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NHF backs estate regeneration ballots with limits

 

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has called for limits to estate regeneration ballots in London, while backing the idea in principle.

In its response to a consultation by Sadiq Khan on plans to introduce ballots for estate resident on regeneration schemes in order to access mayor funding, the NHF said it would back the proposal.

But the NHF also recommends the scope of any future ballot be restricted to the offer being made to existing residents and a commitment to on-going engagement.

It also recommends a ballot only be required where the number of homes to be demolished exceeds a percentage of the total number of homes on the estate, and calls for further discussion about setting the appropriate level.

And it also calls for GLA match funding to be made available for early development of regeneration plans up until the point of a resident ballot, which would then be subtracted from any subsequent GLA funding if the vote is successful.

In the response document, the NHF state many members’ experience over the years has demonstrated the importance of engaging early with residents and maintaining that commitment during the regeneration scheme.

‘For example, Catalyst’s redevelopment of the Wornington Green estate showed how resident support can be crucial to successful regeneration,’ the document states.

‘A strong residents steering group supported the scheme and allayed residents’ concerns. There was a full range of pre and post planning engagement with a wide range of residents.

‘They informed the design of new homes, and were part of the selection process for the construction partner.’

And the consultation response also notes several housing associations have already incorporated resident ballots into their regeneration plans.

It quotes the example of Southern Housing Group and its regeneration of the Market Estate in Islington, where 80% of the residents balloted backed the plans.

‘And where a ballot isn’t used, residents’ views and support is routinely tracked,’ the response states.

‘For example, A2Dominion’s intensive engagement with residents as part of their Stanwell New Start scheme meant that initial resistance was transformed into support ratings of 90%.’

Will Jeffwitz, a policy officer at the NHF told New Start: ‘We are glad to support the mayor’s proposal. Housing associations understand the importance of keeping local people at the heart of development in their community, and balloting existing residents can provide an important indicator of residents’ support for a project. It is also a key way of ensuring that estate regeneration can deliver meaningful change.

‘However, we have identified a possible risk in our submission to the GLA: important schemes which could have gone on to secure resident support aren’t even started because landlords don’t want to risk losing money they would spend to get to the balloting stage. The early stages of delivering a regeneration scheme can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Knowing that, after all of this work, a scheme could get voted down could deter landlords from starting much needed regeneration projects.

‘To minimise such risks, the GLA could look at providing funding upfront for preparatory work, making ballots a requirement only when a certain percentage of existing homes need to be demolished as well as focusing ballots on the new housing offer for existing residents. Ballots must also form part of a much wider process of engagement that gives residents a say in the design, development and delivery of projects.’

Earlier this month, the Green Party’s co-leader Jonathan Bartley said his group’s councillors will give people a say in their futures – with meaningful input into plans for their community and a ballot for residents on the demolition of their homes.

‘Cosy, complacent councils like this one in Lambeth have forgotten the communities they are meant to serve,’ he commented.

 

To read the full NHF consultation response, click here.

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