Two billion pounds is to be spent on new affordable homes in the capital. The focus of this large-scale investment will be Fish Island in east London and a new town in Thamesmead.
The projects are the work of a housing provider that, for 155 years, has simply been getting on with the job.
So who is this big hitter? Most Londoners link the name Peabody with Victorian brick mansion blocks of low-cost rented flats dotted about the city — and they are right. But the charitable housing trust launched by 19th-century banker and philanthropist George Peabody now owns and manages 29,000 London homes and provides affordable housing for 80,000 people. It builds about 1,000 new homes in London a year.
Peabody sells new-build and shared-ownership homes, and its new kind of mixed-tenure mansion blocks, designed by award-winning architects, are stylish, hi-tech and low energy, in landscaped settings and central locations, such as Silchester at Ladbroke Grove in the west and Mint Street in Bethnal Green in the east.
Design plaudit-winning Peabody schemes include Mint Street by Pitman Tozer Architects, Darbishire Place in Whitechapel, by Niall McLaughlin, and Nile Street in Hoxton N1, a particularly eye-catching 21st-century block.
This summer Peabody will merge with housing association Family Mosaic, keep the Peabody name and almost double its holdings to 55,000 homes. Peabody chief executive Stephen Howlett says economies of scale will increase capacity and concentrate housing in particular areas, leading to more efficient maintenance.
A bigger Peabody will also have “even more clout”. The charity’s targets are impressive: last year it beat its own with a record 1,080 new London homes. At Fish Island it is building 580 new homes, while in South Thamesmead, Bexley, it has planning permission for 1,500 more, plus new shops and open spaces. There will also be 900 new homes in West Thamesmead, Greenwich. The wider Thamesmead development will eventually have 20,000 new homes.
What are 21st-century mansion blocks?
“They’ve got to be space that is designed for today’s lifestyles, low cost, with good storage and near transport, up to about eight storeys, human scale, usually with cafés and shops, and open spaces for people to meet, creating community,” says Howlett. “There’s a range of tenure, from low-cost rented, which are allocated through local councils, to market-rent homes, and homes for sale on the open market. For every £1 of capital subsidy we add £15 of our own money. Last year there was a surplus which we ploughed back in, not just into homes. We got 1,000 Londoners into work last year, through job clubs and by working with the Evening Standard’s Ladder for London scheme.”
At Fish Island, on the edge of the Olympic Park, on brownfield land surrounded by canals and waterways and near the Docklands Light Railway, Peabody is working with an organisation called The Trampery, to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation by providing workspace for start-ups and small businesses. These are big numbers. The Trampery will manage 44,000sq ft of new workspace. The initial phase of 408 homes and workspace in 13 buildings has been designed by Haworth Tompkins architects on the site of former warehouses.
Designer homes for social rent
Darbishire Place is on the site of a former Peabody building in John Fisher Street, Whitechapel, which was bombed in 1940. The Blitz attack killed 79 people.
Peabody chief executive Stephen Howlett says the bomb site was a car park for 50 years, but was redeveloped by the trust into 13 socially rented houses designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects.
Shortlisted for the 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize, the BBC made a film about Darbishire Place. Susan Pill said she felt as if she had won the Lottery when they were found a flat at the new scheme, and was so proud to show her friends where she lives. She and her husband Francis previously lived in a Tower Hamlets council flat.
Tips for the top
In the spirit of its founder, Peabody rolls out clever ideas, one of which is developing former hospital land for homes but providing, as part of the deal, intermediate accommodation for elderly people leaving hospital.
It is also working with the Res Publica think tank on a National Housing Fund, to provide another 40,000 homes a year.
“We need to think smarter,” says Stephen Howlett. “People need jobs as well as homes.”
Bank on it
Born in Massachusetts, George Peabody left the US for England aged 42. A hugely successful banker, he co-founded JP Morgan. After retiring, he became a philanthropic pioneer of well-built social housing. But housing was just one strand of his aim to improve the lives of disadvantaged Londoners.
Peabody understood that along with a safe, healthy home, belonging to a community and having a purpose in life is also vital. He always kept his sharp business nose: he insisted that the charity got a minimum three per cent return on its stock, so that his fund would continue in perpetuity.
Today, Peabody’s retiring chief Stephen Howlett says Peabody continues to wash its face.
What’s on offer
Twenty minutes’ walk from Canary Wharf, the second phase of Merchants Walk in Bow, E3 was launched in November, with studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. These open-plan homes come with balconies, terraces, Bosch appliances and Hansgrohe fittings. Prices from £360,000-£645,000. Currently one-bedroom flats are available. Visit peabodysales.co.uk or call 020 7021 4842.
At St John’s Way, Battersea, SW11, opposite Clapham Junction station, two- and three-bedroom flats are available, with 25 per cent shares from £180,000-£210,000. For sale are two- and three-bedroom flats with balconies, as well as houses. Prices £770,000-£910,000. Contact details as before.
The Gallery, Camberwell, SE5 is launching next year.
For full details about Peabody, all homes available, and to register interest, go to www.peabody.org.uk