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New Draft Housing Strategy launched

Wed, 03/06/2015

More affordable homes; greater opportunities for low and middle income households and greater choices for all

Westminster City Council is launching a consultation on a ground breaking new housing strategy, proposing  innovative approaches to delivering more homes and offering a unique range of housing opportunities in one of the most expensive and complex areas in the country.

The draft Westminster Housing Strategy was launched for public comment on June 3. It outlines plans for the next 5 to 10 years, divided into four chapters: Homes, People, Places and Prosperity. It’s a key part of the new City for All vision that sets out how everyone can play their part in, and benefit from, Westminster’s continued success. The draft strategy also highlights the importance of good housing in improving the health, social and economic prospects of Westminster residents.

In particular, it proposes new ways of enabling low and middle income households to live and prosper in the city. This group plays a key role in the securing the success of the local economy, in turn driving the Westminster powerhouse that is vital to London’s long term success. 

By emphasising delivery of more affordable homes the strategy seeks to support this often overlooked group while continuing to help the most disadvantaged. If not, local businesses will find it increasingly difficult to hire staff and workers will face long commutes.

The council’s approach is to assist people to help themselves, supporting them through a housing journey, moving between different sorts of homes and making their own choices. Putting this into action means providing housing options for people at different stages of their lives and helping them take up the jobs and other opportunities their city provides.

A good home in a high quality neighbourhood is important for everyone. The council is already building more new homes at Church Street/Paddington Green, Tollgate Gardens Estate and Ebury Bridge Estate. But delivering more homes in a world city like Westminster is particularly challenging - space is limited; developing new homes is costly; and demand for affordable housing will always outstrip supply.  The draft strategy outlines what the council intends to do within Westminster; it also highlights the need for Londonwide approaches to the challenges faced by boroughs across the capital.

Key headlines of the strategy include:

  • we will develop 1,250 more affordable homes in Westminster over the next five years. This is more than we have been able to do in the past and will allow us to help a wider range of people.
  • we will provide more intermediate homes to help low and middle income households thrive in the city.  Only around 1.5% of the city’s housing is currently intermediate, compared with 25% social housing. Independent research has found that 240 of our new affordable homes we will build each year should be intermediate and 180 should be social. We need a more balanced housing market in order to provide housing for workers that are vital to Westminster’s and London’s economic success. To help deliver this we propose to change planning policy so 60% of the new affordable homes we deliver by agreement with private developers each year are intermediate and 40% are social.  Because at the same time we will increase social rented supply, the number of homes for vulnerable people will not decrease.
  • we will innovate to help people. We will work with others to develop new kinds of intermediate housing, focusing on those for people with lower incomes that are not currently well catered for. We want them to be able to move between, and on from, products – freeing up housing which can be used to help others.  
  • we’ll do all we can to tackle homelessness effectively  - building more affordable homes and by  helping homeless households move more quickly from temporary accommodation into more secure housing by offering them a private tenancy where they can manage one.  Because of the level of rents in Westminster we often have to secure temporary accommodation outside our borders – a challenge faced by many London boroughs and we are highlighting the need for London-wide approaches to this issue.
  • we will help social housing residents and applicants get into work or start their own businesses. Good jobs are the best way out of disadvantage; we will continue to provide intensive, tailored help to support social housing residents and applicants into work, including schemes to match residents to West End jobs.
  • we will see if we can work with other councils to develop some homes outside the city, providing more housing and choice to our residents helping address London’s chronic housing shortage.
  • we want to improve health and promote independent living through better housing and coordinated support. We will invest £12 million to tackle damp and cold in council homes; we will also identify 450 council tenants who are at most risk of poor health and improve their living conditions. If unhealthy properties cannot be improved we will dispose of them and use the money to reinvest in better homes. We will also review our stock of supported housing for older people, to make sure they will meet the changing needs of older people into the future.

Cllr Daniel Astaire, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business and Economic Development, said:

“Good homes give people the stability to take decisions that are right for them and their families, improving health, enabling them to get into work and building neighbourhoods where people look out for one another and are proud to live.  This draft strategy sets out proposals aimed at helping the people our city needs, in particularly challenging circumstances.

“By securing more affordable homes we will be able to  support those who need help to get on the housing ladder while not diminishing our ability to help those most in need.  We particularly want to promote opportunity, especially for people on comparatively low incomes who work in jobs crucial to Westminster’s economic success. At the moment there are few homes in Westminster they can afford and increasing the supply of affordable homes will help ensure Westminster does not become home only to the very rich and poor.

“We are a council of action, not words. This year we’ll lay foundations for 350 new homes as part of an investment of over £60 million to provide more high quality homes. We can, and will, do more. But we cannot meet all our housing needs within the city’s boundaries – there isn’t enough space and what there is is among the most expensive in the UK. London as a whole faces unprecedented demands for housing and meeting this challenge will need cross-London approaches. We will take a lead in working with other boroughs and the Mayor to develop some fresh ideas and I hope this draft strategy will start the debate.” 

Last updated: 9 October 2018