The hidden homes initiative

Hidden homes

Wandsworth Council's housing department is at the forefront in creating new homes through its pioneering hidden homes initiative, by transforming disused and problematic space on estates into good quality housing for rent and shared ownership.

Creating homes, reducing crime

The hidden homes initiative is a practical response to residents' concerns about disused areas on estates.

Some of these were dark, isolated or unobserved areas that served no useful purpose and sometimes attracted anti-social behaviour and increased residents' sense of fear or dissatisfaction.

Residents and the Council were united in finding a solution to these problems; the hidden homes initiative provided the solution.

The success of the initiative is that much needed affordable homes are created whilst crime is designed out of the community.

Abbott House

We have delivered our 250th Hidden Home in the borough after a 15 month project at Abbott House, Balham. We have built six new homes for affordable rent as part of our innovative Hidden Homes programme. Five homes have been created by building a roof top extension to the existing block with an additional home being developed from the conversion of a disused storage room. In addition, the low-rise block, at Nightingale Lane, has benefited from further improvements, including window renewal.

We have been able to deliver these properties with grant assistance from the Greater London Authority.

Rollo Development

The Rollo estate development in Battersea is our largest to date, with 38 family-sized properties. This brings the total number of hidden homes delivered in the borough to 238 since the Council's innovative scheme was introduced ten years ago.

Sixty-five have been created in partnership with Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT), with the remaining 173 created from the Council's own resources.

Sharing ideas

Since we completed our first hidden homes in 2003 there has been a steady stream of visitors to the town hall eager to find out how the programme works. 

By sharing a few of our affordable housing model we hope to encourage other councils to look at their own stock.

How the scheme works

The hidden homes initiative works by successfully transforming formerly empty, derelict and sometimes crime prone areas such as old laundries, store sheds, garages, parking, space under existing residential blocks and boiler rooms into new homes.

Local community benefits

It provides an opportunity to develop new facilities in some communities, such as playgrounds, improved parking and environmental improvements, whilst reducing maintenance and security costs in the process.

Type and size of housing created

Properties range from one-bedroom studio apartments, specially-adapted apartments for disabled people and/or older people through to family-sized homes and apartments for people with supported needs.

Most properties have been made available for rental. However, ten properties at the Cambalt Development in Putney were released for sale through the shared ownership initiative.

The team and partners

The housing department has utilised in-house skills across the council, worked with partners NHHT and across professional boundaries to address structural and technical problems to create homes we know have merit.

The hidden homes initiative has helped

  • Deliver homes that residents are proud of
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing for rent and for sale
  • Tackle the challenge of difficult spaces making the best use of the land we own
  • Reduce spending on anti-social behaviour and security which can be re-invested in the housing stock
  • Generate income
  • Attract external public and private finance
  • Create environments that no longer pose problems but are used and valued public spaces
  • Improve the environment and community safety for local residents in line with corporate objectives

More innovative design  

Traditionally, most hidden homes have been built at the ground and lower ground level. But the Council's approach to delivering affordable housing has become more inventive than ever in its quest to provide new homes for local people. For example, apartments have been created in an elevated position to the rear of a block, atop of roofs and as lateral extensions.

Funding

We finance the construction of hidden homes from the Council's Housing Revenue Account, creating 250 homes to date with a further 14 due over the next three years.

From 2007 to 2001 we sought partnership agreements and grant funding for some projects to ensure that new homes are developed. We worked in partnership with Notting Hill Housing Trust and the Homes and Communities Agency to deliver 65 homes.

Wandsworth Council continues to create homes through its own funds and the HCA grant system, as with the Rollo estate development.

Conclusion

The hidden homes initiative is an imaginative, efficient, sustainable and cost effective way of delivering affordable housing in London.

  • It contributes a significant number of new social rented homes and homes for purchase without the need to acquire new land or sites
  • It benefits the whole community by removing disused areas, reducing anti-social behaviour and fear of crime
  • It makes the local environment more appealing

Press interest

Our Hidden Homes initiatives has led to significant interest from the press and has cross-party political support. The Mayor of London's Housing Strategy 2010 supports the Council's hidden homes scheme, and a number of other councils have taken a keen interest in the model.

Next: Creating a hidden home