Suggestions made to future-proof key council services
Westminster City Council has agreed to all 31 recommendations in the Future of Westminster Commission’s Housing Review.
The council’s Cabinet agreed to the key suggestions and is now looking at how to take those forward, do further development work, or consider as part of other plans.
The Future of Westminster Commission was tasked to review and make recommendations on the delivery of key council services.
Within the Housing Review, which was conducted by residents, experts and local leaders, three lines of enquiry were created for the Commission to advise on:
• increasing the supply of genuinely affordable housing to meet housing need in the city;
• options for improving the way the Council responds to homelessness and housing needs;
• the quality of services provided to the Council’s own tenants and leaseholders.
Recommendations from the review include property MOTs for vulnerable residents, a tenants’ charter and a stricter definition of affordable housing. The report also outlines where changes could be made to better support those experiencing homelessness and those sleeping rough in central London.
According to the report, on current estimates the council must plan to have at least 3,200 good quality Temporary Accommodation (TA) units by 2024/25 and capacity to place at least 650 households each year into TA.
Of the current 2,800 households in TA, around 1,150 are in Westminster, 1,650 are out of borough, including 90 out of London.
The report identifies that Westminster is reliant on leased private sector properties to provide TA (75%). Only 10% of TA is owned by the council itself. The report notes the council has made a huge commitment to acquire permanent properties for use as a TA, worth £168m between 2023-2027, but says the council should go further if it can to maximise the General Fund capital budget available.
The Commission recognised many of the new policies the council has adopted in recent months, namely, shifting the emphasis away from building intermediate homes toward creating more social housing and the creation of a Corporate Housing Improvement Programme which will enable the authority to adopt many of the recommendations set out in the review.
The Future of Westminster Commission’s Housing Chairman, Steve Hilditch, said: “Our review of Housing contains a really positive progress report on what the council, supported by the Commission, has achieved in the first year of administration.
“But we’ve also sets out some challenges for the future. It is vital to keep up the pace of reform, an excellent first year needs to be followed by even more intensive action, delivering all the initiatives that have been started, especially in housing supply where the council’s mission must be to make sure that no opportunity to provide social rented homes is missed.
“Investing in homelessness services will be critical because numbers are likely to continue to rise. The key areas are prevention, making sure decision-making is as good as it can be, and providing more support to households in temporary accommodation.
“It’s also vital that we see investment in services to tenants and leaseholders, especially repairs. The council is doing innovative work on damp and mould but must ensure that the scale of activity meets the scale of the problem.”
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One in three adults in Britain (34%) are now impacted by the housing emergency, with race, disability, sexuality and socio-economic status all barriers in the fight for a safe home.
The figures are revealed in new research by housing and homelessness charity Shelter, who questioned 13,000 people in detail about their home and housing experiences.
Their findings, combined with the latest government data on homelessness, exposes the true extent of the housing emergency. The report, called ‘Denied the Right to a Safe Home’, reveals when children are factored into the results, the number of people affected by Britain’s housing emergency rises to 22 million.
As well as the scale of the crisis, the gross inequality in the housing system is also exposed.
Race: Black people are 70% more likely to be impacted by the emergency than white people; and Asian people are 50% more likely. 1m Black adults (57%) and 1.8m Asian adults (48%) do not have a safe or secure home compared with 33% of white adults.
Disability: 54% of people with a significant disability (1.8m adults) do not have a safe or secure home, compared with 30% of people without a disability.
Single mothers:65% of single mothers (1m adults) do not have a safe or secure home, compared with 37% of two-parent households.
Socio-economic status: Low-income households on less than £20k a year are 70% more likely to be impacted than households earning £40-45k a year. (4.7m adults on a low-income do not have a safe or secure home.)
Sexuality: 40% of gay or lesbian (287,000) and 49% of bisexual people (201,000) are impacted by the emergency, compared with 32% of heterosexual people.
The charity’s research also reveals the biggest issues people face with their housing. 11.8 million people (23%) are living in homes with significant damp, mould and condensation, or that they cannot keep warm in winter. Unaffordability and insecurity are two other key issues; four million people (8%) report regularly cutting back on essential items, like food and heating, to pay their housing costs. And four million people (8%) state they are worried about losing or being asked to leave their current home.
Shelter’s report concludes Britain’s housing system is unaffordable, unfit, unstable and discriminatory – a situation made even worse by the pandemic. To end the escalating housing emergency, it wants the government to build at least 90,000 good-quality social homes a year.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Decades of neglect have left Britain’s housing system on its knees. A safe home is everything, yet millions don’t have one. Lives are being ruined by benefit cuts, blatant discrimination and the total failure to build social homes. 23% are living in homes with significant damp, mould and condensation.
“Shelter believes a safe home is a human right, but the pain and desperation our frontline staff see every day shows this is still a long way off. That’s why we are fighting for the single mum who has to put her child to bed in a room covered in mould, and the disabled man living on the twelfth floor with a broken lift. We are fighting for everyone impacted by the housing emergency – and as we emerge from the pandemic, we want the public and politicians to do the same.”
Find out more about the research and report findings here.
England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for people in later life, Anchor Hanover, has been chosen to deliver the UK’s first purpose built and co-produced LGBT+ housing scheme.
The project, in Whalley Range, south Manchester, (the site was formerly a Spire Hospital) will deliver more than 100 apartments for people aged 55 or over, with a mix of affordable rent and shared ownership tenures.
Anchor Hanover’s Extra Care housing schemes have essential services on-site for their residents, such as care and catering, which help their communities continue to live independently as their needs and lifestyle change.
The Russell Road facility is being developed in collaboration with a local Community Steering Group – made up of members of the council, councillors, local residents and importantly members of the LGBT Foundation.
Anchor Hanover was selected to develop the scheme after demonstrating their experience in delivering similar projects, including New Larchwood, an LGBT+ inclusive retirement housing scheme in Brighton, and showed an ambition to create a facility that meets the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) people in Manchester.
Subject to Anchor Hanover Board approval, the organisation will invest approximately £20m to develop the facility.
Anchor Hanover currently has 110 housing locations in Greater Manchester as well as a large programme of retirement developments across England.
The housing provider’s head of new business, Charles Taylor, said: “We’re delighted to be working on this innovative new Extra Care retirement housing project in Manchester, to deliver accessible homes in a place where there is a thriving LGBT+ community.
“We look forward to collaborating with Manchester City Council and the LGBT Foundation to develop a place where people can continue to love living in later life.”
Manchester’s older LGBT+ population is growing. There are more than 7000 people in Manchester over the age of 50 that identify as LGBT+ and this figure is expected to rise over the next two decades.
An LGBT Foundation report, commissioned by Manchester City Council, indicated higher levels of loneliness and isolation amongst LGBT+ older people, experience and fear of discrimination in existing accommodation and a desire for affordable, accessible LGBT+ specific accommodation where they can be open about their identity in later life.
Paul Martin OBE, CEO of the LGBT Foundation added: “It’s fantastic to see the LGBT Extra Care Scheme move forward into the next stages of development. Everyone deserves access to safe, affordable housing where they can be sure they feel secure and welcome.
“Many older LGBT people have grown up in a world hostile to their identities, and are worried about their future, particularly if they are likely to require care in later life.
“This scheme is a vital and exciting step forward for our communities and the Learning Journal will track our journey and share recommendations for other schemes that will follow.”
An online Learning Journal has been created to track the journey of the development of Manchester’s LGBT+ Extra Care scheme, starting from the early discussions over five years ago.
It’s hoped that the journal will give other regions an insight into what has worked and what can be done differently as they plan their own housing solutions for older LGBT people.
Cllr Bev Craig, Manchester City council’s lead member for adult health and well-being, said: “Manchester was proud to be the first place in the country to announce such a scheme so it’s great to see this scheme come to fruition. Our ambition came on the back of years of research and engagement with older LGBT+ people.
“We’ve been working closely with the LGBT Foundation and local people for some time to ensure the site, location, the principles of the scheme, and eventual design principles work – both for the LGBT+ community, but also for the local people in Whalley Range.
“We already know LGBT+ people are more likely to be lonely later in life, and as this community is growing, it shows that this extra care is not only welcome but absolutely needed.”
G15 housing association One Housing has announced home builder Countryside as a preferred development partner for the Camden Goods Yard regeneration project.
Subject to formalising contracts, One Housing has selected Countryside to enter into a 50:50 joint venture partnership. It will see the housing provider and home builder jointly planning, designing, funding and delivering a comprehensive regeneration of Gilbeys Yard and Juniper Crescent estates in Camden. The project is subject to a positive resident ballot and is planned over an eight-year period.
Juniper Crescent and Gilbeys Yard are located either side of Morrisons supermarket behind the Stables Market in Camden.
Currently, 202 homes are provided but the scheme will look to deliver around 650-700 units including new homes for the current residents.
Resident engagement has been made an an integral part of the regeneration project, with a resident steering group part of the procurement team to select the joint venture partner. Residents will also be provided with a landlord offer prior to a ballot in March 2020 to decide on the future of their estates.
Mike Johnson, group director of development, One Housing said: “Following a rigorous procurement process, we are looking forward to working with Countryside, our residents and the London Borough of Camden to deliver this project.
“Countryside share our commitment to providing high quality new homes. We were also impressed by their approach to resident engagement and their ability to demonstrate that they could deliver on added social value and community benefits.”
Andy Fancy, managing director, partnerships South (North and South), Countryside, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with One Housing on this landmark mixed-use regeneration scheme in the heart of Camden.
“We are looking to deliver more than three times as many high-quality homes including affordable homes as well as ensuring that local residents benefit from attractive public open spaces and crucial local amenities – all vital in creating sustainable communities.”
Monika Petrasova, on behalf of the Residents Steering Group said: “We have been pleasantly surprised by the level of involvement in the regeneration project from the start. We were part of the moderation meeting, which has never happened before, and we also marked all the tender submissions”.