Wandsworth Council has announced its radical new housing strategy which proposes moving elderly people to the seaside to free up council housing in the borough.

The jargon-heavy document, published this afternoon, suggests encouraging social tenants aged 60+ to adopt the “Seaside and Country Homes” scheme, developed in the 1960s, to free up social housing in London.

The plans came under a proposed “Wandsworth Moves and Mobility Scheme”, which aims to encourage 600 “under-occupier” moves in the next three years.

The news comes just a week after the Wandsworth Guardian revealed the council was housing its homeless families as far away as Birmingham, Leicester and West Bromwich, as it is too expensive to house them in the borough.

If approved, the council said it would be committed to delivering 18,000 homes in 10 years, an increase from its previous target of 11,000.

At times the document is brutally honest about the housing problems the borough is facing. It said: “Affordability is becoming an increasing problem for more borough working residents, living with mum and dad, privately renting and looking to own with fewer residents able to put down roots.

“Low to middle income households (£20,000- £80,000) are being priced out of the borough. Losing these households to the Borough has implications for the local economy, services and is likely to have a polarising effect with the more affluent being able to access market housing whilst the lower paid are reliant on social housing, claiming Housing Benefit or being obliged to live in housing that may be of poorer quality.”

It also admits that aspirations to own homes are not being met and the council’s current housing policies are not delivering sufficient numbers of lower cost homes to meet the demand from working and vulnerable households.

A family has to earn nearly £144,000 a year before they can purchase the average Wandsworth home.

The council's strategy, dubbed “Wandsworth Housing Offer”, sets out a number of initiatives to tackle the chronic housing crisis being felt across London.

It includes:

Wandsworth Rent Model: deliver low-cost market rent housing, promoting private rent housing

Wandsworth Housing Company: delivering homes for rent

Extra Care Housing: delivering 80 units for the elderly

Review of mental health housing provision: to ensure stock is “being effectively used and is fit for purpose”

Wandsworth Decent Homes Plus Programme: Maintain 100 per cent council stock and invest £71.262m in three years

Estate and Community Asset Review: 15-year plan to improve homes, estates, environment, public spaces and community facilities

Wandsworth Moves and Mobility Scheme: increase the number of under occupier moves to 600 over the next three years

House Purchase Grant Scheme: encouraging social tenants to move into homeownership

Wandsworth Times: Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia: "We cannot absorb costs beyond our control"

Council leader Ravi Govindia said: “Our strategy will see new social housing, affordable housing and homes for private rent and private sale delivered in far greater numbers. Maximising supply across all tenures is the only way to close the gap between supply and demand and to bring affordability back to the London and south-east housing market.

“We will use council and other public sector assets more creatively to drive up the new homes supply and will purchase properties to rent to local people on different terms. We will also incentivise, finance and support other home builders to deliver more of the housing our residents need. This will include helping local people build homes themselves on surplus land and using our planning powers to encourage the delivery of lower cost private rent homes in suitable locations.

“We will develop a new model of private rent housing for Wandsworth residents and do much more to encourage local landlords to provide the longer, more stable rental contracts which allow people to put down roots.

“Our strategy sets out highly ambitious plans for improving our existing council housing including £77m of ‘Decent Homes Plus’ investment over the next three years that will keep our estates above the national standards. We are also taking forward transformative regeneration projects in Battersea and Roehampton which go hand-in-hand with a range of education, skills training, employment and health initiatives which all have a vital role to play in helping our community’s to prosper.

“As the Mayor’s new housing strategy makes clear, the only way to tackle London’s housing shortage and spiralling prices is through a major increase in home building and greater mobility. Every council has to play its part and the Wandsworth Housing Offer sets out our long term commitment and contribution to this challenge.”

More to follow as we unravel the document.

Wandsworth Times: "No race problem" . . . Tooting MP Sadiq Khan

Tooting MP Sadiq Khan said: “Finally Wandsworth Council have realised we are in the midst of a housing crisis. Whilst I welcome the move towards more low-rent homes and the requirement for developers to deliver more affordable housing, this is all too little, too late. 

“This new housing strategy is not without concerns. No one wants to see the most vulnerable people in our community pushed out of their homes, and I’m also disappointed by the council’s lack of commitment to delivering more new social housing. In the last year alone almost 1,000 families lived in temporary accommodation in the borough, 69 of which are currently living in one room per family. We urgently need more social housing, and a council that is willing to deliver it.”

Wandsworth Times:

Dan Watkins, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Tooting, said: "Whenever plots of underutilised brownfield private land become available in Tooting, we see it quickly recycled into new homes.

"But we need to make the most of public land and housing stock too, and I've been pushing the council to see what extra steps can be taken to maximise housing options for those on modest incomes.

"So I'm pleased that the council is innovating and bringing forward new proposals which will hugely increase the supply of new homes."

Wandsworth Times:

Will Martindale, Battersea’s Labour MP candidate, said: "I have been calling for years for starter homes for first time buyers, investment in social housing and longer rental contracts. 

"A neighbour of mine recently moved out of my street and back in with her parents 100 miles out of London, no longer able to afford her rent. These pressures are starting to hollow out our community.

"The council will be judged on its record on affordable homes. So far just three of the first 2,400 flats to be built on the Battersea Power Station site are affordable, family-sized homes."

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