H&F look for housing partner

LB Hammersmith & Fulham is looking to build at least 500 new homes on its land over the next five years in a joint venture between its housing company and a private sector partner.

As trailed in October the council is looking to increase the number of low-cost home-ownership schemes in the borough. The average price of a new home in H&F is over £581,000, compared to a UK average of just £162,000.

They plan to choose a partner for the 15 year programme after a market briefing event in November.

Cllr Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for housing, said: “We’ve got the fourth highest property prices and thousands of local people who want low cost home-ownership. Yet at the moment low cost homes to buy in this borough are like gold dust. We are determined to change that by creating a Borough of Housing Opportunity.”

“Local authorities have a key role to play in unlocking new housing growth, so we’re maximising our housing land estates to provide much needed new homes and generate cash to invest in our existing stock.”

It is anticipated that the joint venture’s lifespan will be for an initial period of 15 years and the council has initially identified two development opportunities, as earlier reported, which are in its ownership, in Fulham – Watermeadow Court Estate and Edith Summerskill House.

Edith Summerskill House on the Clem Attlee Estate is an empty, 18-storey, former council block. The building is in need of more than £6million pounds worth of improvements to bring it up to standard and the council does not believe it to be in the best interests of the taxpayer to carry out the work. Redevelopment of the site will involve a complete refurbishment or possibly demolition and rebuild.

Watermeadow Court in South Fulham currently comprises 80 not-fit-for-purpose residential units over three storeys. When the council asked residents what they thought of the block, they responded that rooms are too small, with a severe lack of storage space, meaning many families were living in cramped conditions.

By working with a private developer through a joint venture, rather than simply selling the blocks to get a capital receipt, the council says it will be able to retain greater control over what the land is used for and make its housing assets work much harder.

They also expect to receive a share of the profits – and hope for that to be far in excess of the amount they would receive if it simply sold the land off. The proceeds will be ploughed back into similar schemes, estate improvements and reducing the council’s £200million of housing debt.

The council’s local housing company ‘Hidden Homes’ programme is already well underway and sees the council converting underused undercrofts, bin stores, pramsheds and garages on council estate land into flats that are sold at a fraction of the market rate.

The first property, at Becklow Gardens, Shepherds Bush, has just been sold to a 30 year-old hospital worker who has spent her entire life living with her parents on the estate and has not been able to buy her own place in the borough.

Planning permission has recently been granted for the next site, with a pipeline of a further eight sites currently being progressed through the design and planning process. The entire ‘Hidden Homes’ scheme could see more than 100 new homes built over the next five years, says the council.

LBH&F now hopes to team up with a private sector partner to set up a long term joint venture to carry out several schemes of residentially led regeneration. The Council is seeking a reputable partner who shares its vision and is able to demonstrate long term commitment to regeneration and high quality residential developments. This could lead to around 200 homes constructed in the next five years.

The Council will be holding an informal Market Briefing Event for interested parties on Thursday November 15.

The council’s local housing company also intends to begin an innovative house building scheme using modern methods of construction. A number of sites across the borough are being identified that could benefit from highly flexible and adaptable family homes that can also fit into tight urban spaces.

These infill development sites are considered suitable for development of up to 50 new homes per site. Due to the relatively constrained nature of sites, innovative solutions in terms of design and construction is being sought. It is anticipated that several hundred more properties could be built through this programme.

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