Redbridge has lowest proportion of social housing in London

Redbridge’s shrinking council housing stock means it now has the lowest proportion of social housing in London, a new report has revealed.

The draft housing strategy, approved for public consultation by council leaders on Tuesday, sets the priorities for the next five years and notes several “quite stark” challenges.

It shows that, over the last 25 years, the number of low-cost social-rent homes in the borough has fallen to 4,160, caused by a failure to build more new council homes than are lost through right-to-buy.

At nine per cent of all homes, Redbridge has the lowest proportion of social housing of any London borough, even less than the sparsely-populated City of London.

Lead cabinet member for housing Vanisha Solanki has announced that a public consultation on the new five-year housing strategy will run from 1st December to March next year.

The four main aims of the new strategy are to increase the supply of housing, improve the quality of homes, prevent homelessness and “put residents first”.

Cllr Solanki said the strategy is a chance to “think differently” and find “new ways” of achieving the council’s housing aims.

However, she noted the “quite stark” reality of 2,700 families living in temporary accommodation and 7,000 families on the housing waiting list.

Figures show that a quarter of households on the list suffer from overcrowding, yet families needing four-bed homes face an average wait of nineteen years.

She added: “It’s a very difficult market at the moment and I don’t think we can forget that we’ve had ten years of austerity and can’t build as much as we would like to.

“What I would like to say is we’re doing everything we can with this consultation, it’s a listening exercise.”

Conservative leader Paul Canal said, since he was first elected in 2010, he has seen three housing strategies and five different housing directors but “nothing has changed”.

He added: “With all the hope in the world we aren’t seeing any improvement.”

A key aim in the previous strategy, approved in 2017, was also to “increase housing supply” by building “at least 350 new affordable homes”.

But, according to interim operational director of housing Alan Caddick, only 178 have been delivered in the past five years, with a further 330 “ready for construction”.

Housing associations have also built more than 600 homes in the last five years, although 400 of those were for sale through shared-ownership schemes.

According to the draft strategy, a key obstacle to building more council homes is that Redbridge’s housing stock is small, so its “ability to invest and borrow” is limited.

Caddick said: “The fact is that the money we’re getting, we make the best use of, but with the small numbers of stock that we’ve got it’s going to be difficult to build that up.

“There’s got to be a fundamental shift in policy around housing, it needs government investment and long-term funding, not just flip-flopping around.”

Another key aim of the 2017 strategy was to be “an excellent landlord”, however last month the Regulator of Social Housing issued Redbridge with an official safety warning.

The regulator found the council lacked an “effective system” to keep track of thousands of overdue fire door replacements, electrical safety checks and asbestos surveys.

In her written foreword to the strategy, Cllr Solanki commented: “The notice is not something I take lightly; it is something that should never have happened, and I will ensure it does not happen again.”

A report on the notice is expected to be published in January next year.

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter