Estate Renewal: Strategy, Community, Delivery

Poplar from Balfron

As far-reaching central government housing policies start to take effect, London interests are marshaling arguments and pleas ahead of the mayoral election. Add Lord Heseltine’s Estate Regeneration Advisory Panel, and this is the ideal time to act.

Specifically, this is the ideal time for London’s housing providers – boroughs, builders, housing associations and their partners – to jointly agree (a) what the most serious obstacles to estate renewal in London are, (b) what is needed to overcome them, and (c) communicate that effectively to regional and central government.

To do that, Future of London, together with Bilfinger GVA, Pollard Thomas Edwards and Lewis Silkin, is hosting a programme of senior roundtables, a briefing for targeted distribution, MIPIM and NLA events, and related visits.

As highlighted throughout Future of London’s Estate Renewal programme, escalating land values, vanishing grant and increased pressure on assets mean estate renewal is central 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 heaved again last year; more recently, there was the aftershock of the Prime Minister’s vow to “blitz” poverty, spending £140m 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.”

Where does the truth lie, and how do we address it?

If the people leading London’s housing and regeneration sectors agree that we must:

(a) shift gears rapidly from the approx. 24,000 homes p.a. currently being built to the 49,000 p.a. target (or the 59,000 LSE/Family Mosaic [PDF] and others have called for);

(b) house people in socially and economically mixed communities, to sustain our employment base and avoid the geographic ghettoisation that has characterised Paris and its banlieus and other less balanced world cities; and

(c) do so without much help from central government, and with election cycles in mind…

…estate renewal is still one of the most promising ways to achieve this. However, these programmes must be economically viable; socially and politically attractive; deliverable; sustainable in the broad sense; and coordinated to some degree across the capital. How do we get there?

To address these questions, Future of London is running three senior roundtables on Strategy (25th Jan), Community Relations (9th Feb) and Delivery (23rd Feb).

Sponsored by Bilfinger GVA, Pollard Thomas Edwards and Lewis Silkin and hosted by Bilfinger GVA, the sessions will culminate in a briefing for distribution online, at a GLA Housing & Land event at MIPIM, and through the partners’ wider networks. An 8th April NLA breakfast seminar will round out the programme, ahead of the mayoral elections.

We’ll post updates here and on Twitter. If you’d like to get involved, contact Future of London director Lisa Taylor via events@futureoflondon.org.uk.