Homes local people can afford


Homes

All of the homes for rent – Approximately 304 homes to be built – Somerleyton Trust to be the landlord.

Somerleyton Trust’s proposed objectives are:

  • Maximize the amount of genuinely affordable homes.
  • Same rights and quality of service for all.
  • People paying different rents to live side by side in the same blocks.
  • Provide greater security of renting across all rental types.
  • Management of the homes to be excellent, accountable, responsive, efficient and locally focused (including employing local people where possible)
What is the Somerleyton Trust?

‘Poor doors’ & the ‘squeezed middle’

If you can’t afford private rents and you’re not at the top of the Council’s housing list, it is getting harder to stay in London. Many developments contain homes for private sale or private rent, with some social or affordable housing (usually with a separate ‘poor door’ entrance).

The project’s current approach is to provide 40% social tenure, 10% affordable tenure and 50% market tenure.

Pay the rent that your household can afford

To have a healthy, cohesive society you need to bring income groups together, not to divide them. The Trust will take a longer term approach to financing which makes it possible to deliver homes for the whole community.

The approach suggested by Dinah Roake (Brixton Green) is to offer homes by income bands.

brixton-green-housing-income-bands

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Net household income: As part of their tenancy agreement, residents in bands 1-6 would be required to provide their annual tax returns (or other proof of income) to allow their net household income to be calculated. This would be based on their average income over a 3-year period to allow for variance in income particularly with self-employed and freelance workers.

A home you don’t have to leave

All the homes will be maintained and built to the same standard. If a household’s income changes, they will move to a different rent band, but would not have to move home.

The Trust would not be viable if all the households in the higher bands moved to lower band rents. The following aims to address this issue while still providing greater security of tenure:

  1. All households can move to higher income bands.
  2. All households can return to the income they first started on.
  3. If a household’s income falls below the band they started on, they will be given the opportunity to move to a lower band if there is availability.

For example, if a household starts on Band 1 (social rent) it will move to higher rent bands if the household income increases. But it can still move back to social rent if the household income reduces. This means the Trust can only reallocate this Band 1 (social rent) tenure when this household moves out, as this household will always have a Band 1 tenure reserved for them while they remain residents.

Having over 300 homes makes this approach possible.

Who will be able to rent the homes?

The community and Lambeth Council are working together to develop the local lettings plan. The aim is to provide homes that local people across a range of household types can afford. Priority will be given to those with a connection to the area or who contribute to the area in some way, such as key workers.

Draft Local Lettings Plan

A landlord you can hold to account

If you can’t hold your landlord to account, then you can’t make sure they deliver a good service.

Too many residents in London have watched their housing being allowed to run down, with poor maintenance, poor service and slow response times. This squanders money and affects the quality of people’s lives. People who live and work in an area are more aware of the work required and the quality of the maintenance. They are in the best position to hold those delivering the services to account.

The Somerleyton Trust will be accountable to the residents.

Good housing management is key

To make this work requires an experienced housing and management team.

This will be a development where people paying different rents will be living side by side. Issues need to be dealt with promptly and homes need to be allocated in a way to avoid problems. For example, if a family with small children is put above a young professional couple there may be sound issues.

If it is not run well, those who are able to move out will move out (possibly including those on market and affordable rents). This would mean the Trust would not be able to pay its bills.

Dividing income groups is not the answer

Many housing providers and developers say they need to separate the market and social/affordable homes to make the management of the housing easier. This requires separate entrances for the different income groups (‘poor doors’). Residents in the social/affordable housing often receiving a lower quality service.

This approach can lead to whole areas becoming clusters for different income groups. As some areas can achieve higher rents, there can be a financial benefit for developers or housing associations to build their social housing quota on a different site, in a cheaper area. This creates clusters of different income groups which affects society and democracy. An example of this is what is described as the “housing doughnut” effect in Paris, where only the rich can live in the centre, leading to discontentment and disengagement with democracy in the poorer areas.

So getting the management right is really important!

We are structuring the housing management based on the best current knowledge. Together with Lambeth Council we are establishing the Trust and will invite the community and experts in housing provision to help us scrutinize and improve the proposals.

How will the accountability to residents work in practice? Can the residents sack an employee/contractor?

Key to getting the housing management right is ensuring they are answerable to the residents (their customers). Experienced managers are required to ensure that issues raised by residents are dealt with in the most appropriate and effective way.

The Trust’s board will appoint experts to sit alongside the community representatives. They will engage experienced staff or employ one or more experienced organisations to deliver the services.

Why would someone pay a market rent for the same home that could be let for a social rent?

This is already happening on many London streets. The way the Trust allocates the homes and housing bands needs to be fair and well managed.

How the rents will be set?

The Trust’s board will be provided with clear criteria to set the rent levels. These criteria need to allow the board to deal with changes in the financial environment while still achieving the mix of incomes. The aim is for it to be drawn up in a way which reduces the opportunity for potential conflicts.

Click here to find out about the Trust that will be the landlord