Anger at sale of low-rent flats for £600k

‘Painful decision taken to help pay for post-Grenfell fire safety works’

Friday, 15th July — By Dan Carrier

Newton Street 2 IMG_6276

Architect Jim Monahan and tenant Pamela Yianni

A HOUSING association is selling off low-rent homes on the private market to raise funds for safety changes to buildings following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The Extra can reveal that one-bed social housing flats in Newton Street, Covent Garden, are on the market for nearly £600,000. One is already under offer and viewings are taking place for the second.

The chief executive of the Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association said the “painful decision” was unavoidable following the “failure of governments” to regulate the industry, adding: “There are buildings we need to put right.”

But tenant and civic groups say landlords should not be about providing a new pied-à-terre for a wealthy Verdi lover, the flats should be used for those in desperate need of affordable housing.

Jim Monahan, an architect from the Covent Garden Community Association, said: “They say they are here to do one thing, and then do the complete opposite. They should put the sale on hold and have an open discussion with tenants. They should behave as a proper social landlord. But they just see it as a cash cow.”

Built in the 1870s the blocks were originally run by social reformer Octavia Hill. By the 1980s the homes were in poor repair.

Mr Monahan said: “Low-rent good quality housing is a prerequisite to ensuring a secure residential community and also a secure stock of low-rent accommodation is essential in order to be able to provide homes for those that have to work unsocial hours and service the centre of London. Good quality social housing secures a sustainable economy.”

Pamela Yianni, a long-term tenant in Newton Street, said: “Nobody here is happy about this. We feel let down that no one has even told us about the plans before it was well under way. Affordable housing has to be protected or it strips the heart out of a city.”

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, housing associations have been told to foot some of the bill for urgent changes including stripping flammable materials from buildings.

ISHA chief executive Ruth Davison said: “ISHA are passionate about social housing and keeping communities mixed and vibrant. That’s why we continued to build social homes when others were not, and charged the cheapest type of rents. The tragic fire at Grenfell highlighted the shocking standards among many building contractors as well as the failure of governments to regulate the industry properly, and we have buildings we need to put right.

“Where we can, we have gone after contractors, where we can’t we have to pay for the works ourselves and the cost runs to many millions of pounds. The board therefore took the painful decision last year to sell a handful of vacant properties each year to fund these works as safety is our number-one priority.”

The homes will not be able to be used for short-terms lets with sites like Airbnb, she added.

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