Solution or segregation?

Thursday 20 Mar 2008

Wandsworth Council Housing scheme sparks debate

Andy Pike, head of Technical and Programming Services at the London Borough of Wandsworth is a man on a mission. His aim is to create over 300 low cost residential units from disused council owned spaces within his borough. Faced with increasing demands for low cost housing but constrained by diminishing land availability and tight budgets, he is delivering some of the most cost effective housing units in London.

The innovative Hidden Home initiative ticks all the boxes primarily because it involves the creation of homes with no land cost. Andy has developed 130 units so far and estimates there could be over 300 within Wandsworth and possibly 10,000 throughout London. The sites converted to efficient modern dwellings so far include; boiler houses, laundries, garages, store rooms and undercroft spaces. An added bonus is that these sites have often been congregating areas for youths and the removal of these dark voids has uplifted the neighborhoods.

However, surprisingly this seemingly win win situation has not drawn universal support, current Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone is vehemently against Hidden Homes arguing that Wandsworth is simply creating low quality homes for underprivileged people. A point Andy is quick to re-buff, “All our homes are built to latest standards and specifications, it’s just nonsense.” However, Boris Johnson, front runner in the race for the Mayor’s job in May, is all for it. He plans to use Wandworth’s scheme as a blueprint for the other 31 London Boroughs if and when he is elected.

The Hidden Homes one bed apartments are costing about £100K GBP to develop at the moment, around a third of the new-build cost. Since the first Hidden Homes were completed in 2003 there has been a steady stream of visitors to the town hall eager to find out how the programme works. There could be around 10,000 hidden homes on estates across the capital.

As each project is identified as a candidate for Hidden Homes, a works contract including architectural design, is drawn up for tender. UK firm Brodie Plant Goddard has been involved in a number of these projects.

Hidden Homes was the brain child of Councilor Martin D Johnson who started the project about seven years ago.

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United Kingdom

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