Councillor slams segregation plan, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
An eleven-storey tower on a former library site will have to segregate rich and poor tenants to avoid lowering the value of its market-rate flats, a council committee has heard.
The former Wood Street Library, a locally-listed building in Walthamstow, is currently being demolished to make way for a new building to host Waltham Forest Council’s ‘families and homes hub’, plus 67 new homes, almost half of which will be ‘affordable’.
The council decided the original 1950s building was in too much disrepair to maintain and decided to build a new Wood Street Library, 500 metres down the road, which opened in August last year.
At a briefing for the council’s planning committee on Tuesday, Labour councillor Marie Pye questioned why current plans for the new block grouped cheaper flats into a separate part of the building.
The committee heard the cheaper flats – 18 of which will be under half the market rent level, with 14 more expensive shared ownership homes – will have separate stairs and lifts from the wealthier residents paying full price.
A council officer said that not segregating the flats would “add additional risk in terms of marketability”. They said: “The scheme has challenging viability because we are delivering a new hub, as well as 50% affordable homes… [which] the market units are helping subsidise.
“We have made a tenure-blind residential entrance but felt that we had to de-risk the scheme and have separate cores.”
Cllr Pye has previously argued passionately that residents need to “live in inclusive communities” and that schemes with a “poor door” were therefore unacceptable.
She asked: “Can I just check that what you are actually saying is there’s a risk people will not pay as much for a property if they have to live next door to somebody in affordable housing?”
The officer confirmed that “there is that risk” and that non-segregated communities do “impact values”.
Last year the council denied that it was planning to move its youth offending service (YOS) into the new building on the corner of Wood Street and Forest Road. The committee this week heard that while the new hub will provide space for “a small number of” appointments for young offenders, most will be seen at a “family resilience centre” planned in the south of the borough.
Work on the new building could begin in October this year, with the aim of finishing by October 2023. The plans will be debated again by the planning committee at an as-yet unknown date, to seek final approval.
This story was amended to correctly attribute the quotes on “marketability” of the scheme to a council officer.