Is Sadiq Khan looking to set up a super-sized Brick by Brick for housing delivery? And another London borough sacks its housing repairs contractors
The Mayor of London has all but admitted that the Greater London Authority has not been building enough new homes on his watch.
Sadiq Khan announced today that he has commissioned a review of mayoral bodies’ housing delivery as he seeks to fulfil a manifesto pledge to boost the number of homes built on GLA-owned land.
Lord Bob Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, will lead a review which seeks to “improve and streamline housing development”. The review will also look at ways of piloting a “City Hall developer”.
Inside Croydon’s loyal reader may have just experienced a shiver run down their spine, as they realised that the review could end up recommending a super-sized version of their council’s loss-making Brick by Brick. The hope must be, of course, that any GLA version which is set up manages to appoint some staff who are at least vaguely competent in property development and management.
It has not only been in Croydon where borough-run housing developer firms have flopped: Newham’s property developer, originally called Red Door, has undergone significant restructuring after encountering business problems, while in nearby Merton, they abandoned their house-builder before a brick was laid, at a cost of millions of pounds to the Council Tax-payers.
In 2018, City Hall announced its Building CouncilHomes for Londoners scheme, allocating an initial £1.05billion grant for 14,924 homes across the capital, of which 11,354 were to be based on social rent levels.
In that allocation of funds, Croydon was handed £61.3million with the expectation of delivering 888 council homes. These include some of the flats in the recently completed tower block on the former site of Taberner House in the town centre, which had taken eight years to deliver.
Mayor Khan pledged in his manifesto this year to “maximise the number of homes build on land owned by the GLA”. A generic promise, with no target figures for him to be baten with by political rivals in future years.
According to a GLA report published last month, 11,954 homes have been started on GLA land since 2016-2017 (the first year of Khan’s mayoralty). A total of 15,454 homes are projected to have been started in total between 2016 and 2022-2023.
GLA bodies include Transport for London, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, the London Fire Commissioner and the London Legacy Development Corporation.
FOR MANY London councils, it’s not just the building of homes which can be a problem, but the maintaining and repair of existing housing stock which presents all sorts of issues, as the “appalling” state of the council blocks in Regina Road, South Norwood, demonstrates on a daily basis.
Axis, Croydon’s repairs contractor, has been under the cosh for most of this year for their parlous failure to carry out repairs at Regina Road and in other council-owned properties. They continue to be retained by the council.
But news has emerged this morning of another London council sacking one of their repairs contractors. Hammersmith and Fulham council ended one of its five-year responsive repairs contracts just over a year after awarding it, citing inadequate service, a shortage of skilled workers and Brexit.
Inside Housing reports that H&F has ended its contract with housing maintenance firm United Living Property Services, or ULPS, citing the need to get a new contractor in place before winter, when demand for housing repairs surges.
The council awarded ULPS, part of United Living Group, a five-year, £15.5million contract in July 2020 to manage the repairs and maintenance of 4,800 homes in Hammersmith.
Construction engineering firm Morgan Sindall, which holds the repairs contract for the north of the borough, is set to take over from United Living “on or before” the end of this month.
The ending of the ULPS contract, which the website reports was “mutually agreed”, could cost Hammersmith and Fulham £7.2million, with a contingency fund set aside from the borough’s Housing Revenue Account. It also estimates that, in a “worst-case scenario”, unfinished repair jobs from United Living could cost £200,000.
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