Independent report calls for more social housing and more mixed tenure developments in Westminster

An independent report on ‘The Prime Residential Market in Westminster’ by Ramidus Consulting Ltd calls on Westminster Council to build more homes for low and middle income residents, create more mixed tenure developments and do more to tackle the problem of vacant property.

The Ramidus report’s recommendations call on the Council to;

• Deliver, where possible, public sector rented homes for local people and shared ownership homes for local key workers within the borough.
• Westminster should, wherever possible, seek to retain Affordable Housing on site, in order to create and preserve mixed and balanced communities. It should also consider a tiered mechanism for negotiating Affordable Housing provision to reflect land value.
• There is no official source for data showing the extent of wholly or periodically vacant properties. Westminster should initiate a process to collect more accurate data either through Council Tax returns or periodic survey work.

Labour Councillors say that these key recommendations by Ramidus should not be crowded out by the facts and figures of the relatively small prime and super-prime housing market. Labour say that Westminster Council is currently failing on all three fronts identified by Ramidus;

• Not enough social housing is being built to help the 2,000 families in temporary accommodation or those Council tenants in overcrowded conditions. Earlier this week research by specialist fund and asset managers London Central Portfolio revealed that in 2013 40 per cent of new build homes in Westminster were sold to buy-to-let investors.
• The Council regularly fails to ensure that new developments include on-site affordable housing. For example, in June the Council gave permission for the redevelopment of the Canadian High Commission building in Mayfair to provide 41 luxury apartments which contains no affordable housing but will include a gym, swimming pool, banqueting suite and 53 parking spaces. The owners say that on-site provision of affordable housing is unviable and a search for suitable donor sites has been unsuccessful. Instead a financial contribution will be made to the Council to provide affordable housing elsewhere.
• Westminster is one of the few Councils in London which fails to charge the increased Council Tax for properties that have been empty for more than two years. There are an estimated 3,000 empty properties in Westminster.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;

“The key housing challenge in Westminster is to provide more social housing and shared ownership housing so that people have somewhere locally to live that they can afford. The super-rich have always flocked to Westminster but they should not drive housing policy and we have no need to be grateful to them for buying expensive property in Mayfair and Belgravia.”

“The Council cannot stop the impact of global capitalism on Westminster but residents want some leadership and action from the Council to provide the homes for local people in need. Sadly, we are getting neither from Westminster Conservatives who have allowed prime and super-prime housing to crowd out the housing needs of local people”

See a copy of the report here

http://transact.westminster.gov.uk/docstores/publications_store/news/prime_residential_research_report_140722.pdf

Posted in Affordable Housing, Belgravia, Buy to let, Empty Property, House building, Housing, Luxury Housing, Private rented housing, Social Housing, Super Prime Housing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

40 per cent of new build homes in Westminster sold to buy-to-let investors

Last year saw 40 per cent of new build homes in Westminster sold to buy-to-let investors, while 52 per cent went the way of buy-to-let investors in Kensington and Chelsea, according to research by specialist fund and asset managers London Central Portfolio.

Last year in London 46 per cent of all new build accommodation built was bought up by the buy-to-let market.

Research by London Central Portfolio shows that £1.2 billion in new build accommodation has been sold in the capital so far this year.

The sales mirror data from the 2011 census which shows 50 per cent of all privately owned units in central London are let out.

LCP notes that whilst the number of new units available to buy in central London is tiny – there have only been 77 new build sales this year – it is a different story elsewhere in inner London.

In Wandsworth there are 14,306 units in the pipeline. Meanwhile, between them Tower Hamlets and Southwark have 33,646 units in their development pipeline.

Posted in Buy to let, House building, Housing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Update on North Paddington Foodbank

FoodBankNorth Pad

The North Paddington Foodbank serves wards in North Westminster. These include Harrow Road, Queen’s Park, Westbourne, Church Street, Little Venice, Maida Vale, Bayswater and Lancaster Gate Wards.

In Westminster an increasing number of people have difficulties in paying for their basic needs. Other needs may take up all finances, leaving nothing for food. This is a dire situation, especially if one is supporting a family.

The North Paddington Foodbank is there to help. With cash and food donations from businesses and ordinary people, the food bank provides a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in North Paddington.

We operate through a voucher system in partnership with local services (Voucher Issuing Organisations). These include GP’s, Westminster Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Social Landlords, Health Services, North Westminster Drug & Alcohol Services, Westminster Children’s Services, Westbourne Baptist Church, other local churches and schools.
The Voucher Issuing Organisations issue food vouchers to people and families in need of short term emergency food which are redeemed at the Foodbank.

For more information visit http://www.wech.co.uk/resident-here-to-help/groups-support-for-kids-disabled-women-and-more/north-paddington-foodbank.html

Posted in Cost of Living, Foodbank, North Paddington, North Paddington Foodbank, Paddington, Voluntary groups | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Call to Health Trust to reverse plans to close Soho Square General Practice

Labour Councillors are calling on Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust to reverse its decision to close the Soho Square General Practice. In a letter to the Trust Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg writes;

“The surgery’s imminent closure in September is of deep concern to local residents. As you know the surgery has over 4,500 patients and is a valuable asset to the community. Many patients who attend this surgery have serious illnesses, and many are elderly. For these patients the prospect of relocating to another surgery, with doctors whom they not familiar is a very difficult and daunting task which could cause a serve amount of stress.

A resident who contacted me has an illness which means she is home bound and cannot attend the surgery for appointments. The two doctors at Soho Square General Practice currently make home visits, however it is very unlikely that another surgery will cater for this. There are also concerns with patients not being able to attend the new surgeries to register with them, therefore being left without a doctor.

These concerns are made even more severe when you take into account the Chinese community that this surgery serves. Many of these patients do not speak English as a first language and having doctors who speak Chinese and Mandarin at the surgery is a lifeline for many people within the community.

I have been informed that residents were not consulted on the closure of this surgery and many have not been formally written to, having to hear the news through the local press. The impact of the surgeries closure on local people will be extensive and the fact local patients have not been able to put forward their views is a total disgrace.

Following this letter I would be grateful if you could get back to me explaining your decision to close the surgery, and outlining what you will be doing to help the many patients badly affected by this closure.

Thank you for your assistance.

Yours faithfully

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg
Leader of the Opposition
Queen’s Park Ward

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Karen Buck MP starts survey to ask residents for their views on short term lets

The government is making it easier for householders to rent their properties out for up to 90 days without needing permission.

Although this is intended to free people up to do holiday home-swaps or earn some extra money by letting out their homes for the summer, many people are concerned that this could lead to more problems in areas like Westminster.

These problems include:

• Reducing the stock of homes for people who need somewhere to live.
• Making neighbourhoods less stable and undermining communities.
• Generating noise, rubbish and nuisance for residents in blocks or streets where there is a lot of short-term letting.
• Making it more difficult and expensive for Councils like Westminster to enforce the law.

Karen Buck MP has started a survey to find out what local residents think. You can complete the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2QN28KZ

Posted in Housing, Karen Buck MP, Private rented housing, Short term lets | Tagged | Leave a comment

Changing attitues of young people in Queen’s Park

Noel McKoy has been working with Tell It to produce a very short film that captures the changing attitudes of young people.

He managed to attract a number of well known actors to take part in the project and the scenes were shot in and around Queen’s Park.

Tell It is pleased to be hosting the ‘Premiere Screening’ on Saturday 26th July at 7pm – 21 Dart Street, W10 4NA

The film will be followed by a discussion involving the young people who participated and refreshments will be provided.

Please RSVP to 07450 846 245

This project was funded by the Queen’s Park Ward Budget, CityWest Homes & the Queen’s Park Community Development Foundation

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Karen Buck calls for false Council claims on Warwick regeneration vote to be retracted

Karen Buck MP and the Westbourne Ward Councillors have written the following letter to Councillor Daniel Astaire following his remarks on the result of the of recent residents’ vote on the Council’s regeneration proposals for Warwick and Brindley estate;

Dear Daniel,

Westminster Conservatives told the Council meeting on Wednesday last that Westbourne councillors and I had ‘campaigned for a ‘no’ vote’ on the Warwick and Brindley estate regeneration scheme.

There is no evidence for such a claim, because it is completely false. I am therefore asking for this claim to be retracted it and an undertaking given not to repeat it.

Inevitably, residents want to know what I and their ward councillors, think about projects of this type and scale. I wrote to residents giving setting out the pros and cons as I saw them. (It is worth pointing out that I and ward councillors in Church St did exactly the same before residents voted on their scheme, and the vote there was strongly in favour). The letters to Warwick and Brindley residents, themselves reflective of several discussions with officers, stressed such points as the need to make the affordable housing offer better, to test the salience of the community offer (especially around the nursery); not to promise retail opportunities which were not within the Council’s gift, and so forth.

As can be clearly seen from those letters, which officers have copies of, I stress that it is for residents to make their own decisions and I am strenuously NOT advising them which way to vote. Councillors expressed similar views in their literature.

Over and above the letters, we have all sought to answer factual queries, and ward Councillors have attended numerous meetings with residents over a period of years. The issue rarely came up during our local election canvassing sessions somewhat to my surprise, and that, in my opinion, is itself illustrative of a much lower level of involvement and awareness than should have been the case at this stage in the scheme.

My understanding from officers is that the claim that Labour campaigned for a ‘no’ vote was based on one report to this effect. Not least in light of the fact that I have now seen a complaint that I was campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote, it is my strongly held view that we all do well to avoid drawing any conclusions about another’s actions on the basis of one or two individual recollections, however sincerely held.

I regret that so much time and money was put into a preparation for a scheme that could not command sufficient support. I think there are several reasons why this happened and we all need to seek to understand them. For what it is worth, I believe the offer was seen as insufficient to offset the disadvantages; far too little was done to engage a community which, we predicted, was harder to involve than in Church Street, more effort went into the ‘design’ elements of the scheme than on the human side and the decision to proceed with the construction of the highly visible Torquay Street tower in the months prior to the vote was ill-advised. For that matter, the luxury housing development on Amberley Road, facing the Warwick on the other side of the canal, also did not go unnoticed, and the Warwick has also been under pressure as a result of both the Adult Education centre relocation and the Thames Water excavation. With the exception of the Torquay Street tower, which was not on anyone’s radar until very late on, all of these points were put to Westminster by ward councillors and myself and discussed in detail over the last 8 months. Others may have further insights.

Obviously a period of reflection is now required, and the majority view of the residents must be respected. Yet the underlying problems of over-crowding and the need for an improved public realm remain. We also have an immediate challenge to secure the Thames Water contribution and funding for the Mary Magdalene Crypt project. I hope that we will be able to engage constructively to find a way forward. The residents will not be best-served if such a dialogue about the future is obscured by a wildly inaccurate bout of blame and finger-pointing, such as we saw last week, and I hope we can move beyond that.

Karen Buck MP

(Also on behalf of Councillors David Boothroyd, Adam Hug and Papaya Qureshi).

Posted in Karen Buck MP, Regeneration, Warwick Estate, Westbourne, Westbourne Green | Tagged , | Leave a comment