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The London Assembly has just produced a report entitled ‘Knock it down or do it up?’ which aims to improve the process of regenerating local authority and housing association owned housing estates.

Knock it down or do it up? - By Michael Hill

We have probably the largest estate regeneration programme of any housebuilder in London and the South East, with 15 schemes either on site or due to start in the next twelve months. So, we are keen to support initiatives that improve a process that is hugely challenging but also hugely satisfying in terms of the resultant transformation.

A lot of the report’s recommendations, particularly in relation to the decision-making process and on how to better inform and involve local residents, frankly amount to nothing particularly new; it has always seemed to us essential that this process is carried out openly and honestly, and where it is one is much more likely to secure support even on contentious proposals.

Also, it seems to me to be totally unsurprising that the number of new owner-occupier homes has increased so dramatically in recent years, as the level of owner-occupation on existing estates intended for development will in most cases be very low; the need to generate cross-subsidy has of course driven the growth in owner occupation through new market sale homes but so has a wish to secure a tenure mix on new schemes that is better balanced and more closely reflects that of the wider neighbourhood.

However, the report does make several very good points.

It recommends that the option appraisal process should look in more detail at the long-term social and environmental consequences for residents of different development options. This seems extremely sensible; however, I would also include economic consequences because this is such a vital part of any successful regeneration scheme, especially where the local population is seriously disadvantaged in terms of employment and wage levels.

It recommends that there is a more consistent measurement of the relative life cycle costs of refurbishment versus redevelopment and again this seems eminently sensible.

It expresses concern at the loss of affordable housing on some schemes due to the need to prioritise housing for sale to ‘balance the books’ ;  given the critical need to increase let alone maintain affordable housing supply their recommendation that, for example, HRA caps be lifted to enable local authorities to leverage their housing assets is welcome.

I was left with the feeling that the authors of the report instinctively favour refurbishment over redevelopment, which, if true, would be hugely disappointing. Redevelopment achieves transformational change in a way refurbishment simply cannot do, albeit that as we move away from the regeneration of our worst estates a mix of refurbishment and redevelopment may be increasingly appropriate. Redevelopment offers local authorities the ability to address an often chronic need for new affordable homes in a way that is often their only significant option in terms of land ownership and control. And the transformation of a single estate can often provide the catalyst for wider, neighbourhood scale regeneration.

Michael Hill, New Business Director

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About this blog

Here you’ll find property related blog articles from the team at Countryside as well as independent experts. Expect regular tips and advice on topics such as buying a new home, interior and landscape design, setting up home, mortgages and finance, plus articles on architecture, the property market, regeneration and more.

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