‘The best option for Central Hill’

15 March, 2017

Written by: Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet Member for Housing

Housing > Norwood area > Word from the Cabinet

Over the past two years we’ve been working with residents on the Central Hill estate to find a way to address the serious problems that many residents face with the quality and condition of their home.

Central Hill Estate, SE19: looking into the estate from Lunham Road

Next Thursday Lambeth’s cabinet will be asked to back a report, which recommends fully rebuilding the estate, building a new home for everyone who lives there, as the best option for the estate.

Across Lambeth we’re spending half a billion on improving our council housing, but following a government cut to Lambeth’s grant funding for decent homes of £100m we don’t have enough money to refurbish every home.

Fair for all Lambeth residents

Cllr Bennett standing in front of Central Hill EstateOn Central Hill the cost of refurbishing each home is almost three times the average cost for the rest of the borough. When money is tight we have to make difficult decisions about how to make the best use of limited resources. This isn’t just about pounds and pence, it’s about being fair to all Lambeth residents. The decision about Central Hill is about the rest of Lambeth too: for every home we could refurbish on Central Hill there’d be three others elsewhere who’d miss out.

Over two years we’ve looked at every option for the estate: analysing the costs of refurbishment, looking at infill housing, partial rebuilding and what full rebuilding could mean. We also spent a lot of time considering a proposal put forward by a campaign group, Architects for Social Housing, which didn’t address the fundamental question of how to provide Central Hill residents with better homes.

Consultation

Last autumn we consulted with tenants and leaseholders on the two feasible options: fully rebuilding the estate or returning the estate to the queue for refurbishment but with no certainty at all about when funding could become available.

The estate was split on the best way forward.

A majority of tenants supported rebuilding the estate, with 55% in favour and 34% opposed. A majority of leaseholders opposed rebuilding with 51% against and 31% in favour. Overall 49% of residents supported rebuilding with 38% against. As the figure’s suggest, there are also a lot of residents who are neither for nor against rebuilding, many of whom are waiting to see what the reality is rather than just the arguments.

Lambeth has promised to set the bar high on involving residents and keeping communities together and it’ll be on Lambeth to live up to that promise and win more trust and confidence in the coming years.

Best option

Looking at all the options, officers have recommended that the best option with the greatest certainty for tenants and leaseholders is to rebuild the estate. We can’t say when funding could become available to refurbish – and even if it became available tomorrow it wouldn’t address wider issues that residents face over accessibility, overcrowding or design that only rebuilding could. Rebuilding would also mean building hundreds of additional homes to tackle the housing crisis that London is facing as part of Lambeth Labour’s pledge to build 1000 extra homes at council rent.

More and better homes

We’re committed to improving the quality of homes for our tenants, even in the face of deep cuts to budgets from central government. A decision to rebuild the estate would see no loss of social housing and all tenants would be offered a new home, with a lifetime tenancy and council rents; while homeowners would have a range of options to stay on the estate in a new home without having to pay anything extra to the council. We can keep this community together and provide better homes.

Rebuilding Central Hill won’t be easy, and if a decision is taken to rebuild, it will be controversial for some people. But the alternative would be to leave tenants in homes that aren’t fit for purpose and to whom we can’t provide any certainty about if or when those homes could be refurbished. In the situation we’re in, with the resources we have, rebuilding would be the best decision for residents of Central Hill and would hold out the hope of more homes for local families when rebuilding is complete.

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