Housing correspondent BARRATT HOLMES on how one of Brick by Brick’s schemes has been allowed to stand empty for nearly a year, when it might have continued to provide shelter for vulnerable homeless people
Nine council homes in Upper Norwood, once used to house the vulnerable homeless, are to be redeveloped by Brick by Brick and all sold off on the private housing market.
Brick by Brick is the council’s wholly owned housing developer, which was handed a £10million loan by Croydon Council and has used the cash to buy-up £9million-worth of public land and property from the council.
It was originally announced that Brick by Brick would develop 1,000 homes by 2019, with 50 per cent of them to be “affordable”. But at Oxford Road, where they want to demolish the existing prefab-style chalets and replace them with five two-bed flats, three one-bed flats and a three-bedroomed house. Zero per cent of these will be affordable. They are all to be flogged off on the open market, for as much profit as possible.
In the midst of a housing crisis, the homes on Oxford Road, off Central Hill, have been standing vacant for nine months following the transfer to Brick by Brick.
The council granted planning permission to the council’s wholly owned housing developer a year ago. The scheme was among those trumpeted in a typically cheery, half-truth press release from the council’s propaganda department last April.
“New, affordable homes are to be built in Croydon after Brick by Brick – the council’s house building company – was granted planning permission for its first batch of developments,” the council announced then.
“Set up to ensure Croydon residents had access to high quality, affordable housing, Brick by Brick aims to deliver around 1,000 new homes on a range of smaller sites across the borough by 2019…
“… Half of the properties built by Brick by Brick through its smaller sites programme will be affordable homes, with the remaining 50 per cent being for private sale. There is a local sales and lettings policy on all homes, giving local people priority access,” the council statement read.
And Alison Butler, the cabinet member for housing, chipped in cheerfully, “It is fantastic Brick by Brick’s first batch of homes have been granted planning consent,” said Croydon Labour’s deputy leader, clearly grateful to her husband, Paul Scott, who just happens to be the chair of the planning committee, for steering them all through successfully.
“Croydon is in desperate need of good quality, affordable housing and this innovative approach will enable many of our residents who are homeless or stuck in temporary accommodation, the chance to move into affordable homes of their own,” Butler said.
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Brick by Brick has so far built zero homes.
It will be building zero council homes.
And according to Brick by Brick’s own figures, published recently in its business plan, it is not even managing to hit its own target of having 50 per cent of its properties being “affordable”.
Brick by Brick has confirmed that all nine homes on Oxford Road, once built, will be for private sale.
The handing over of the public property into the private housing market by Croydon’s Labour-run council has been seized upon for political capital in the new Upper Norwood and Crystal Palace ward by local election candidates from the Liberal Democrats (yes, they actually have candidates in Croydon… five of them).
According to the LibDems’ Chris Jordan, the delay in developing this site was because the planning decision had to be referred to the Secretary of State. “If the land is only to be transferred now, these properties could have been used for emergency temporary accommodation whilst awaiting the Secretary of State’s decision,” Jordan and his fellow candidates said in a statement.
“Croydon Liberal Democrats believe that it is neither socially responsible nor financially prudent for Labour to be ‘selling the silver’ to plug shortfalls in current expenditure. Council housing is an asset which should be carefully tended. We should be building more social and affordable rented accommodation, not selling off what we currently own to the highest bidder.”
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