Transfer to Clarion Housing said to be hampering ability to provide affordable housing
CGI of 21 new flats on the Elm Nursery car park in Mitcham. Picture : Merantun Development
A Merton councillor has admitted selling off the authority’s council housing stock could have been “one of the worst mistakes” it made.
Councillor Andrew Judge’s comments come as the council looks to build 400 new “genuinely affordable” homes on council land in the next four years.
At the end of August, the council agreed to spend £300,000 reviving four planning permissions from its failed development company Merantun Development, which was closed down in January 2021 after it invested £2 million into the business.
The council will consider whether to build these 93 homes itself or get a housing association to do so. If Merton Council takes on the task, the first four schemes in Mitcham and Morden could cost up to £29.5 million to develop.
In March 2010, the local authority transferred more than 6,000 homes, all of its social housing stock, to Clarion Housing Group.
At a cabinet meeting on Monday night (10 October) Cllr Judge, who is the cabinet member for housing, said it has been about 40 years since the council built any properties itself.
He said, “We have set a target that we will built 400 new homes by the end of this council term and we want to do that with a sense of urgency and use all our resources to create high quality homes that are well designed and truly environmentally sustainable.
“This report sets out a series of options for delivering the affordable housing programme. Of course there are pros and cons for each option, some housing associations may have more experience in the direct delivery of housing but as we have seen housing associations aren’t always good at what they do, don’t always deliver what they say they will deliver and don’t always manage properties well.
“We also need to consider the option where we as a council build our own homes and over time create a housing revenue account. It could be said that one of the worst mistakes we ever made was to transfer our housing stock out of our housing revenue account in 2009/10.
“What you are left with is a lack of democratic accountability. The housing we have, the condition and our ability to build housing should be accountable to residents.”
It hopes to bring planning permissions for 93 homes across four sites up to current standards. These are Elm Nursery Car Park, Raleigh Gardens Car Park, land at Canons, Madeira Road all in Mitcham and Farm Road Church in Morden.
At the meeting, the cabinet agreed not to “dispose of the first four sites for private sale” and instead allocates the sites for affordable homes, delivered either by the council itself of a housing association.
Last year, shocking conditions were exposed on the Eastfields Estate in Mitcham, which is one of three set to be redeveloped by Clarion. Residents there say they are still plagued with damp, mould and rodent infestations.
Last month, a spokesperson for Clarion told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it has invested £2.3 million in maintaining properties on the estate, including “major upgrades” to the roofs. The first phase of regeneration work is set to begin in 2023 after planning permission was granted in April.
Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
October 12, 2022