Leathermarket JMB deputation to Southwark Council Assembly – 21 Jan 2013

On 21 Jan 2013 a delegation from Leathermarket JMB went to the Southwark Council Assembly to talk about the issues around affordable housing in the Leathermarket area.

JMB Chair John Paul Maytum presented to the councillors:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about social housing, a subject we all feel passionately about – and a subject where the Borough has much to feel very proud about.

Southwark is rapidly acquiring a name as a thought-leader in this tricky and challenging area.

Firstly I’d like to commend the work of the Southwark Housing Commission.  Not just did the Borough manage to bring together an absolutely Fantasy Football combination of some of the country’s finest thinkers in housing, but the report they produced was a very thoughtful document.

But while most of the coverage has been on the numbers issue, I can tell you as a council tenant that the most important thing is how the housing service should be delivered – and the Council should look at these very carefully

Housing management isn’t something where there are economies of huge scale – The Commission said you will get the best service with housing areas of 2-4000 homes, run by neighbourhood management teams with significant resident involvement – ideally through Tenant Mangement Organisations.

The Housing Commission also focused strongly on the strength and value of self-financed TMOs – a concept being designed and pioneered by Southwark as a national first, working with us at the JMB.

This is a huge – but logical – step forward in housing thinking, taking the co-operative concept of tenant management to its logical conclusion by devolving the whole budget to a TMO with a strong track record. Despite some resistance from officers, Southwark has shown the political vision to take this forward. And from the numbers of requests we’ve had to talk about it, there’s real excitement about seeing it put into practice from April onwards. A partnership of vision and delivery.

We’re also delighted to be playing our bit in another bit of national  housing leadership by Southwark – the country’s biggest council house building programme for decades – starting on a site next to the JMB’s Kipling Estate. We’re really lucky at the JMB to have attracted some great housing thinkers of our own who are based nearby – like acclaimed regeneration expert Chris Brown, or Jim Wintour of United St Saviours to name just two – who have worked with our residents to bring plans forward. And we were so pleased when the council built on this work to produce a borough-wide initiative of such scale.

But a word of caution – you’ll only identify sites and get them developed if you work hand-in-hand with local residents from the very earliest stages. Otherwise you’ll have tenants demonstrating in front of the bulldozers, rather than cheering them on. A vital part of this is to show to local residents that there’s something in it for them to lose their garages or green space – and that can most obviously be by having a proportion of the new homes available to meet local people’s housing need. If people’s overcrowded family, friends and neighbours can get the new homes – keeping community together while meeting local need, then support is much more likely to follow. We’re glad the council is working with the JMB to deliver just this at Long Lane.

Finally, providing more local flexibility and listening to local residents can help release more housing to the waiting list.

Through our involved residents and community contacts, we are much more likely to be able to persuade residents to downsize if the system gives us the flexibility to rehouse them locally – so releasing family homes to the Borough’s waiting list.

So four examples where the Borough has seen that resident involvement, political vision and flexibility to think and act differently is delivering real benefits for people in council homes and on the housing list. Much to be proud of and much to build on.

Our question to the Council:

I know we’re only a small fraction (about 3%) of Southwark’s housing stock, but how can Leathermarket JMB work with the Council to further improve social housing supply and management?