A Strategy for Wandsworth People - council unveils housing strategy for consultation

A new housing and homelessness strategy for Wandsworth will see more homes built across the borough, helping meet the needs and ambitions of our local residents and workers.

The strategy, which was supported by the Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee last night for consultation, will build on recent council successes where the Council has exceeded building targets for market and affordable housing and successfully introduced plans to significantly reduce levels of homelessness.

This is intended to be an inclusive strategy underpinned by a recognition that the Council needs to do more for hard working households looking for affordable housing options and security particularly through better homeownership options targeted to them. But inclusivity is also about ensuring that the right services and housing offers are there for those needing support, such as the frail elderly, and are also there to help rough sleepers off the streets and into accommodation which suits their needs. 

For the first time, the Housing and Homelessness Strategies are being combined into one plan that is intended to deliver the best housing options for Wandsworth People. 

It is proposed that the new strategy will follow five key themes:

• Building more homes

• Proud of our Council housing

• Improving standards for private renters

• Preventing homelessness and increasing housing options

• Supporting vulnerable residents 

Councillor Kim, Caddy, cabinet member for housing, said: “In developing these new Housing and Homelessness Strategy options for consultation we have had the opportunity to take stock and review our housing priorities in the light of new legislation and the changing housing landscape. The strategy sets out an ambitious housing programme designed to benefit residents across the borough, building on our recent achievements. Over the last three years we have exceeded targets for delivering both market and affordable housing in the borough, taken action to improve standards in the private rented sector and implemented changes to prevent homelessness through significant upfront investment in services.

“We have also continued to invest in maintaining and improving our council housing stock so that our properties exceed the national decent homes standard.”

As well as focusing on the bigger housing picture, Wandsworth Council is also responding to specific events and challenges in the housing sector. For example, following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower last June, fire safety measures across all council housing have been reviewed, with work underway to remove and replace cladding on two council blocks and a commitment to retrofit sprinklers in high-rise towers. This is in line with advice from the London Fire Brigade, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the London Assembly and a cross-party group of MPs tasked with looking at fire safety post-Grenfell.

Last year’s Homelessness Reduction Act has also put the onus on local authorities to take a new approach to tackling homelessness, with a view of ending rough sleeping by 2027. Wandsworth has embraced this opportunity and made significant investment to implement the Act, working with the voluntary sector to help rough sleepers off the street. 

National legislation has also focused on improving conditions in the private sector and the strategy outlines the council’s commitment to improving conditions for private renters, while focusing on targeted intervention to tackle rogue landlords. The council will also continue to bring empty properties back into use and work at maintaining the high standards that have been set across the borough in the private rented sector.

Cllr Caddy added: “Despite the success of the last strategy there is still more to be done to meet the demands and aspirations of our residents. They have told us that we need to provide more housing opportunities for younger people and working families who wish to take their first step on the property ladder in a borough where such options can often be out of reach. We need to respond to this and need to see a step change in the delivery of affordable and low-cost homeownership housing which makes up a very small fraction of our current housing stock. 

Also we need to provide more opportunities for social renters to own. Schemes such as our House Purchase Grant scheme have a double benefit in providing council renters who want to own the opportunity to do so and releasing the property they leave for re-letting. 

“Proposals for the strategy are wide ranging and inclusive. We need to find ways to better use our social housing stock and to put aspiration at the heart of everything we do, creating ‘a Wandsworth housing offer – for Wandsworth people’. The strategy will demonstrate how we will work with our partners in the private and public sectors to help us achieve these objectives. Above all, it will set out how we as a council will step up to the challenge of doing more to increase housing supply and by doing so improve housing options and conditions throughout the borough.”

The Housing and Homelessness strategy will now go to the council’s executive for final approval and out to consultation later this month.