Government rules residents can take over a London housing estate

Ruling with implications across the capital where councils are considering ‘estate renewal’.

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Firing a London-wide warning shot, the government has told a borough council it must cooperate with a ‘People’s Plan’ proposal to transfer a demolition-threatened estate to an organisation of residents.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse backed a report written for the government that rejects Lambeth council’s take on the transfer application.

That backing effectively over-rules council objections made in 2016  that the plan would have a “detrimental effect” on regeneration of the area.

Already, the ruling is seen as having implications for other London boroughs over ‘estate renewal’.

Lambeth Council says it needs “time to consider the implications “ given that the Malthouse ruling was reached on information submitted in 2016 and claims a partial win with government recognition that plans to rebuild the estate will have a “positive impact on the area”.

But campaigners say the support is the start of what will be a lengthy transfer process.

In April 2016 the Cressingham Gardens Community (CGC) organisation asked the council to consider transferring the estate to an organisation run by its residents.

This was pitched as a People’s Plan for the estate  as an alternative to council’s demolish and re-build plan.

The council rejected the ‘People’s Plan’ and went to government for a determination.

Malthouse has now told the council that he agreed with a report written for the government that rejects the council’s view of the transfer application saying: “The outcome of my determination … is that the stock transfer process in relation to the CGC should continue.”

The report on which the minister based his decision was completed in December 2017 – MHCLG offers no explanation as why the decision took so long to announce.

Should the council concede, feasibility work, further business plan development and a ballot of residents will follow.

The Housing (Right to Transfer from a Local Authority Landlord) (England) Regulations 2013 require local authorities to co-operate with a group of tenants who wish to explore transferring their housing stock to a new social landlord, and then to arrange a transfer if proposals are supported by a majority of tenants voting in favour in a ballot.

The regulations allow a council to apply to the government for a “determination” to halt the process if it believes the transfer would have a “significant detrimental effect” on their housing services or local regeneration.

A report prepared over Cressingham Gardens said Lambeth Council “has made little concrete progress” towards estate regeneration and that the Cressingham estate represents only about 1% of the council’s housing stock.

Malthouse concludes that, on balance, the proposed transfer will not have a “significant detrimental effect” on the provision of housing services or the regeneration of the area and that the council’s redevelopment is a long term aspiration.

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