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Agree ‘basic parameters’ for estate renewal, housing leaders urge

Words: Laura Edgar
Estate regeneration / iStock

‘Significant’ housing and place-making potential could be unlocked in London if the future mayor and the government can agree “basic parameters” for estate renewal, according to a cross-disciplinary group of leading thinkers on housing.

This, the group said, can be done without the “blanket demolish and rebuild approach”.

The group, comprising not-for-profit policy network Future of London, property consultants Bilfinger GVA, Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects and law firm Lewis Silkin, has published a new report into estate renewal drawing on a series of roundtables held during the first two months of 2016.

Recommendations for central government listed in Delivering estate renewal: A briefing from London housing leaders

• Commission research and use existing data on the economic value of social housing to inform policy and consider residents as stake holders

• Assuming the Right to Buy programme “cannot be stopped”, options could be to rethink the structure, exempt London or at a minimum, loosen constraints on local authority use of receipts

• Acknowledge that London’s population and price pressures make it unique, and that the wider issue here is creating new homes as well as better ones; shift funding and energy to projects that will support this aspect of regeneration

• Free councils to build the homes their communities need by raising the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap and supporting staffing

• Support long-term programmes for communications and meanwhile activity to offset disruption and keep communities strong

• Clarify all aspects of the Housing and Planning Bill as soon as feasible

Delivering estate renewal: A briefing from London housing leaders follows a report released on Monday (7 March) by the London Housing Commission, which recommended that in order to double the housing supply in the capital, it requires more powers. 

Estate renewal is, the group said, among London’s “best hopes” for meeting its housing need and delivering good places is at “risk” of being pulled apart and “made even less popular”, unless “consistent approaches” can be agreed.

Gerry Hughes, chief executive of Bilfinger GVA, said the key to successful estate renewal is to “ensure a multifaceted approach and to embark on the process as you would in regenerating any neighbourhood”.

“We advocate taking a place-making perspective but with the added dimension of ensuring that the needs of the residents are at the forefront.”

Hughes said it should also be ensured that delivery is considered from the outset.

“We are seeing more and more creativity by local authorities in ‎working with the private sector to deliver their desired outcomes. Whilst they may not be appropriate in every instance, joint ventures are gaining traction as an approach to delivery that ensure the best use of assets and which can not only meet the local authorities regeneration ambition, but can also generate both revenue and capital,” he explained.

Andrew Beharrell senior partner at Pollard Thomas Edwards, added that the “successful regeneration” of the post-war estates that has been happening over the last 25 years is “under threat from a combination of ill-considered policies, market pressures and social discontent”.

These ideologies, Beharrell said, need to be put aside and new ways to deliver both local and wider strategic benefits from this “important public resource” found.

Lisa Taylor, Future of London director, agreed.

“This is the moment for London’s housing providers – boroughs, builders, housing associations, their partners and resident representatives – to speak out on obstacles to estate renewal; ways to overcome them; and options for engaging effectively with a central government which has prioritised starter home ownership over social renting and with mayoral candidates whose learning curve could be brutal.”

Image credit | iStock