On 24th April 2014 Croydon Council Strategic Planning Committee will receive a presentation on plans to build 80 flats on the Morland Road site of the former Social Services building, Rees House, and the former NHS building, Morland Lodge.
The plan for the site includes 64 private flats for outright sell, 4 flats for shared ownership (part-buy, part-rent), and 12 will be for affordable rent (up to 80% of local market rent). There will be two blocks of flats, each 4-storey high, and each block will roughly occupy the same areas of the two existing buildings.
The Council’s paper acknowledges that the proposals are not in accordance with its own Croydon Plan, which states that it seeks 50% affordable housing (affordable rents or shared ownership) on sites such as this. Over the last few years Croydon Council has been accepting only around 15% affordable housing on new development, so this 20% is a slight improvement. One of the consequences of this is the amount of new affordable housing in Croydon has dramatically dropped by 75% since 2009, when George Osborn slashed funding for new affordable homes.
The difference with this scheme compared to others in Croydon is this site was owned by Croydon Council. This means the Council could have done what other local authorities have done and built new council housing on their own land. For example Islington Council, is in the process of building 100’s of new council homes, both for rent and for low-cost home ownership. Croydon has built a small number of new council homes over the last few years, but these have failed to keep match with the number of homes that they have sold off (Cherry Orchard Gardens) or bought under right-to-buy.
So why haven’t Croydon Council used this site to build a large number of affordable homes that first time buyers can afford, or for those paying over £1000 a month in rent to a private landlord? It seems that there are two main reasons, the first is to pay off the enormous £145 million cost of the new Council Headquarters, Bernard Weatherill House. Croydon Council, borrowed millions to build this new edifice, including £3 million on new chairs and tables. (Croydon Guardian). Croydon Council, is seeking to maximise the amount of cash it can raised to help start paying off the huge debt it has run up in the last few years. The second reason is slightly more controversial, in that Croydon Tories are keen to remove any barriers to development, which would deter foreign speculators from investing in new build homes.
The downside of this policy is that most new build homes are marketed abroad, as buy-to-let investments, which results in local residents paying very high private rents. An example of this is the new Morello Quarter on Cherry Orchard Rd, where the minimum price of a 1-bed flat is marketed at £275,000, which is about 10 times the average earning of an Addiscombe resident.
Under Croydon Council planning rules Addiscombe Labour Councillors will not be allowed to speak at the 24th April 2014 meeting but we have expressed our concerns about the low levels of affordable housing, and the lack of consultation with local residents about the new scheme. We will also be pressing the new Administration that will be in power after the 22nd May 2014 local elections to review their decision to sell this land off for mostly buy-to-let development.