New London Architecture

Unlocking sites for affordable housing

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Samantha Wells

Senior Associate
Gerald Eve

Providing new affordable housing in well-connected areas of London is vital to tackling the housing crisis and unlocking land is key to this delivery.  The NLA recently hosted a Think Tank section with a cross sector of the industry to discuss shared issues and learnings for delivering the high-quality affordable housing that London needs.
 
With representatives from the public sector and private sector, there was a range of viewpoints on this important topic.  What was resoundingly clear, is that there is no straightforward solution and there is a lot more to be done. However, what did emerge were a few key issues that, if carefully and strategically tackled, would help facilitate the unlocking of sites for the homes that London so desperately needs. 
 
A key issue that was raised was competing pressure from the logistics and industrial sector for brownfield sites. Co-location has been hailed as a potential solution to this problem but as was highlighted, the concept is still in formative stages and there are some key challenges around land value and contamination that need to be tackled.
 
Kate Webb, Head of Housing Strategy at the GLA gave a view from City Hall, confirming that the Mayor’s Land Fund is one initiative that can help to unlock such complex sites, with finance available for remediation and site assembly.  She also highlighted a pilot programme that will be rolled out next year focussed on industrial intensification in East London around industrial intensification on brownfield.  A focus on stacking of industrial land was discussed as a possible way of reducing the sectors footprint and unlocking sites. No doubt this would help unlock brownfield sites to build new homes but juggling with the potential values for industrial and the cost of any required remediation are still big issues.
 
Getting the right infrastructure in place is also vital component in unlocking sites. The session highlighted the seriousness with which we should not discount how much infrastructure is crucial, and a lot of the heavy lifting in this respect is needed from Government.   There was collective dismay about the Government’s withdrawal of funding for Beam Park Station after years of hard work by stakeholders.    
 
Even more practical matters, as noted by Nick Cuff, Chief Commercial Officer at Pocket Living, need to be reviewed.  Whether it be how the approach to Fast Track is handled by boroughs, Party Wall matters or craneage licences, the speed at which matters are resolved needs to be addressed to bring forward the new homes Londoners need.  Rosanna Sterry, Principal Commercial Planner at Transport for London highlighted the role that modular housing can play in bring sites forward with more certainty on costs and timescales, setting out that the Mayor is keen for TfL to champion MMC on its sites.
 
It’s difficult to succinctly summarise the wide and varying debate the roundtable generated, with a range of architects and consultants who are delivering these new affordable homes all highlighting problems and some practical solutions.  All agreed however, that the success in unlocking sites can only be achieved through the creation of true partnerships across the public and private sectors, such as that being carried out by Barnet Homes, as explained by Dipo Lafinhan, External Funding Manager at Barnet Council.  This must be built on an understanding of each other’s priorities and sharing of knowledge and experiences. It will be these meaningful partnerships that deliver the homes that will drive London’s future.


Samantha Wells

Senior Associate
Gerald Eve


Housing

#NLAHousing

Programme Champion

BDP

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