1. Environmental
December 21, 2016

How should we regenerate London’s estates?

By Kat Hanna

Given the shortage of housing in London, and his ambitious housing targets, it is of little surprise that the mayor of London is exploring available options for land. This week, it was the turn of estate redevelopment to come under scrutiny, as Sadiq Khan published his Good Regeneration Guide – marking the start of a public consultation on best practice in estate regeneration.

The production of a good regeneration charter is a welcome step by the mayor of London. But what do his current plans mean in practice? And what more could Londoners ask for during the consultation?

The real potential for estate densification

First, it’s worth noting that estate densification cannot solve the housing crisis on its own, though it could make a significant contribution over the long term.

Centre for London’s recent report, Another Storey, estimated that across London, 4,000 and 8,000 homes could be added to London each year from redeveloping estates – up to 20 per cent of London’s annual additional housing target. However, it would take an estimated 10 years to start to tackle all the large estates, and a minimum of another 10 years to complete each project.

Funding transparency

Estate redevelopment does not come cheap, and ensuring sufficient funding is fundamental to delivering on promises made to local residents. After all, good regeneration is not just about good consultation, but delivery too, without overpromising, and without ducking commitments.

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It is therefore good to see that Sadiq’s Good Regeneration Guide is rooted in the full and transparent costing of projects prior to the resident consultation process. This will ensure that all parties are entering discussions with as much knowledge as possible about the costs and benefits of estate redevelopment.

Our report argues that if estate densification is to both deliver additional units and ensure the continued provision of sub-market housing in such situations, more funding would be required to close funding gaps. This could require central government grant, as well as housing association cross-subsidy, private finance through stock transfer, and local authority contribution.

The mayor’s Good Regeneration Guide also recognises the importance of looking beyond the red line of estate boundaries. We agree that it is vital that projects are carried out in a way that integrates the densified site with the surrounding urban fabric, adopting a mixture of block types and increasing in density nearer to urban centres and transport hubs.

The next big challenge is thinking about how the densification of estates can be combined with densification of other publicly held land such as car parks, as well as privately owned residential land (which we hope to investigate further next year).

Disrupted homes

When it comes to the important matter of how residents are compensated for the disruption caused by estate regeneration, our research found a significant discrepancy in how tenants and owner occupiers are treated. We found that displaced owners could expect to receive £25,000 by way of Home Loss Payment, whereas the displaced tenant only receives £5,300.

There is little in the current consultation document that tackles this discrepancy. While the mayor exhorts landlords to go beyond their statutory duty, we argue that Home Loss Payments should be increased to ensure the fair treatment of tenants in the demolition and densification process.

In publishing this Good Regeneration Guide, the Mayor openly acknowledges the challenges posed by estate redevelopment. The Guide has a welcome focus on opening up the financial intricacies of redevelopment projects to local residents, many of whom are better placed to understand the process than other Londoners. But this consultation must form just one element of wider conversation with Londoners about the type of development wanted in the capital, and the difficult choices that must be made in tackling London’s housing crisis.

Kat Hanna is Research Manager at Centre for London and co-author of the Another Storey report. She tweets as @HannaFromHeaven.

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