Tackling Lambeth’s housing crisis
London is in the grip of a severe housing crisis, and Lambeth is no exception. For too long we have faced cuts to affordable housing and council housing budgets by a Conservative government. Over the past four years we fought against the divisive Tory plans for housing. Labour councillors joined tenants and activists to march and protest against the Housing and Planning Bill and we’re proud we now have a Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who’s putting the London housing crisis front and centre.
More Lambeth residents are private renters than are homeowners or council tenants. We have a strong track record in clamping down on rogue landlords and those who put tenants at risk with dangerous overcrowding or substandard accommodation. Lambeth already has a compulsory landlord licensing scheme for homes of multiple occupation (HMOs) and we will be expanding our landlord licensing scheme to double the number of HMOs covered.
The Conservative government has failed to act to drive up standards and improve security for private renters. We work with the Mayor of London to run an accreditation scheme for private landlords, and have one of the highest take-up rates in the Capital. We will name, shame & prosecute rogue landlords who fail to provide decent homes, doubling the number of inspections of private rented homes over the next four years so dodgy landlords have nowhere to hide. Where landlords fall short, we’ll use our powers to levy fines of up to £30,000 and ban rogue landlords from operating in Lambeth.
We will act to improve quality and security for private renters by supporting the building of new affordable homes for rent at London Living Rent with three-year tenancies as standard alongside our core commitment for more social housing.
As part of our commitment to providing advice and support to private renters we will introduce a new private renters charter, setting out renters' rights and Lambeth’s powers to intervene. We will set up a new housing advice hotline and online service to improve support for private renters and those at risk of homelessness.
We will continue to campaign for more powers from central government to improve the standard and security of the private rented sector and for controls on rent rises.
The lack of security and affordability of the private rented sector is one of the biggest causes of homelessness. We have all been shocked by the rise in rough sleeping and street homelessness over the past few years. More and more people are being left behind and in Lambeth, 2,000 families, including nearly 5,000 children, are now homeless and provided with temporary accommodation. Our homelessness prevention service is one of the best in London; over 3,000 families have been prevented from becoming homeless since 2014 and we will continue to prioritise keeping local families in their homes.
Our partnership with charities like St Mungo’s provides supported accommodation for single homeless people with complex needs and we support the Mayor of London’s No Second Night Out scheme.
We will build on this track record of tackling homelessness and rough sleeping by building pop-up housing to quickly house homeless families. We are investing £15 million in a social investment fund in partnership with the Mayor to boost the supply of new homes for families who have become homeless. We will invest £1.3 million over the next three years in better advice and support for people facing homelessness in Lambeth.
Despite this, we know that the only way to solve the housing crisis is to build thousands of genuinely affordable homes for local people.
Last year Lambeth was the best performing London borough for building new homes, delivering 80% more than the target set by the Mayor. We have introduced tough new rules on private developers. We force them to make their viability figures public to stop them dodging their obligations to build affordable homes. We introduced a new ‘clawback’ power: if developers make more profit than they claimed in their viability, the council takes 80% of the additional profit for the delivery of new affordable housing.
We will always take a tough line with developers: securing more affordable homes, affordable workspace, jobs and apprenticeships for local people from private developments. We also introduced a developers tax which has raised nearly £20 million to invest in local community infrastructure and community projects. We will increase this developers tax so more money goes to benefit the local community across the borough.
Being tough with developers is working. 43% of new homes built in the borough in 2016-17 were affordable housing -- beating our own planning target of 40% affordable homes and far above Tory councils like Wandsworth, which push for much less affordable housing. Lambeth continues to prioritise genuinely affordable homes at council rent, as the core aim of our affordable housing policy. We aim for 70% of affordable homes to be for social rent and the remaining 30% to be affordable home ownership or intermediate rent for people on middle incomes.
But there is still much more to do to build the homes Lambeth needs. There are still 28,000 Lambeth families on the council’s waiting list for social housing. These are families who are living in the borough already, most of whom are stuck in expensive and insecure private rented housing. While the Tory government has failed to tackle the housing crisis, we’re not prepared to sit on our hands while local people suffer.
A Labour government would build 100,000 new council homes a year and we’re playing our part in Lambeth. At the last council election we pledged to build 1000 extra homes at council rent by 2019. By early 2018 we had over 950 homes completed, being built or already approved by Lambeth’s cabinet meaning that we will complete our ambitious programme of building 1,000 extra homes at council rent for local families.
To build even more homes we’ve set up a 100% council-owned not-for-profit company, Homes for Lambeth. Through better use of council land, infill on estates and rebuilding some estates that are of poor quality and which the council cannot afford to refurbish, we’re building a new generation of the highest quality social housing for local families, affordable homes and homes for private renters with long-term tenancies. We will complete our programme of estate regeneration to rebuild six of our estates to give existing residents better homes and to create more social housing to tackle the housing crisis.
We’re committed to rebuilding those estates with no loss of social housing, building additional homes at council rent, providing a new home for every existing council tenant and doing all of this without private developers.
We’ve worked hard with tenants and leaseholders to make rebuilding our estates fair to our existing residents, and offering the hope of a new home to Lambeth’s homeless families and those in housing need.
On each estate, the council has carried out full and independent consultations which have demonstrated resident support for more and better homes. Our commitment to a fair process and guaranteeing the rights of residents to remain on their estates is recognised as best practice in London. We’ve worked closely with the Mayor of London on his Estate Regeneration Principles and will fully implement his recommendations when published this summer.
Over the next four years we’ll build hundreds more homes for council rent on council-owned land across the borough. We will push other public sector land owners to release land for more genuinely affordable housing and we’ll maximise the number of genuinely affordable homes delivered from developments.
We’ve taken tough action on empty properties by introducing a 150% council tax on them. We’ll increase the penalty for leaving homes empty to a 200% council tax levy. We are also using our power as a council to buy back homes for local people or to compulsorily purchase land, using Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) where necessary, so that we can build more homes for council rent for local families.
We also need to build homes to meet the needs of the borough’s growing older and disabled population. 10% of all the new homes we build are wheelchair accessible and all our homes are built to the Lifetime Homes Standard. We will also build a new disability resource centre at Coburg Crescent with disabled access housing. We’ve already worked with partners to build extra care supported housing for older people in the borough at Cheviot Gardens and Bank House, we will build more extra care housing across the borough, including at Somerleyton Road.
The council can’t solve the housing crisis on its own. We work closely with housing associations and other partners to drive up the number and quality of homes for social rent and affordable home ownership. For the first time we’ve consulted on recognising innovative approaches like Community Land Trusts in our planning policy. We’ll also work with local groups like South London Citizens to bring forward Lambeth’s first Community Land Trust.
In the past six years we’ve invested £480 million to refurbish and improve the standard of council housing in Lambeth, one of the largest single investments anywhere in the country. Council estates have been fully refurbished, with tenants receiving new kitchens, bathrooms, windows and doors -- making sure homes are warm, dry and safe. Over the next four years we will invest millions more to modernise Lambeth council homes and bring them up to a good standard.
Since the tragedy of the Grenfell fire we’ve worked closely with local tenant and leaseholder groups to reassure residents about the council’s fire safety record. We’ve invested £5 million on additional fire safety measures over the last eight months, completed stringent fire risk assessments on our high-rise blocks and we will always follow the advice and recommendations of the Fire Service to keep our residents safe.
In 2015 the council closed down the council’s housing management body, Lambeth Living and brought housing management back in-house. In the past year we’ve saved £3.7 million on housing management, which we are spending on repairs and improving our council housing.
We’ve been tough on repairs contractors, firing contractors who didn’t deliver for residents, and our tenant satisfaction is the highest it’s ever been. We will give tenants and leaseholders more control over improvements on their estates, through estate action plans, and support new resident boards to hold council officers and contractors to account for performance. We will introduce greater transparency on performance and repairs, making it easier for residents to see how much work is planned for their estate and to track the progress of work.