstrate to all that providing new homes is a cross-party, non-partisan priority.  

Paul Ellis in on holiday but this is sent with his approval.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Guy Senior

Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Resources

Wandsworth Council

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