In part 2 of "The Housing Series: solving the housing crisis... but at what cost?" I wanted to touch on the social impact that new build residential developments have as a consequence of social housing requirements set out by the government via Section 106. If you have seen my Twitter feed recently you may have seen my poll. It was asking your opinion on the segregation of private owners/tenants and social housing tenants in new build residential properties. I was looking for a wider opinion and (despite a low response rate) it was interesting to get feedback. I focus particularly on new builds because of the S.106 requirements.
Section 106 agreements have been the usual vehicle for the government to ensure that a proportion of social housing is built when developers build private residential properties as well as often requiring improvements in the community and surrounding area. However social segregation between those in affordable housing and the private properties within new developments is an interesting concept that is becoming commonplace.
As a Londoner, I always felt London was a great example of a city of wide social diversity, where you can find multi-million pound properties on the same street as large social housing estates and that this has always contributed to the diversity of the population within London. However, a few weeks ago I noticed, whilst walking through a new build residential property, that the social housing provision had a separate entrance, separate lift and that the flats were sectioned off from the privately owned flats.
This struck me as odd. Firstly, why is a separate entrance necessary? Second, why would the developer spend another £20k-£30k on a separate lift to accommodate this separate entrance? I am not so naïve that I do not understand that there is an impact on the value of these properties, but a separate lift and entrance seems extreme. The reality is, that these people just want a home to live in that they can afford.
If it is a matter of wanting to differentiate between the two types of properties and to give the private properties a higher value, is the finish to the internal fit out of the property not sufficient? The developer installs lower spec items and they will already have made a clear distinction between the types of property, as well as the asking price for these properties making it abundantly clear.
I am not sure what the benefits of these separate entrances, communal areas and grounds really are. As far as I can tell, it is only one way, you do not see these rules where private owners have bought ex-council properties. In these blocks and estates you see integration, neighbours, a community where people know each other - a much more socially positive situation.
At a point in time where the age of a first time buyer has increased up to 34 years old in and around London (The Guardian), less and less people can afford the high property prices and high rents that are particularly prevalent in London. And whilst it's undeniable that more housing is required, we should be looking at solutions to make housing more affordable, encouraging more integration and the idea of community, rather than focussing on a perceived idea that private tenants do not want to mix with those in social housing.