What was the motivation for regeneration? Money or council homes?

In its most recent statements, Lambeth council is arguing that regeneration is all about building the 1,000 council homes that it promised during the May 2014 elections.  However, Cresingham Gardens was put into the ‘regeneration program’ long before this election.

So let’s rewind back to 2012.  In March 2012, Lambeth Cabinet approved a report entitled “Lambeth Housing Standard” that had been brought forward for consideration by the then Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Lib Peck, who today is now the lead councillor.  The council was being ambitious, because it wanted to deliver a housing standard beyond that of the Government’s definition of Decent Homes:

Executive summary

A key recommendation from the Housing Commission, which concluded in June 2011, was to co-produce a local housing standard for Lambeth. This was driven by a commitment to deliver as much investment into council homes as quickly as possible to bring them up to the standard that our residents would expect: safe, warm and secure, a home to take pride in. The Lambeth Housing Standard is aspirational and goes beyond what is required under the Government’s definition of Decent Homes but it is also realistic, affordable and most importantly, based on what our residents have told us: significant engagement with residents was undertaken, with more that than 5,600 tenants and leaseholders participating. Going forward the Lambeth Housing Standard will allow future investment in the housing stock to be better prioritised and targeted and it will allow all council tenants to know the level at which Lambeth-owned homes will be maintained.

Money was a problem though even at this early stage as Lambeth council recognised that it had a funding gap of £56m:

Current estimates indicate that the Lambeth Housing Standard will require £499m of investment over the five years 2012/13 to 2016/17. Current capital resources expected to be available total £443m and are supported by additional borrowing capacity as a result of HRA refinancing. Based upon current estimates there is a funding shortfall of £56m.

However, instead of simply delivering “Decent Homes”, Lambeth decided to embark on the more expensive “Lambeth Housing Standard”, even though it obviously could not afford the program.

It is within this discussion of the £56m funding gap, that the idea of “regeneration” was raised as a form of funding:

In order to bring all the stock up to the Lambeth Housing Standard, the Council will need to make some decisions about where the further funding might be found. This could include accessing the Single Capital Pot or financing the works on some estates through estate regeneration or alternative forms of ownership (exploring cooperative models of housing ownership).

At no point in this report, was regeneration discussed as a form of building new council homes.  Regeneration was simply a mechanism to raise finances to repair council homes, as Lambeth council had decided to embark on the more expensive “Lambeth Housing Standard” and had already identified a funding shortfall of £56m.

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