'Councils could create more affordable homes'

Published: 26 June 2013

London councils have the potential to create more than 10,000 affordable new properties by transforming disused spaces on estates into homes, according to Wandsworth’s housing experts.

The council has called on the GLA to urge local authorities across the capital to launch hidden homes programmes in a bid to help tackle the demand for affordable housing.

Wandsworth's pioneering programme sees formerly empty or derelict areas such as old laundries, store sheds, garages, or space on estates prone to crime or antisocial behaviour into new homes for rent and shared ownership.

The council has to date been able to develop more than 240 affordable homes using this cost effective approach, and has the potential to develop up to 100 additional homes with GLA funding to support the development of up to 26 units over the next three years.

One of the most significant developments to come out of the hidden homes programme has been the Rollo Estate, in Battersea, which recently featured in a list of the top 50 affordable housing developments in the country.

Housing experts in Wandsworth estimate that at least 10,000 new properties could be built if other London councils adopted the programme.

The borough's housing spokesman, Councillor Paul Ellis, said: "There's obviously no quick fix to the increasing demand for low cost rent and affordable homes in London but we think more can be done than we are seeing at present.

"Our hidden homes programme was designed to be an innovative response to this challenge and since its launch in 2002 has proven to be a great success.

"We believe that, if it was followed in other boroughs, thousands more homes could be built in the capital than we would see otherwise.

"It may not be a definitive answer to the demand for affordable housing- but it would certainly help create opportunities for more people to rent at a reasonable rate or get on the housing ladder.

"As well as proving incredibly cost effective, it has breathed new life into disused areas that sometimes attracted anti-social behaviour - and also helped create jobs in the construction sector."

The council created 38 family-sized affordable homes on the Rollo Estate by constructing lateral extensions to the four existing medium-rise blocks. These extensions house eight two-bedroom properties, 27 three-bedroom and three four-bedroom properties.

The development has an overall investment value of £7.5m and took twenty-two months to complete. It was funded by a £3.6m grant from the Homes and Communities Agency, with the council investing the remainder - and features on Inside Housing's list of the top affordable housing developments 2013.

Wandsworth Council urged the GLA to acknowledge the potential for hidden homes programmes to be launched across the capital in response to its council housing and social rented provision review.

To learn more about council housing in Wandsworth visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/housing or for housing-related advice email housingadvice@wandsworth.gov.uk.

Information on home ownership options available to council tenants and non-council tenants can be found at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/homeownership.