Estate Renewal: making the case for London

Estate renewal London

As the Housing Bill moves through Parliament, the Heseltine Estate Regeneration Panel gears up and the mayoral election looms, 60 of London’s most experienced housing providers have come together to agree the most serious obstacles to estate renewal in the capital, and the best ways to overcome them.

Through January and February, Future of London, together with Bilfinger GVA, Pollard Thomas Edwards and Lewis Silkin, hosted a series of roundtables which gathered practitioners representing local authorities, housing associations, tenant groups, developers, researchers and consultants.

They assessed the state and potential of the capital’s renewal programmes through sessions on  Strategy, Community Relations and Delivery. Recommendations for London include:

  • Raising the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap to allow boroughs to build more
  • Allowing London exemptions to Housing Bill requirements, including for Right to Buy, starter homes and council high-value asset sales
  • Funding community and employment ‘meanwhile’ programmes for long-term schemes
  • Supporting staffing, training and best-practice initiatives for regeneration and housing
  • Reviewing social-housing policy to include the economic contribution residents in this tenure make to London

As highlighted throughout Future of London’s Estate Renewal programme, escalating land values, diminishing grant and increased pressure on assets mean estate renewal – despite its complexity and slow pace – is still one of the keys to addressing the capital’s housing crisis, particularly for the affordable tenures London’s employment base needs.

With the Housing Bill and Autumn Statement, the ground beneath housing provision nationally heaved again last year; more recently, there was the aftershock of the Prime Minister’s vow to “blitz” poverty, with a promise of £140m in loans to kickstart the replacement or refurbishment of 100 of the country’s “worst” estates.

In addition to the ongoing curb the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap places on council home-building ambitions, the extension of the Right-to-Buy scheme plays havoc with estate refurbishment programmes and, coupled with rent reductions, with housing associations’ financial planning and independence. The London-wide top-slice of councils’ most valuable residential assets looks likely to further hobble public-sector ability – and will – to build.

Citing quite different obstacles, David Cameron claimed that failed estate regeneration efforts had been stymied by “a raft of pointless planning rules, local politics and tenants’ concerns about whether regeneration would be done fairly.”

Delivering Estate Renewal in London assesses the rationale for and obstacles to estate renewal, and includes the recommendations above, along with specific calls to action for central government, the Greater London Authority and new mayor, and the housing sector itself, from councils to builders.

This briefing, issued to policymakers and opinion leaders as well as online for public review, will be followed by briefings at MIPIM and an 8th April NLA breakfast seminar. Future of London will continue to share best practice on this front via our broader network.

Downloadable PDF: Delivering Estate Renewal in London