Buying an empty block of flats in the Peckham Place development for social housing is on the cards, Southwark Council’s housing chief has confirmed.
This week, we reported on a protest staged outside the former Wood Dene site. Despite being demolished over a decade ago, the new complex has only just been completed.
Once home to over 300 council flats, the current housing mix includes 54 units at ‘affordable rent’ (up to 80 per cent of market rent), 201 for shared ownership, and 78 for private purchase. At least 38 homes are on sale with a starting price of £440,000.
Campaigners stood outside empty homes over the weekend calling on the council to take over the block to help house families in desperate need of accommodation.
Their call is not going unheeded even though, as the council’s housing cabinet member – Leo Pollak – has made clear, the local authority has limited powers to take over developments. Today the councillor dropped the strongest hint yet that buying up the properties could be on the horizon.
In a statement shared with the News, Cllr Pollak said: “We have long shared the ambition of campaigners to grow the stock of high quality council homes to meet the urgent need in the borough.
“This is why our council house-building programme, the most ambitious in the country, is now active on over 130 sites, delivering over 5,000 of our generational target of 11,000 council homes.
“While councils like Southwark don’t have the power to requisition property, we have been proactively talking to several builders who have good quality housing developments either on site or recently completed about taking on their homes, as well as reminding other affordable housing providers of the scale of housing need in our borough and the growing challenges that pandemic places on families in Southwark.
“Since March, we have housed over 800 people who were at risk of or already sleeping rough, and helped over 300 families living in accommodation with shared kitchens or bathrooms into self-contained homes so they can safely self-isolate if necessary.
“We are aware of the completed block of empty homes raised by campaigners at Peckham Place, and will continue ongoing discussions with the owners about all options available to resolve this, including council acquisition.”
If the council did attempt to buy back the land or homes on it, the site would become the latest in its a pipeline that has been bought back after being sold off under past administrations.
Last year, Cllr Pollak described the difficulty buying land for council house building when speculation has driven up the prices as the ‘great south London land rush’.
Sites earmarked as ideal for new council homes in the past have been given ‘existing use’ values of around a million, only to crop up for sale at ten times the amount.
Meanwhile, in cases such as on the Aylesbury Estate, the council has stumped up to buy back homes built by Notting Hill Genesis – its development partner – so they will be solely at social rent.