BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, on how a Town Hall announcement proves that senior councillors have been lying for four years about the delivery of council homes
Put the bunting out!
Trebles all round!
Croydon Council, and their loss-making private housing developer Brick by Brick, have finally delivered a new council home.
This significant achievement has occurred during what the council cabinet member for housing, Alison “Lying Cow” Butler, and council leader Tony Newman, regularly remind the Croydon public is a housing crisis, as they go ahead and build predominantly private homes on kids’ playgrounds, public green space or overshadowing people’s private gardens.
Butler, in particular, has resorted to deliberately misleading the public – some would say lying – over the issue of her council’s shoddy performance in delivering council homes, something she inadvertantly admitted at last night’s full meeting of the council in the Town Hall chamber when she heralded the achievement of her being able to hand over the keys to a flat in Flora Court in Thornton Heath.
But is it really that much to crow about?
The council home is one of three flats, for social rent, that are in the Flora Court development. The other 24 apartments in Flora Court will all be flogged off under notoriously unaffordable shared ownership schemes.
Croydon says that the shared ownership flats are being flogged for £315,000; a 25 per cent shared ownership will cost £78,750 with a 5 per cent deposit costing £3,688.
But that means that anyone taking on one of these flats under the scheme will also need to pay rent on the “other” 75 per cent share of the property, on top of their mortgage repayments, and so could be looking at total housing costs per month of £1,000 or more – likely to be well out of reach of the 2,000 families on the council’s housing waiting list.
In any case, the Flora Court council homes are one-bedroom flats.
Three flats out of 27 is just 11.1 per cent of the Flora Court homes that can be properly regarded as “affordable”.
Yet half of the properties Brick by Brick is delivering – 50 per cent – are supposed to be “affordable” (the definition of which, particularly at London prices, has been widely discredited and distrusted long ago).
In fact, according to Brick by Brick’s own figures, in 2019 only 29 per cent of the homes it completes will be “affordable”.
And only three of those, in Flora Court, will actually be council homes.
This represents a sorry record for Croydon’s Blairite-dominated Labour council.
Butler and Newman took control of Croydon Town Hall in May 2014. Brick by Brick was formed in 2015 (and not in 2016, as Butler and the council propaganda machine would try to have you believe, as Companies House records demonstrate).
Such incompetence means that Brick by Brick is likely to resort to making even more of its homes for private sale, just so that they can balance the books on their ill-conceived scheme which converts public money and public land into private property.
Flora Court ought to have been completed around nine months ago. Which means Blanche Takwi, the lucky recipient of the VIP treatment and keys handover from Butler yesterday, had to wait an extra nine months in temporary accommodation – with all the attendant costs to Croydon’s long-suffering Council Tax-payers. Whether Blanche ever recovers from being the object of a Butler photo op, only time will tell.
“Ensuring people have affordable homes to live in is a top priority for the council,” Butler said, though whether you can believe anything that she says is debatable.
“These new council homes are spacious, top-quality places to live and they underline why we set up Brick By Brick in the first place.” Really?
The council press release issued yesterday managed to nail the lies of the past four years in which Butler and her closest supporters have tried to claim that Croydon was building council homes, when they really were not.
The council propaganda department’s chosen headline was: “New Croydon council homes unveiled”.
And in the very first paragraph, they delivered a simple fact which betrayed the lies of Councillor Butler: “The first council homes built for Croydon residents by local developer Brick By Brick have been completed and unveiled today (Monday).”
The release went on to explain the concept of a council home, for those in Croydon for whom the concept had been lost in the mists of time: “Three borough residents who had been on the council housing waiting list have now moved into the brand new one-bedroom flats in Thornton Heath and will pay council rents.”
Brick by Brick is supposed to be building 1,000 homes in its first swathe of publicly subsidised development. This includes three-bedroomed family houses which went on private sale earlier this year for the unaffordable price of £600,000. There’s been no announcement of when family-sized council homes will be available.
The disparity between what Brick by Brick is supposed to be doing, and what they are actually delivering, is made plain further on in the council’s unusually frank press release.
“Brick By Brick was created by the council to build over 2,000 good-quality homes on council land, including around half as affordable homes, with profits reinvested in the borough. Each of the three new council homes at Flora Court has its own private balcony or garden, sustainable heating, and is a short walk from the library, local shops and public transport.”
That’s right: three one-bed flats out of 2,000 new homes.
Trebles all-round indeed, especially if you are a council cabinet member who, together with her husband, Paul Scott, own two houses and receive combined council allowances of £87,000 per year.
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