One of the great mysteries of London life in the 21st century – exactly how much does an “affordable” home cost? – may have finally been solved.
Because, according to the managing director of the company to which Croydon Council has sold the site of Taberner House, “homes that people can afford” means flats beside the Croydon Flyover priced at a cool…
Steve Sanham from Hub was speaking at this week’s public exhibit of his company’s plans for the development. On display was the (at least) third set of architects’ abstracts produced for the site in the past four years. And still not a brick laid nor a single ton of concrete poured.
The drawings are sufficiently vague and lacking in detail as to be utterly meaningless for most of the attendees at the “consultation”. There will be 500 homes, divided between four blocks which – as with previous proposals – appear as if they would not have looked out of place in Honecker’s East Germany.
But it was Sanham’s notion of what “people can afford” which provided the real insight into the true intentions of his company which, with the support of the Labour-lite council and its gentryfying agenda, will be expecting to use the previously publicly owned site to flog more than £200million-worth of residential properties.
“It’s all about homes for real people,” Sanham is reported to have said.
“Homes priced in the £400,000 to £800,000 bracket, homes that people can afford rather than homes we see being put up all over London where you think ‘who the hell are these people who can afford to buy that?'”
And “who the hell are these people who can afford to buy” a £800,000 flat?
A rough guesstimate would suggest that they are people who can afford to pay £4,500 per month, every month, for around 25 years, in mortgage repayments.
Even at the bottom end of what Sanham considers to be “homes that people can afford”, and after the purchasers have stumped up £40,000 as their 10per cent deposit, anyone buying one of Hub’s “budget” £400,000 flats will be paying more than £24,000 per year for their mortgage. And this in a borough where a teaching assistant can expect to receive a salary of just £14,000 per year.
“Affordable housing” is one of those deliberately misleading phrases bandied around by property speculators and small-town politicians, eager to be seen to be achieving home-building targets, but always mindful that for developers, profit is the only thing that matters.
Sanham says that 30per cent of the homes to be built – so 150 of his flats – will be “affordable”, which by the convention agreed between developers and local authorities, they will be put on the market at 80 per cent of the market value or rental price. Thus, one of Sanham’s £400,000 flats might be snapped up at a “bargain” £320,000.
All this has the full support of the Progress-dominated clique of councillors which dominates Croydon Town Hall’s Labour group.
“We’re delighted to be welcoming Hub to Croydon. They come with an impressive reputation for great design, sustainability and working with local communities,” was what deputy leader Alison Butler, in charge of the borough’s housing policy, said last July when announcing that the site had been flogged off to Hub. All this after the council’s disastrous development vehicle – CCURV – had spent two years failing to pull-together a viable scheme, and the council quietly dropped the notion of getting its home-building company, Brick by Brick, to do the job.
“As well as bringing a fresh and exciting approach to residential building in the town centre, and providing much-needed quality homes that are within reach of local people, they’ll be revitalising the Queen’s Gardens,” Labour councillor Butler said, sounding like an uber-developer.
And now we know what Butler meant when she said “quality homes that are within the reach of local people”: about £2,000 per month in mortgage repayments on even one of the cheapest flats in the development.
“That development teams of this stature continue to come to Croydon, post Brexit, shows the continued confidence in London’s growth borough as a great place to invest.”
“A great place to invest”. And increasingly, an unaffordable one to live in.
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There are only two words to describe our current local administration: de luded
I am not at all sure that the current cycle of the Taberner House Queen’s Gardens project, now “passed” to Hub for action, has been competitively tendered for. Given the cost of this project, in no way should it have come under the heading “preferred tender”, without public explanation.
It has been very difficult not to fall asleep while ploughing through the regulatory clauses of the Public Contracts Regulation 2015, which is a long, complex set of rules governing procurement by a public authority, in this case Croydon Council. And of course, not being an expert in the art of competitive tendering I could well have missed a vital exclusion clause which allows Croydon Council to make free with its public obligations.
However read on brave hearts because I would like someone to tell me whether, under the regulations, Croydon Council have behaved correctly and responsibly. What I can say , having skimmed through these rules of public contracting, is that more than one developer should have been approached during the pre-tender process and that this selection procedure, involving as it does a vast amount of public money [ in excess of £100Million ] should have been reported to the residents of the borough on the basis of “transparency”, if nothing else.
I have only quoted a limited amount from the regulations but it is enough to convince me that ‘transparency’ of public business did not occur.
I have been selective for good reason…!
The Public Contracts Regulations 2015
2015 Part 2, Chapter 2, Section 5, sub-section 7
Regulation 65 (original) says:-
Reduction of the number of otherwise qualified candidates to be invited to participate.
65 (2): Contracting authorities shall indicate, in the contract, notice or in the invitation to confirm interest, the objective and non-discriminatory criteria or rules they intend to apply, the minimum number of candidates they intend to apply and, where applicable, the maximum number.
65 (3): In the restricted procedure the minimum number of candidates shall be 5.
65 (4): In the competitive procedure with negotiation, the competitive dialogue procedure and the innovation procedure, the minimum number of candidates shall be 3.
A postscript to my earlier missive.
Regulation 65 (5): In any event the number of candidates invited shall be sufficient to ensure genuine competition.
Has this been done?
The same developer is currently planning to destroy Sevenoaks by erecting a ten storey tower block shaped like a gas container in a quiet residential street of 1930 Victorian style terraced houses and they expect residents to “enjoy the view” of his planned monstrosity.
136 tiny homes on a site less than 1hectare in size, Its expected to bring 200+ cars to the area but the developers are playing the “green card” and suggesting everyone will cycle so have opted to reduce parking spaced to just 96 and cram in more housing units (not homes).
Fortunately the town council have seen sense and recommended the development be rejected, in fact the planning application has over 280 public comments on the Sevenoaks Planning portal all opposing the development.
The developer should be proud that his design is so ugly and so out of place that he’s likely to break the record for the most public objections ever received by Sevenoaks District Council.