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Opinion: Creating housing young Londoners can afford

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Opinion: Creating housing young Londoners can afford

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Housing

Opinion: Creating housing young Londoners can afford Opinion: Creating housing young Londoners can afford

By Ken Jones, divisional director housing strategy, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is showing that with the right mix of ambition, innovation and capacity it’s possible for councils to bring about a step change in the delivery of new homes.

Key to this is that the council made new housing and regenerating town centres and rundown estates an absolute priority, with a clear driving narrative of creating places where young Londoners can find an affordable home.

The narrative responds to the situation of ‘Generation Rent’, the growing constituency of young households in modest to middle income jobs in London squeezed out of homeownership and living in the private rented sector as a tenure of last resort.

There is a clear understanding that this group of people, marked by aspiration, are vital to the economy of Barking, Dagenham and London. The fact that the number of private rented homes in the borough has more than doubled in the last four years, with homes which were formerly owner-occupied flipping to being rented out, highlights this pressure.

In a focused approach, Barking and Dagenham Council has progressed a linked housing and regeneration strategy. This concentrated on Barking town centre, investing in enhancing the public realm and building high quality homes and amenities which involved replacing failing and unpopular blocks of flats.

By increasing the number of homes, raising quality and changing the mix of types and ownerships, a more vibrant town centre has been created. The success of this strategy has been underpinned by the excellent public transport connectivity of Barking, with journey times of 15 minutes to the City.

Barking and Dagenham has taken an active role in housing development, engaging with private sector builders and developers in the last two years. Over 780 affordable new homes will be completed and let by July this year with a further 600 completed by early 2016. Within this number the council set up a company to own and let at a range of affordable rents 477 houses and apartments innovatively funded by private institutional investment.

A central objective of the strategy is providing affordable housing options to local people who are in employment but cannot get near the homeownership ladder, let alone get a foot on it. This has been delivered with the key being well-managed homes that have been designed with quality and security in mind.   

The emerging attractiveness of the borough to this group of the population of the borough as well as other key worker Londoners has been seized upon by Grainger, the UK’s largest specialist residential landlord, which is taking ownership of 100 new apartments in a Barking town centre development.

Barking and Dagenham Council’s approach to actively engage to bring about that step change in housing delivery comes from its commitment to housing and regeneration and  is predicated on taking a long term view of its land value, being open to innovation and willingness to build public and private partnerships.

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