Developer comes under scrutiny over council housing agenda

A developer set up to build “as many council homes as it possibly could” in Waltham Forest has been warned it may be losing sight of this goal.

Housebuilder Sixty Bricks, set up and owned by Waltham Forest Council, aims to finish 800 homes by 2026, of which half will be affordable.

By 2031, it hopes to have built 4,000 homes in the borough, a quarter of the borough’s housing target, by “scaling up” each year.

However, at a meeting of the council’s growth scrutiny committee meeting on November 17, Councillor Sally Littlejohn suggested the developer might be “moving a little away from its initial mission” of building council homes.

Sixty Bricks chair Paul Lowenberg replied: “There is no loss of vision – it’s all there – that’s the way we’re seeking to maximise what is at that level.

“We’re delivering a higher percentage for social homes than anyone else in the borough, our ability to do that will be reflected in the number of social homes we have delivered.”

He added that Sixty Bricks can only take on “prudent schemes based on prudent risk”.

Youth advisor Faith Agba-Butler questioned who the affordable homes would be for, adding: “Affordable is a term that’s been thrown around in London to kind of shut people up around house prices.”

Cabinet member for housing Simon Miller explained that “affordable” generally means 80 per cent of the average market rent, whereas social rent is about half of market prices.

He added: “There’s a fundamental issues with land prices in London, if we don’t build private homes to sell, all we’re doing is putting immense pressure on the demand for affordable homes.”

Sixty Bricks’ updated business plan states that, as well as turning a profit for the council, the company is expected to employ local people, create “mixed communities” and build “zero-carbon” homes.

Benefits to the council so far include £4.3million in interest from loans to Sixty Bricks, a £20million pre-tax profit by 2026, £13million from land it has sold and more homes added to its stock of council properties.

Sixty Bricks recently built 45 new homes at Centenary House in Highams Park and next year is due to build in Blackhorse Road, Sansom Road and Hylands Road Estate.

To meet targets, the plan states, it will need to “become highly active in the borough” as it cannot be “solely reliant” on council-owned sites and is thus considering becoming a private rental landlord.


Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter