New council homes FAQs

Below are some of the questions we get asked most often about our new homes programme.

What tenure of homes is the council building?

Our focus is on delivering new council homes, at council rent, and our target of 11,000 new council homes only counts council homes at secure tenancy levels. In addition to this target, some of our developments will include homes for private sale and shared ownership, both as a way of fostering community diversity and helping to fund the delivery of new council homes.

At least 50% of new council homes lettings are aimed at tenants in housing need who already live within the estate and surrounding area.

What kind of homes is the council building?

Because Southwark is a small, already densely built up borough, we have to look at a variety of innovative ways to build new council homes. This includes:

Homes as part of wider regeneration projects

Where we look at mixed developments that, as well as provide new council homes, meet wider regeneration and planning objectives. This might include providing commercial spaces, schools, and improvements to shared spaces and amenities.

Infill homes

These are built on existing estates or properties where there are spaces, such as garages, that can be better utilised and where we can enhance the local area, as well as providing much-needed homes. Repurposing existing spaces in this way is much cheaper than buying new land and building on it.

Rooftop homes

Where we build upwards extensions on top of existing buildings. This offers huge potential to deliver new council homes that are energy-efficient and protect much-used common space, while minimising disruption and impact to residents during building.

Hidden homes

Converted from disused spaces within buildings, such as laundry rooms.

Purchase and build

Where we acquire land with a view to future development.

Rehousing and rebuilding

Occasionally we’ll look to rebuild existing buildings. This is done sensitively and working alongside residents who agree that there is a need to deliver new homes that better meet their needs and those of the wider community.

How will I benefit from new homes?

Our residents are at the heart of how and why we build new council homes. This includes residents who don’t currently live in council homes, those who live in housing that doesn’t meet their needs, and those who’ll be affected by new council homes being built on their estate or local area.

We aim for all residents to benefit from the building of new council homes and we always consider the wider impact of any new development. Benefits for residents include:

  • we aim for a minimum of 50% of new council homes we build to go to people in housing need who already live locally, minimising the impact to their lives
  • where we develop on existing estates, we aim to find ways to improve the whole estate for all residents. For example, new play areas or improved walkways or landscaping
  • where we develop upwards extensions, we’ll work to a set of principles that stipulate existing residents will have an opportunity to move to the new homes on their block and a reduction in leasehold charges
Can I help the council identify new sites?

Yes! If you know anywhere we could build new council homes, please get in touch and let us know. This could include a vacant or underused area on your estate, such as community facilities that don’t get used, garage blocks, or parking areas.

After we identify a potential site, we work closely with the local Tenants and Residents Association on any further development. We host drop-in events for residents to find out more and have their say. Each development we take forward also has a project group where you can help us shape the way new council homes are designed and delivered, and how all residents and the local community could benefit.

You can also let us know what you think about any new development when it goes into planning through the council’s planning portal.

Why does the council work with residents when building new council homes?

Working with residents means we can deliver homes that meet our residents’ needs, be clear about how residents can benefit from new council homes, and enhance the local area through great design and improved shared spaces.

We work with residents from site identification through to consultation, design, planning, and delivery. Our residents help us design the look and feel of new homes and amenities that help make their communities stronger, safer, and more rewarding places to live that work for them.

Does the 11,000 new council homes target include homes for private/market sale or rent?

No. Our 11,000 target only includes council homes for rent at secure tenancy levels. Alongside this target, other tenures will be developed, including private homes for sale, to help fund the delivery of new council homes. 

What are the biggest challenges in building new council homes in Southwark?

A big challenge we face is finding suitable sites to build on. Southwark is a densely built up borough, and most available space is already being used. This is why we are placing a particular focus on innovative solutions to building new council homes, such as upwards extensions on existing buildings.

Why is the council building new homes?

We are in the midst of a national housing crisis in which London and Southwark are particularly hard hit.  As of July 2021 we have more than 15,000 households on our waiting lists, half of these including children. We have over 3,200 households in temporary accommodation, many in severely overcrowded accommodation and sometimes entire families in a single room. This is unacceptable.

There is a very real human cost behind these figures, therefore we have a moral duty to explore all the options available to us to build as many new council homes as we can, to support our residents who are in desperate need of a safe, secure home.

Is the council buying more land to build on?

Whilst we are purchasing additional land where it is financially sustainable to do so, the very high price of buying land in London is often prohibitive. Where we can buy land for a good price to build council homes, we are doing so. We have for example acquired land to build new homes on Old Kent Road and at Canada Water. However, building some of our new council homes on land that the council already owns substantially reduces the cost to the taxpayer and allows us to build many more homes with the limited money we have available.

Why is the council building on existing council estates?

Southwark is a small and densely-populated borough, and finding places to build new council homes is not easy. We are committed to looking across the wide range of land that we own - including underused sites on our estates, car parks and garages, to consider if they can be best used to provide much-needed truly affordable council homes for local people. We are looking at more than 70 sites across the full length and breadth of the borough.

Will I get a say if the council builds new homes near me?

Where we identify sites that could potentially be used for council housing, we undertake extensive consultation with the local community, working with residents to explore the suitability of the site, the housing need of residents in the local area and opportunities to improve the local public realm and wider estate. Our New Homes consultations engage fully with both resident groups and individuals. If we decide to go ahead with a new development, we will submit a planning application and residents will have an opportunity to raise objections or comment on the submission.

What is the council doing to protect green spaces?

We are investing heavily in improving green spaces across the whole borough. We have a network of parks and open spaces, including natural woodland, parkland, playing fields, allotment gardens, amenity places and play areas. We have 105 protected green spaces, including five major parks, 33 local parks, 15 gardens and squares, two sports grounds, five adventure playgrounds and 42 other open spaces. We have invested over £61 million in parks since 2010, and as a result we now have 30 Green Flag parks, more than any other inner London borough, and the second highest number in London.

Is the council building on parks or designated open spaces?

No, the council is not and will never build on parks or designated open spaces. In fact, we are investing heavily in improving protected parks and green spaces across the borough. Sometimes we will need to build on brownfield sites, which may have been temporarily grassed over, to build new homes. These are not protected parks or open spaces, and they are not areas of biodiversity. Southwark has 105 protected green spaces as listed above and we will not build on these. Most of our residents live within walking distance of these green spaces. The proposed Southwark Plan also commits the council to creating 17 new Sites of Importance to Nature Conservation (SINCs). We are committed to planting 10,000 new trees by May 2022.

More information

Page last updated: 17 September 2021

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