The luxury homes funding affordable housing in London

Every top-notch home a housing assocation sells funds three for those struggling to get on the property ladder.
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It may come as something of a surprise to learn that housing associations, whose historic mission has been to house the poor and needy, are now selling off £1 million-plus homes designed by top-name architects to London’s rich professional singles and high-earning families.

This new commercial approach led by former City executives in senior posts is changing the culture of housing associations from largely philanthropic to a more business-oriented approach. 

Their critics claim selling highly priced homes at market value is contributing to the price spiral that is making it  difficult for people to get on to the housing ladder. The associations argue that their private sales generate bigger profits that are ploughed back into affordable housing. For every one  property sold, an association can build up to three affordable ones.


“We are independent bodies and, unlike local authorities, can borrow against our assets to raise finance for development,” says Geeta Nanda, group chief executive at Thames Valley Housing, which has also set up a private rental company called Fizzy Living.

“We have strong ethics and values, and we are proud to make profits as the money goes back into delivering more homes.” Jeremy Stibbe, executive director for development & sales at housing charity Peabody, which owns and manages more than 27,000 homes across the capital, sums up the new entrepreneurial strategy as “investing private sector profit into social purpose”. 

He says it would appeal to the commercial instincts of George Peabody, an American banker who founded the Peabody Trust in the UK. Peabody demanded a three per cent return on his initial endowment of £500,000 — equivalent to more than £20 million today.
Notting Hill Housing's Canonbury Cross development is close to amenities in Islington. Call 020 7717 5456

High-profile projects
Notting Hill Housing and L&Q now have multibillion-pound development programmes that include high-profile central and inner London projects — 900-home Albert Wharf in Docklands and The City Mills in Hackney are two that spring to mind.

Most associations are building private homes in their own name, but some have set up separate companies.

Fabrica, an offshoot of A2Dominion, has unveiled penthouses priced from £1.1 million at The Chroma Buildings in Southwark, while apartments at City Wharf, a cluster of warehouse-style blocks with communal roof terraces and courtyard gardens overlooking Wenlock Basin in Shoreditch, cost from £500,000 to £1,095,000.

The 327 flats at City Wharf have been designed with young metro types in mind — kitchens have a wine fridge as standard, and there is storage for 300 bikes. Call 0800 083 3199.

Notting Hill Housing is selling £1.8 million townhouses in Canonbury, Islington, while Peabody is offering homes at Chancery Building, part of a new riverside complex that wraps around the US embassy under construction at Nine Elms. One-bedroom flats cost from £595,000. Call 020 7021 4842. 

At St John’s Way, close to Clapham Junction, 249 of the 528 Peabody homes are for private sale, with prices ranging from £530,000 to £1,236,000. Call  020 7346 5804.
From £360,000: Peabody's Merchants Walk development in Tower Hamlets. Call 020 3369 8670.

Design quality counts
Finance is one thing, quality architecture is another. Mindful of the legacy of the original Victorian estates that are sprinkled around London and which get better with age, quality design is top of the agenda.

Like those early estates, the new apartment blocks are characterised by simplicity, with the occasional architectural flourish, and are making a mark in often hard urban settings.

Mint Street, the first completed new scheme in Bethnal Green, could hardly have been more challenging, being built alongside a noisy, curving railway viaduct and a Travelodge hotel. But Pitman Tozer Architects came up with a refreshing intervention.

Bigger-than-average flats have double-glazed winter gardens that create another layer of sound insulation. The project is a template for the other developments Peabody is rolling out, including more than 100 affordable homes at Merchants Walk in Tower Hamlets, 580 homes at Fish Island, Stratford, and 112 homes at More West in Kensington & Chelsea, where prices start at £626,500. Call 020 7758 8431.

“Developing our own homes for sale on the open market allows us to have control over design and quality,” says Kate Davies, chief executive of Notting Hill Housing, which is collaborating with Sellar Property Group — the company behind the Shard — on a 1,030-home project at Canada Water. 

Quebec Quarter, by L&Q, is another big development coming soon to this part of London. It is a property hotspot due largely to its location on the  Jubilee line, midway between Canary Wharf and the West End. Call 0844 406 9800.
From £435,000: flats at Park Heights have spacious balconies, concierge services and a garden square. Call 0844 809 202

New rights to buy
The Government is pushing through legislation that will force associations to sell homes to tenants, and local authorities will be required to pay the price to the public purse by selling their most expensive properties. “You have to wonder why we have created a system that makes delivering new affordable homes so complicated,” comments Thames Valley’s Geeta Nanda.

Meanwhile, at a former crime-ridden council estate in Stockwell, where old blocks are being bulldozed, housing association Network Living has launched flats in a new sleek white tower with a roof garden called Park Heights. Prices start at £435,000. Call 0844 809 2027.

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