Housing correspondent BARRATT HOLMES on how the council-owned housing company is struggling to sell its new homes
The first batch of Brick by Brick homes, which the council promised were being built using public land and public money to help house local people in desperate need of a roof over their heads, have been advertised for sale all across London in the Evening Standard.
And the geniuses in the marketing department of the Labour-run council’s in-house house-builders have even been boasting on social media about how they have managed to spend money on adverts in the weekly “Homes and Property” section of the commuters’ evening paper.
To make matters worse, the Boris Johnson-supporting, Gideon Osborne-edited newspaper has even managed to highlight how some of Brick by Brick’s homes are as much as one-third more expensive than other, similar properties on the private market in the same neighbourhood.
“These were supposed to be ‘local homes for local people’, according to Alison Butler,” one angry Labour councillor said this week, naming the council cabinet member for housing who has driven through the increasingly controversial Brick by Brick project.
Under Butler, Croydon’s Labour council has failed to build a single new council home in more than five years.
“Now, we have proof that they are struggling to sell the houses on the private property market because they are too expensive for Croydon residents to afford. What’s the point of Brick by Brick?”
“Homes and Property” is the sub-Standard’s weekly wet dream for estate agents, where soft-focus advertorials are run alongside lucrative property ads and are used to help to drive up prices on the London housing market.
With the paper’s free distribution across the capital, an ad, similar in size to that booked by Brick by Brick this week, is listed on the ratecard as costing nearly £30,000 for a single insertion.
What ought to be of particular concern to Butler, Jo Negrini, the council CEO, and Colm Lacey, the council exec who is has been re-styled as BxB’s managing director, is that the homes that they are having to advertise are from the first two sites that the housing developers managed to complete: at Auckland Rise and Sylvan Hill, and Ravensdale and Rushden, both in Upper Norwood. The properties have been on the market for four months already.
“Croydon council restricts sales during the first two months to Croydon residents,” stated the newspaper copy which accompanied Brick by Brick’s advert, “but these two schemes are now open to all.”
Elsewhere in its feature on property in Crystal Palace (“this hilltop district with period charm and stupendous views”), the newspaper cites a locally based estate agent as suggesting that “a lack of stock is holding up rental values”. That, of course, might not be the case so much if the local authority – say a Labour-run council like Croydon – was building council homes, delivering social housing for rent, and helping to offer some alternative to the jungle that is the private rental market.
The newspaper feature on Crystal Palace gives away no clues about how many of the Brick by Brick homes have actually been sold since they were first released on the market in March this year – some nine months later than scheduled.
“Croydon council’s own development company Brick by Brick has infill schemes on spare land on two of the authority’s estates,” they smarm, without mention of the misery the council has managed to inflict on the existing residents on those estates, who have had their green spaces concreted over for private housing.
The paper does quote the asking prices for the properties, some of which are available under the increasingly discredited, and very expensive, shared ownership scheme. Less than a year ago, one newspaper ran the headline: “Is shared-ownership ‘affordable’ for the average Londoner?” They offered this answer: “You must be joking.”
That newspaper was the Evening Standard.
On the same spread of the newspaper is a handy ready reckoner chart for price comparisons in Crystal Palace, provided by the property website Rightmove.
According to the chart, the average price of a one-bed flat in Crystal Palace is £291,000. One of Brick by Brick’s one-bed flats, however, will set you back as much as £389,000.
An “average” two-bed flat in the same area, Rightmove says, might cost £386,000. Brick by Brick two-bedroomed flats are for sale at £485,000.
Only when you get to the three-bedroomed houses Brick by Brick has built at Ravensdale and Rushden do their prices – £597,000 – match the Rightmove average of £600,000.
Though clearly, judging by the need to advertise them for sale in the Evening Gideon, that’s far too expensive for Croydon residents whose Council Tax is being used to fund the misfiring Brick by Brick housing project.
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