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Housing, development, and the changing population - Discuss!

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Saturday 28 March 2015 1.33am
There are a lot of threads on this site discussing housing, property development, and the changing population of SE1. There are also a lot of opinions on the topic, but relatively few facts (I know, I know, never let facts get in the way of a good story…). Just the same, I thought it would be useful to post a few facts as a basis for some of the discussions. [NB: The numbers are generally from government sites, namely the statistical data sets, Southwark Council statistics, and London Councils statistics.]

- The population of London is the largest it has ever been at 8.6 million. It has increased by 30% (an additional 2.1 million people) since the latest low point in 1991 (24 years ago), and is forecast to increase by 16% (an additional 1.4 million people) in the next 15 years.
- The population of Inner London is 3.3 million, which is only 2/3 of the 5.0 million strong population of Inner London a hundred years ago.
- The density of Inner London is 26,000/sq mile, while Greater London has a density of 13,500/sq mile. Manhattan has a density of 71,200/sq mile (NYC: 27,900/sq mile) and Kowloon has a density of 111,500/sq mile (Hong Kong: 17,000).
- The current population of Southwark is estimated at around 310,000. It has increased by 27% (an additional 65,000 people) in the last 15 years, and is forecast to increase by 15% (an additional 40,000 people) in the next 15 years.
- The housing stock in Southwark increased from 110,000 to 126,000 between 2004 and 2013.
- The number of vacant dwellings in Southwark decreased from 4,400 to 2,700 between 2004 and 2013.

I suppose the point is that Southwark (and London in general) has grown substantially in the past couple of decades, and this growth is expected to continue. SE1 is a very different place now than it was 15 years ago and will be a very different place again in 15 years. We can either (1) accept the change and find a way to accommodate the continued growth or (2) vote UKIP and hope they ban all immigration and reverse the trend (although to be fair UKIP’s policy is to implement an uncapped points-based immigration policy, so even the most extreme situation is unlikely to stem the tide).

The FT had an article this week ( setting out the views of some political parties (James, hope it’s ok to quote a credited FT article?):

“Labour’s Lord Adonis has proposed that London council estates should be demolished in order to build swaths of new houses for sale. Knocking down existing council housing would give the opportunity to build “mixed communities” that would function as “city villages”, the Labour peer said in a report.

Lord Adonis will argue that demolishing existing neighbourhoods and rebuilding at higher densities — including homes for sale at open market prices — can create a net increase in housing without needing any funding from the state. The former cabinet minister believes that existing tenants could be housed in new properties on the site. “The scale of council-owned land is vast and greatly under-appreciated,” Lord Adonis said. “There are particularly large concentrations of council-owned land in inner London, and this is some of the highest-priced land in the world.” London councils own on average 25 to 30 per cent of the land in their boroughs, the report said. Southwark Council, for example, owns 43 per cent of the land it governs, while Islington owns about a third.

The Tories are expected to revive Margaret Thatcher’s Right To Buy policy in their election manifesto by offering to expand the policy from council houses to housing associations. Right to Buy is popular with many voters but has been blamed for worsening the shortage of social housing in Britain, with many of the sold properties not replaced.”

Well, that’s a lot of info to digest. Given the facts, what do we do as SE1ers to keep SE1 an amazing place to live but deal with the population and cash influx? Discuss! (I’ll share my views as well, but I’ve probably written enough tonight…)
Saturday 28 March 2015 10.57am
Lord Adonis should be pointed in the direction of the Heygate..where did all the families go after being promised new housing on the new build? Only a few residents were put into new builds nearby, which apparently were half the size of their previous dwellings and were shoddily built.

They lost their homes,friends,a familiar neighbourhood where they had lived all their lives, and for what? So an overseas company could cash in by building flats that are sold off plan to Asian investors who will never live there!

Will put more when I simmer down!
Saturday 28 March 2015 12.16pm
Something I have been wondering for a while, I'm not, what you might call, well travelled.
As a Capital city, is London unique with the amount of social housing so central?
Saturday 28 March 2015 12.28pm
There are tons of empty office buildings that can be turned ino housing. Most of the (ex-)RBS building on Southwark street is empty. The whole housing shortage is artificial. Also, and I quote:

"The latest Government data on empty properties suggests that there are over 610,000 empty homes in England. The Government data is derived from individual local authority council tax base data which is a snapshot of the position in October 2014.
The latest Government data also records over 200,000 long-term empty homes (that is homes empty over six months)."

And, from the horse's mouth: BoJo on empty houses.
Saturday 28 March 2015 12.32pm
You don't see many (real) sheep crossing London Bridge these days, so I wonder where all the wool that some are having pulled over their eyes comes from.
Saturday 28 March 2015 1.45pm
Even if it is unique Boroughonian what are council tenants to do now developers are honing in? Obligingly move to some backwater because the estate they live on, say Rockingham for example has lots of space not utilised!

Not saying that's your point incidentally and you were just wondering! 😀 it is a Capitol City because of the people, no people no city.
Saturday 28 March 2015 2.42pm
Genuinely wondering Jan, do we have a diversity that has made London (apparently) the best city in the world, along with other things of course.

Adonis seems to have accepted that the developers rule and he's trying to get the best he can out of it (politically). He's worried me about the future more than anything that's happened so far.
Saturday 28 March 2015 3.53pm
It seems to me that the debate over who can/should live in central London needs to be considered alongside the debate about major transport infrastructure projects.

If the people who work in central London continue to be excluded from the possibility of living near the centre, the need for projects like the Bakerloo line extension, Crossrail 2, the Waterloo Station upgrade (etc etc etc) will only become more acute.

And by extension, if people are having to travel vast distances every day, that has environmental implications too.

These topics - housing, transport, environment - can't be considered in isolation.

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Monday 30 March 2015 9.01am
Thank you, sjac, for starting this thread.
I came across this article just now, and will read the Shelter report it quotes, "The Fliers and the Triers"
Monday 30 March 2015 11.33am
Jan - This is part of the difficulty: We clearly need more homes and the Heygate will grow from 1,200 to 2,500 homes with the redevelopment. Yes, people have been displaced, but what's the alternative?

eDWaRD - Really? Office vacancy in SE1 is less than 7% (and which vacant RBS buildings are you referring to?). The "vacant homes" argument is an oft-used red herring as well. Long-term empty homes in Southwark total 853, which is 0.67% of housing stock (lower than the national average by some measure). Some of these will also be unfit for occupation. While accepting that one empty home is one too many, eliminating the empty home problem is far from the panacea that it's held up to be.

boroughonian - Just from personal experience, I'd say that London is unique in how integrated our social housing is with private housing. In cities like NYC and Paris the projects and HLMs (what we call housing estates) seems to be more segregated and grouped together in larger complexes.

James - Agreed. There has been some good momentum on infrastructure projects over the last several years and it needs to continue.

JazzyQ - This brings us back around to Jan's comment. We need to build more homes. The reason prices keep going up is that the population is growing faster than the housing stock. But if we stop development then the problem will just keep getting worse and worse.

I have to admit that I have a fair amount of sympathy for our local council. No solution to the current housing demand is ever going to appeal to everyone, but their support for development, coupled with fund-raising for new affordable housing and infrastructure (through s106 requirements) seems to be an acceptable middle ground for the time being.
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