Sam Manners House
Four in ten of the flats at Sam Manners House are empty (image: Google)

Greenwich Council signed off on its plans to build 750 new council homes last night – with a sheltered housing complex in east Greenwich set to be redeveloped as part of the scheme.

The council’s cabinet agreed the plans, which include starting 750 new council homes before 2022 along identifying sites for a further 300 homes for Meridian Home Start, the independent company it set up to provide homes at 65-80% market rent.

Documents prepared for the meeting revealed that one location, the former Thomas Tallis School site on Kidbrooke Park Road, could see up to 400 new homes.

Now councillors are planning to close Sam Manners House in Tuskar Street, Greenwich, and use that land for new council housing.

The building has 41 units, but 17 of them are empty and the council says it is increasingly difficult to let out the bedsits, 27 of which do not have their own bathrooms.

“The bedsit flats are small and poorly laid out with limited natural light in comparison with other sheltered schemes,” a report to be presented to another cabinet meeting, to be held next week, says.

While Greenwich had originally planned to refurbish Sam Manners House, it had found that it would be more costly to adapt to modern standards than first thought, and its 22 residents will be rehoused.

Home-building plans

The council is bidding for funds from London mayor Sadiq Khan for its home-building plans, and will also need to seek permission to increase the amount it can borrow against its existing housing stock by £139m.

If the bid is unsuccessful, the council will consider using the Sam Manners site for temporary accommodation.

Despite controversy over Greenwich’s housing policies sparked by plans to sell land on estates to private firm Pocket Living, cabinet member Kirby’s new housing plans were confirmed in front of a near-empty public gallery.

Proposals also include exploring setting up two community land trusts – non-profit providers owned by the community – to supply more homes, as well as a commitment to co-operative housing and stepping up work with housing associations.

Kirby said the council also wants to work with other providers for housing that is accessible to local people on low and moderate incomes.

“This is our attempt to intervene in a private rented market which is failing local people,” he said.

“We can’t take a laissez-faire attitude to that, we have to intervene in a market that is failing.”

Leader Danny Thorpe said the council was still waiting for details of plans announced by Prime Minister Theresa May last week to lift borrowing restrictions so councils could build more homes.

Kirby added: “The lifting of the cap – if it happens, and it’s a big ‘if’, still – is just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle that has to be completed if they want councils to actually deliver homes.”

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