Council housing chief says gentrification “not a term I use”, reports James Cracknell
House price rises in Waltham Forest were the highest in London last decade – with the average home costing twice as much as it did in 2010.
At the start of last decade a typical home could be bought locally for £213,000 but, according to Land Registry data, a similar property now costs £443,000. This is the highest price rise recorded anywhere in London – beating neighbouring Hackney to top spot.
Further analysis of house prices by mortgage lender Halifax suggests Waltham Forest recorded the second biggest growth in the UK this century; in 2000 an average home in the borough cost just under £100,000.
Speaking to the Echo, Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet member for housing development, Simon Miller, said this news was not something to welcome. “My absolute priority is making sure people get the housing they need and any significant rise in prices is to the detriment of that,” said Cllr Miller.
“House prices at the start of the decade were suppressed compared to London standards, but the key thing is the failure of the government to allow local authorities to build the homes people need.”
Cllr Miller claims the biggest factor affecting price rises is the lack of supply, but data supplied by housing charity Shelter shows the council failed to meet its target to build 12,000 homes by 2020 – with less than 6,000 built in Waltham Forest over the last decade. A new local target of 27,000 homes by 2035 was recently set by the Greater London Authority (GLA).
Cllr Miller said: “We have been working really hard to increase capacity. We have launched our own housing development company, Sixty Bricks, to help us do that, but the number of homes we can build ourselves is down to the grant we get from government.”
In a key strategy document published in 2016, the council stated there was a “buzz” about Waltham Forest, boasting the borough had “become a regular feature in property supplements and home hunting shows”. Does the council encourage gentrification? “I don’t use the term ‘gentrification’,” said Cllr Miller. “I want everyone to benefit from the borough’s prosperity, but it has to be managed.”
The Leyton councillor acknowledges that council-led projects such as the London Borough of Culture celebrations help draw more attention to Waltham Forest from people living outside the borough, but denies this has a negative impact on existing residents.
“What comes with Waltham Forest’s name recognition is the chance to improve people’s future, particularly our young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who can access careers they wouldn’t otherwise get.
“What matters is how we use our moment in the sun… We have developers wanting to work with us to build employment space and create opportunities for the borough that we didn’t have before.”
Cllr Miller highlighted the council’s record on providing ‘affordable’ housing; GLA figures show the borough’s total share was 42% over the last five years, the highest rate in London. “We are very proud of that – we have one of the most robust set of housing policies in London.”
Despite its huge rises, Waltham Forest is still only the 20th most expensive London borough and prices remain below the London average of £475,000. Joseph Daniels, from property firm Project Etopia, said: “Some of the least expensive boroughs are the ones which have seen the biggest increases… The true cost of these rises will be felt by people who have found that buying a home in the capital has become a distant dream.”