City housing pledge at risk as proposed sites deemed “unlikely”

Billingsgate fish market in Poplar.

THE City Corporation will have to head back to the drawing board to deliver on its pledge to build 3,000 new homes by 2025, with a new report labelling the majority of sites proposed for development too high-risk to meet the deadline.

Just 108 new homes have been green-lit on Corporation-owned land since the authority rubberstamped the ‘Project 3,000’ strategy to build dwellings across its existing property portfolio over the next decade.

The figure falls well short of the 3,361 potential housing opportunities identified for the scheme, and a progress report presented to the Housing Delivery Programme Working Group flagged the majority of these as “unlikely” to meet the proposed time frame.

Sites earmarked for potential development for Project 3,000 include 1,500 units at Billingsgate Market (pictured above) in Poplar and 1,200 at New Spitalfields Market in Leyton, however this would be contingent on both markets relocating, which would require an Act of Parliament.

According to the report, which was published in error on the City of London Corporation’s website, there is potential for up to 201 units to be delivered on smaller scale sites such as West Ham Park Nurseries and Woodredon Nursing Home in Essex in the next five years.

Others, like Wood Street Police Station, have been categorised as high risk for delivery due to them being part-owned by other authorities, subject to long leasehold interests, and situated in non-residential zoning.

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Wood Street Police Station was deemed a “high-risk” option for residential conversion. Photo by Donald McMorran and George Whitby

Because of this, report author Nia Morgan said current options are “unlikely to provide the full 3,000 homes within the 2025 target date”.

“The City will need to investigate other opportunities to help fulfil its housing strategy,” she concluded.

Despite the somewhat bleak prognosis a mere eight years out from the deadline, a spokesperson for Corporation has said it “remains committed” to the Project 3,000 target.

“We have established a Housing Delivery Programme Working Group to help drive forward our plans,” the spokesperson said.

“And we will continue to work closely with partner boroughs to create new homes and make better use of disused spaces within our existing estates.”

In addition to Project 3,000, the Corporation has pledged to build an extra 700 homes on its existing housing estates – a 25% increase – also by 2025. So far it has delivered 62 new homes on its residential estates – 43 in Horace Jones House next to Tower Bridge, 18 at Twelve Acres House in Bermondsey, and one at Dron House in Whitechapel.

“Thanks to a successful bid for funding from the Mayor of London’s Affordable Homes Programme, we are on our way to fulfilling this [700 target],” the spokesperson said.

“The funding will allow us to deliver a further 270 new homes for social rent.”

Cover image by Jorge Royan (Creative Commons).